This article is part of our 2020 Training Camp Preview series.
Expanding upon our team preview collection from earlier this offseason, we're gearing up for an irregular August with a series of team-specific articles to get you up to speed for training camp. You can find the previous writeup on the Tennessee Titans here.
State of the Franchise
Despite working at one of the slowest paces in the league offensively last season, the Titans attack functioned very efficiently. In fact, their 6.0 yards per play was a top-five mark in the league and was due in large part to Derrick Henry's monstrous performance on the ground.
While the modern NFL often dictates that the passing game sets up an effective rushing attack, Tennessee's offense appeared to work the opposite way. Over the course of the season, defenses stacked eight or more players in the box on a total of 35.3 percent of snaps when Derrick Henry was on the field. From Week 7 on, when Ryan Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback, opposing defenses stacked the box an average of nearly 40 percent of the time.
With defenses keyed in to stop the run, it's little surprise that Tannehill experienced a career resurrection thanks to extreme efficiency. Nowhere was that more evident than in the play-action passing attack, as Tannehill recorded a quarterback rating of 143.5, averaged 14.8 yards per attempt, and led the league with a 75.9 percent completion percentage in those scenarios. While a run-first style offense doesn't fit the modern league for many teams, this data certainly suggests that Henry is the motor behind the Titans offense, making him well deserving of his four-year, $50 million extension.
Jonnu Smith is widely expected to take a step forward and establish himself as the not only the Titans' best tight end, but also as an upper echelon tight end around the league. This is fueled not only by his tremendous athleticism (93rd percentile SPARQ-x score), but also the offseason departure of Delanie Walker.
While there's not a true competition for the top role on the team, Smith will have to compete for both snaps and targets with Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt. Notably, the Titans utilized multiple tight end formations on nearly 44 percent of their offensive snaps last season, and given their run-heavy offensive philosophy that's unlikely to change in 2020.
Pruitt worked almost exclusively as a blocker, as he earned just eight targets on 448 snaps. On the other hand, Firkser figures to compete with Smith in the passing game, as he was targeted on nearly 12 percent of his 202 snaps in 2019. Firkser had nearly half as many targets as Smith on only one-quarter as many snaps. If Firkser remains that heavily involved in the passing attack, he'll cap Smith's upside and fantasy output.
Simmons spent much of his rookie season rehabbing from a torn ACL but has had as normal of an offseason as possible given the COVID-19 pandemic. He was electric in his NFL debut Week 7, notching one sack and two tackles for loss, but he managed to only match those numbers across the final six games of the season. After the Titans dealt away Jurrell Casey this offseason, Simmons will need to step up and provide consistent production along the team's defensive line, and he appears healthy enough to do so.
Butler was in the midst of a solid second season in Tennessee, rebounding from a disastrous first campaign with the team, when he fractured his wrist Week 7. That injury eventually forced him to season-ending injured reserve. Butler will need to continue his ascension in the Titans defense after the departure of defensive leader Logan Ryan this offseason and rookie Kristian Fulton as the potential starter in the slot. Butler appears on track to be a full participant for the start of training camp and will be relied upon as an experienced leader in the secondary.
Walker is a forgotten man in the midst of the strong 2019 Titans' draft class after he spent the entire season on injured reserve with a hernia injury. However, the fifth-round pick was very productive in college and even led Georgia in tackles and sacks as a senior in 2018. While rumors swirl around the potential addition of Jadeveon Clowney, Walker could insert himself into the conversation as a rotational pass rusher behind Vic Beasley, Harold Landry and Kamalei Correa if he proves to be fully healthy as players report to camp.