Know Your Foe: Tennessee Titans

There were some... (okay, there were many) skeptics and analysts that thought the AFC South was the weakest division in the NFL in 2015. The Texans won the division with nine wins and no other team had a winning record. The Titans earned the first pick in the draft and the Jaguars were right behind them.

But, through free agency and the draft, the division was dramatically altered. We all have seen the changes here in Houston, but how do the three other AFC South teams look now? Here's my breakdown on the truly new-look Tennessee Titans.

OFFENSE
2015 Unit Profile
Rush Offense - 92.8 ypg (25th in the NFL)
Pass Offense - 218.9 ypg (25th)
Total Offense - 311.8 ypg (30th)
Scoring Offense - 18.7 ppg (28th)

2016 Unit Profile (through three games)
Rush Offense - 128.0 ypg (8th in the NFL)
Pass Offense - 229.3 ypg (24th)
Total Offense - 357.3 ypg (20th)
Scoring Offense - 14.0 ppg (31st)

Here's what the Titans offense looked like the last time the Texans faced them in Week 16 of 2015:

WR - Dorial Green-Beckham
TE - Craig Stevens
LT - Taylor Lewan
LG - Quinton Spain
C - Joe Looney
RG - Chance Warmack
RT - Byron Bell
WR - Kendall Wright
TE - Delanie Walker
QB - Zach Mettenberger
RB - Antonio Andrews

Here's what the Titans offense looked like in last Sunday's loss to the Oakland Raiders:

WR - RISHARD MATTHEWS
TE - PHILLIP SUPERNAW
LT - Taylor Lewan
LG - Quinton Spain
C - BEN JONES
RG - JOSH KLINE
RT - JACK CONKLIN
WR - TAJAE SHARPE
QB - MARCUS MARIOTA
FB - JALSTON FOWLER
RB - DEMARCO MURRAY

**ALL CAPS INDICATE POTENTIALLY DIFFERENT STARTER

Most significant improvement on the offense - The Titans beefed up the running game to adhere to permanent head coach Mike Mularkey's "exotic smash mouth" philosophy. The offensive line is 60 percent different, brand new from center over on the right side. Murray and Henry in the backfield are going to be a load to handle for a full 60 minutes.

**

Most impactful players that the Texans didn't face in 2015** - Mariota. Murray. Henry. Sharpe. Conklin. The Texans didn't see Mariota either time in 2015 and his running dimension is a concern. Teams with dual threat quarterbacks have given the Texans issues at times over the past few years. Sharpe is a rookie, but has been outstanding this early in the season. He has 14 catches for 157 yards in his first three games. This offense is entirely new to the Texans, but Mariota, Murray and Henry are the three most impactful.

What will worry Texans fans the most? - Mariota's designed runs and off-schedule plays out of the pocket, combined with the dual running threats of Murray and Henry.

What will worry Titans fans the most? - Mariota hasn't thrown it exceptionally well from the pocket in the first few games and Conklin is a rookie showing all of his rookie-ness as he gets ready to face the Texans edge players.

DEFENSE
2015 Unit Profile
Rush Defense - 112.3 ypg (18th in the NFL)
Pass Defense - 229.9 ypg (7th)
Total Defense - 342.2 ypg (12th)
Scoring Defense - 26.4 ppg (27th)

2016 Unit Profile (through three games)
Rush Defense - 108.3 ypg (17th in the NFL)
Pass Defense - 239.7 ypg (12th)
Total Defense - 348.0 ypg (12th)
Scoring Defense - 19.0 ppg (9th)

Here's what the Titans defense looked like in that week 16 matchup with the Texans in Nashville:

DE - DaQuon Jones
NT - Sammie Hill
DT - Jurrell Casey
OLB - David Bass
ILB - Wesley Woodyard
ILB - Avery Williamson
OLB - Brian Orakpo
CB - Perrish Cox
SS - Da'Norris Searcy
FS - Michael Griffin
CB - Coty Sensabaugh

Here's what the Titans defense looked like in last Sunday's loss to the Oakland Raiders:

DE - DaQuon Jones
DT - Jurrell Casey
OLB - Derrick Morgan
ILB - SEAN SPENCE
ILB - AVERY WILLIAMSON
OLB - BRIAN ORAKPO
CB - Perrish Cox
SS - Da'Norris Searcy
FS - RASHAD JOHNSON
CB - JASON MCCOURTY
CB* - BRICE MCCAIN

ALL CAPS INDICATE POTENTIALLY DIFFERENT STARTER*Situational based starter

Most significant improvement on the defense - The secondary has three different starters, based on alignment and situation. Longtime Titan Michael Griffin was released and Sensabaugh found work in LA with the Rams. Former Texan McCain will can play inside or outside for this team, but his speed demands that he be on the field.

Most impactful players that the Texans didn't face in 2015 - Derrick Morgan faced the Texans in 2015 in the first matchup, but suffered a torn labrum in November and missed the second tete-a-tete with the Texans. He's not a true outside linebacker, but then again, neither is Kevin Dodd, the second round selection from Clemson. Dodd will see time as well, having played 35 defensive snaps against Oakland. Rookie safety Kevin Byard will be a starter at some point as he saw nearly 50 percent of the team's snaps on defense last week as well.

What will worry Texans fans the most? - Take the record out of consideration. Quite simply, this was a solid defense in 2015, in fact, it was in the top 12 in total defense and top seven in pass defense. The linebacking corps of could be one of the best on the Texans schedule this season and it's a unit that no one talks about, for the most part. It's Year 2 under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and that may enable even more significant progress in Tennessee.

What will worry Titans fans the most? - Texans receiving star DeAndre Hopkins has torched the Titans for the past three seasons. He had 15 catches and a couple of touchdowns last year, while having a career day against them in 2014 at NRG Stadium with nine catches for 234 and two touchdowns. The secondary will need plenty of help from the pass rush and it must hope that Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler remains in a giving mood, to be honest.

Overall, the defense took major strides in 2015, but by the time the Texans faced the Titans late in 2015, Tennessee was ready to pack away the equipment for another year. This defense, under the leadership of legendary LeBeau, is in the same scheme for the second straight season and that has made it even more effective. Keep in mind, the scoring totals are a bit skewed because the offense gave up two touchdowns on turnovers in the Minnesota game. The defense has only allowed three total offensive touchdowns in three games.

The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 11/25/2020)

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