Did the Indianapolis Colts rival, the Tennessee Titans, improve in the 2020 offseason?
The talk of the Indianapolis Colts improvements have dominated the offseason talk, from free agency acquisitions like Philip Rivers, to trading for DeForest Buckner, and drafting a pair of offensive studs in Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr.
But, it is our duty here at Horseshoe Heroes to talk about every division rival to give the reader the full picture of the 2020 AFC South offseason. We started last week with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and now it’s time to talk about the Tennessee Titans, the Cinderella of the 2019 season.
The Titans rode running back Derrick Henry at the end of 2019 to secure a playoff berth, and Henry put together two incredible playoff performances. First, they downed the reigning Super Bowl champion Patriots, then the top-seeded Ravens. They fell short in the AFC Championship, but this a team for the Colts to take seriously in 2020. Let’s look at how their offseason went.
Earlier this month, the Titans signed former Bengals and Texans corner Johnathan Joseph to a one year deal. The 36 year old corner has continued to make an impact in the secondary far into his 30s, and had 26 pass breakups in his last two seasons with Houston. If he still has enough left in the tank, he will make an impact in Mike Vrabel’s defense in 2020, especially with a deeper group in limited reps.
The Titans addressed the pass rush in free agency, signing former Falcons edge rusher Vic Beasley to a one-year, $12 million deal with $9.5 million guaranteed at signing. Beasley dominated back in 2016, leading the league with 15.5 sacks. He never found it after that in Atlanta, even with the slight improvement in 2019 (eight sacks). Vrabel and general manger Jon Robinson are betting on a revival in Tennessee, and he’ll get the opportunity to start opposite Harold Landry.
This one was a bit of a head-scratcher. The Titans dealt defensive tackle Jurrell Casey to the Broncos for a seventh round pick. Part of it was to shed some of the salary cap, but it’s clearly they believe in the group they have along the defensive line. Losing Casey makes the run defense and interior pass rush a question for the Titans in 2020.
While Jack Conklin had his best season as a rookie, where he finished as a first team All Pro, Conklin was an important part of the offensive line that helped Henry dominate down the stretch in both 2018 and 2019. His absence makes the right tackle spot a weakness heading into 2020, but the Titans have brought in a few players to compete for that spot.
Potential Breakout Candidates
Jeffery Simmons is the obvious choice for a breakout candidate. A first round pick in 2019, Simmons missed a good portion of the 2019 season because of a torn ACL. When he came back, Simmons showed flashes of dominance on the defensive line. His raw power and pass rushing ability make him the guy on the Titans to make a big jump in 2020 and anchor the defense up front.
One might argue that Rashaan Evans already had his breakout season in 2019, but the other considered here, Harold Landry, neared the 10 sack mark and gained plenty of attention. The 2020 season will be the time for Evans to gain national attention. Evans had 111 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and nine tackles for loss in his sophomore campaign, and he’s ready to become the quarterback of that defense.
Rookies to Watch
We’ve talked about how the right tackle spot is up for grabs in 2020, and first round pick Isaiah Wilson is probably the favorite. Wilson fits right in with the Tennessee power running game, as he can move defenders off the spot with ease blocking down. The question for him will be quickness in pass protection, but he will be protected a lot by the offense in his rookie campaign, should he start.
It’s important to mention Darrynton Evans here, as he will likely be the lightning to Henry’s thunder in 2020. Evans brings the home run speed to the running back position, and could spell Henry at times during the year. He should fit right in with Tennessee, as they’ll give him opportunities to see and hit the hole often.
How do they stack up with the Indianapolis Colts?
On paper, it looks like the Titans will be the Colts top competition for the AFC South title in 2020. Their power running game is tough to stop, and if Wilson can immediately fill that spot, they might not miss a beat. The extension for Ryan Tannehill shows they believe in him to take shots down the field to play off the run game. A.J. Brown makes the receiving core more dangerous, and their front seven is still very formidable as the breakout from Simmons is expected.
The good news is that the Colts have added the pieces necessary to compete. Chris Ballard made a sound effort to beef up the secondary, adding Xavier Rhodes, T.J. Carrie, and Julian Blackmon to the fold. The conscious effort to beef up the front four was important too, as Buckner should put the heat on that offensive line.
Adding playmakers for the offense was important too, as attacking the weaker Titans secondary is the formula. T.Y. Hilton, Pittman Jr., and Parris Campbell in year two is a good group with Rivers leading the charge.
The Colts are definitely ready to compete with the Titans for the division, and it may come down to their two meetings to find out who takes the division crown in 2020.