NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)The Tennessee Titans have been picking themselves apart since the season ended.
Sure, they won the AFC South and hosted a playoff game for the first time since 2008. Yet, they lost on their own field, well short of the AFC championship game appearance of a year before.
Then they traded away their most recent first-round draft pick after getting only three offensive snaps out of a player chosen to be their starting right tackle. That makes getting a productive player at No. 22 overall in this year’s NFL draft starting Thursday night even more crucial.
”We all have to be better, and it starts with me,” general manager Jon Robinson said.
Only Seattle and Kansas City have longer active winning streaks than the Titans with five straight winning seasons, which include three playoff berths. With Ryan Tannehill and All-Pro running back and Offensive Player of the Year Derrick Henry under contract for three more years, their window to chase the franchise’s second Super Bowl berth is now.
Robinson has four of his nine draft picks (22, 53, 85 and 100) in the first 100 selections thanks to the franchise’s first compensatory pick since 2013. He has plenty of needs at wide receiver, cornerback, edge rusher, offensive lineman and inside linebacker.
The Titans general manager has made 23 trades since being hired as GM in 2016, including trading the No. 1 overall pick in 2016. He’s also moved up twice in the first round, the last in 2018 taking linebacker Rashaan Evans at No. 22.
”We’ve got to be better. There’s one team that’s going to host a parade at the end of the year. One team,” Robinson said. ”The other 31 are going to be frustrated and look back on ways to try to get to that game and win that game.”
GONE GONE GONE
The Titans needed Isaiah Wilson after left tackle Taylor Lewan tore an ACL and his replacement had a season-ending injury. They suspended the No. 29 overall pick for a game, then placed him on the injured reserve/non-football injury list. The Titans traded him to Miami in March, and the Dolphins cut him, too.
Three other first-round picks by Robinson also are gone. Wide receiver Corey Davis (2017) joined right tackle Jack Conklin (2016) in leaving for more money in free agency, signing with the Jets. Tennessee cut cornerback Adoree Jackson (2017) for salary cap relief after picking up his fifth-year option last spring.
The Titans have Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown and signed Josh Reynolds to help replace Davis. But they also cut oft-injured Adam Humphries, so another wide receiver is a big need for an offense that tied for second in yards per game and fourth in points.
Henry became the first back-to-back rushing leader since 2006-07 and the eighth man overall to run for at least 2,000 yards. But Baltimore focused on slowing down Henry and won the wild-card game when the Titans couldn’t beat the Ravens through the air.
Needing salary-cap space, the Titans cut cornerback Malcolm Butler – who tied for the team-lead with four interceptions in 2020 – safety Kenny Vaccaro and then Jackson.
Tennessee has Kristian Fulton, the 2020 third-round pick out of LSU, who started two of the six games he played as a rookie.
The Titans also signed Janoris ”Jackrabbit” Jenkins and Kevin Johnson. But a cornerback such as Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech or Greg Newsome II from Northwestern is a big need for a defense that ranked dead last allowing opponents to convert 51.8% of third downs.
Tennessee signed Bud Dupree and Denico Autry to help boost a defense that managed 19 sacks last season, better than only Cincinnati and Jacksonville. That ranked dead last in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt. Even with Dupree and Harold Landry III, quality pass rushing depth remains thin.
RELOCATED DRAFT ROOM
Robinson, coach Mike Vrabel and the Titans’ other coaches and scouts will be working from a different draft room. The Titans’ headquarters currently is a construction site with the building that opened in 1999 being renovated to go with an expansion that started in December 2019.
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