Mariota missed last week’s loss to the Miami Dolphins with a hamstring injury and was questionable coming into Tennessee’s AFC South tilt.
The third-year mobile quarterback has completed 60 percent of his passes and thrown for 792 yards, three TDs and three picks on the season. He also has 116 yards and three scores on the ground.
Returning from a lingering hamstring injury that had dogged him since training camp, Wright erupted for 133 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions in Week 5. Rather than re-emerging as Marcus Mariota’s No. 1 receiver the rest of the way, he faded out of the rotation, even earning a Week 14 benching for tardiness.
After recording 94 catches for 1,079 yards in a breakout 2013 season, Wright’s role gradually diminished as the Titans cycled through Dowell Loggains, Ken Whisenhunt, Jason Michael and Terry Robiskie as play-callers.
Davis’ injury is disappointing, but we won’t freak out yet. We should remember that Odell Beckham Jr. missed all of his rookie preseason and the first four games of the 2014 regular season with a hamstring injury and still managed to put up one of the best first years in NFL history. While we aren’t comparing Davis and OBJ, the parallel helps put Davis’ injury in perspective.
Davis missing significant time would be a blow, but the Titans have upgraded the receiving corps to the point that they can withstand any elongated absence from the first-round pick.
Robinson saw enough. He showed conviction taking Western Michigan’s Corey Davis with the fifth overall pick in April’s draft, then doubled down by snatching up versatile wideout Taywan Taylor and athletic tight end Jonnu Smith in the third round. With erratic receiver Kendall Wright banished, Mariota finally has a group of pass catchers he can grow up with. Decker, last seen as one of the best red-zone receivers and No. 2 options in football, completes the group. It’s difficult to totally fix an organizational problem in one offseason, but Robinson’s track record with the running game last season should give Titans fans hope.
The reconstruction of the secondary was no less dramatic. Tennessee has two new starting cornerbacks in former Patriots spitfire Logan Ryan and first-round playmaker Adoree’ Jackson from USC, in addition to a new starting safety in free-agent pickup Johnathan Cyprien. The most exciting player of the group is second-year safety Kevin Byard, who flashed star potential in a part-time role as a rookie. After running out of defensive backs last season, the Titans look far more well-stocked this time around. Then again, the Titans aren’t buzzy because of their defense.
Probably the most important thing you will need to know about this franchise — you might need to take a seat for this — is that the Tennessee Titans used to be the Houston Oilers. Forgive me, because some of you knew that. But it’s funny to find people when I’m out on the road who never knew this. In fact, at the Super Bowl in Houston this year, I talked to a fan who didn’t know. I showed the fan the similarity between the old Oilers uniforms and the current Titans duds, and this dude looked like Terry Benedict when he finally realized that the video of the vault heist was actually staged in a sound studio on the other side of the I-15.
So there you go. From Elvin Bethea to Earl Campbell to Marcus Mariota, that’s some lineage with this club. Although I’m not sure how celebrated the old Oilers are in Tennessee. It reminds me of a time I talked to Jack Youngblood (you are pot-committed on my humblebrags and name-dropping now) and he said it was strange to be out on the field in St. Louis being honored with dudes he played against, like Dan Dierdorf. About the only time we really see a throwback to the past is when the Titans wear those rad Oilers jerseys from the way back.
Even as the rookie contracts become more boilerplate, there are still negotiating points. Agents working in their clients’ best interest can spend weeks hammering out details that might seem like worthless minutiae now but have a significant effect on a player’s career down the road. Offset language and bonus distribution are still important enough for some players to miss significant time during training camp, as we saw with Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa a year ago.
The Titans now can look forward to Davis, who has been compared to Dez Bryant and lauded as a potential game-changing weapon for ascending star quarterback Marcus Mariota, being a valuable contributor on the field in training camp.