The Tennessee Titans are now finished with offseason conditioning, training camp, and the preseason. With that said, the team still enters week 1 of the regular season with more questions than answers.
Injuries (and our lack of information regarding them) is the main cause for concern, but there is one thing Titans fans can be certain of…
General manager Jon Robinson wasn’t going to just sit idly by and let the chips fall where they may.
In fact, the rash of injuries this summer has caused the most popular executive in the organization to flex his muscles and show that he is more than just a draft guru.
Robinson returned home to his native state of Tennessee in January 2016 to restore a once-proud franchise that had fallen on hard times.
Real hard times.
His first draft netted two All Pro players in right tackle Jack Conklin and safety Kevin Byard. He made one of the most important players on offense, two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan, the highest paid lineman in the history of the NFL several weeks ago.
Robinson also extended Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and last year’s Pro Bowl MVP…tight end Delanie Walker…to contract extensions. Along with starting receiver Rishard Matthews.
And as true die-hard Titans fans know all to well…keeping elite talent (if there were any) was just a pipe dream for Tennessee the last decade.
J-Rob also brought in a fresh crop of talented free agents with playoff experience and championship hardware during his short stint at the helm, turning a team that held the number 1 pick in the draft upon his arrival into one of the last eight teams standing in last year’s playoffs.
But it is the subtle moves that Robinson made this offseason that could make Tennessee’s first quest for back to back playoff appearances since 2007 and 2008 a reality.
While hitting in the draft and picking up quality free agents ascended Robinson to rock-star status in Nashville, he never had to deal with this type of roster adversity.
As such, this season may well be defined by his subtle moves….his ability to find players to fill holes when someone goes down.
Starting safety Johnathan Cyprien was lost for the year with a season-ending injury prior to the first preseason game, and Robinson quickly found his replacement….free agent Kenny Vaccaro.
Most pundits feel that Vaccaro’s coverage skills and versatility makes him an upgrade at the position.
Backup cornerback Kalen Reed, who has registered quality reps in meaningful games, was placed on injured reserve and is also lost for the season. Shortly after, Robinson signed rookie free agent corner Kenneth Durden.
With little time to get adjusted, Durden has filled in admirably….registering 8 tackles (1 for loss) and 2 pass deflections in the last three preseason games. He is making a serious case to secure a roster spot by weekend’s end, and may be called upon early and often if the injury bug continues to bite.
Tennessee’s linebacker position was already thin by NFL standards before starting outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan sustained injuries that cause them to miss considerable time.
To complicate matters, rookie second round pick Harold Landry sustained a high ankle sprain last weekend in Pittsburgh, leaving the unit decimated.
Robinson, flexing his plug-and-play muscles, pulled off a trade that brought Baltimore’s 2016 second round pick….linebacker Kamalei Correra, to Tennessee for an undisclosed pick.
The veteran, and former teammate of quarterback Marcus Mariota, was having a solid preseason campaign prior to the trade….registering 8 tackles (3 for loss), 4 quarterback hits, and 3.5 sacks in limited action for Baltimore.
No, these moves won’t suddenly make the Titans the number one defense to draft in Fantasy Football now, nor does it cement Tennessee as the odds-on favorite to win the division.
The subtle moves could, however, keep the Titans afloat in a suddenly competitive division until the team is back at full strength and clicking on all calendars.
The moves could also prove that Robinson is just as complete of a general manager as the roster he helped transform.