In 2017-2018, the Tennessee Titans had returned to the play-offs, after nine years of absence. The coach was called Mike Mularkey, and the quarterback, Marcus Mariota. But the former left the Nashville franchise, and the latter has not confirmed. The Titans had to rebuild themselves. They then called on Mike Vrabel, as a coach, and recruited quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Meanwhile, running back Derrick Henry has exploded.
Last year, Tennessee found the play-offs and made it to the Conference finals, after taking out the New England Patriots (20-13) and especially the Baltimore Ravens (28-12), the No. 1 in the regular season. The Kansas City Chiefs were then too strong (35-24). This season, the Titans won their first five matches, before slowing down (three defeats in four games). But they can still dream of the play-offs. It will pass by a success against Baltimore (7 pm, live on the site L’Equipe).
Ryan Tannehill, finally in full light
At the start of last season, the morale of the Titans was at its lowest. After six days, the team had only two wins. Mike Vrabel, the Tennessee coach, then decided to start Ryan Tannehill as quarterback. The 32-year-old had just joined the Nashville franchise after seven rather anonymous seasons with the Miami Dolphins, a very average team.
The magic then operated. In ten games as a starter, Tannehill has won seven and the Titans have made a comeback in the standings that allowed them to qualify for the play-offs. The Tennessee QB completed 70.3% of his passes for 2742 yards and 22 touchdowns, against only six conceded interceptions. This earned him the “Comeback Player of the Year” trophy and an invitation to the Pro Bowl, the NFL All-Star Game.
This season, Tannehill continues its momentum. In nine matches, he has already launched 2128 yards and 20 TD’s, and has suffered only three interceptions. He notably shone against Jacksonville (33-30) and Houston (42-36), each time throwing four touchdown passes. His individual statistics have been a little less flashy in recent weeks. But Ryan Tannehill still delivers very correct performances. What to hope to revive his team.
Derrick Henry, le bulldozer
In 2017-2018, while Mike Mularkey and Marcus Mariota officiated, Derrick Henry was already part of the Tennessee Titans. But the position of runner n ° 1 was then held by DeMarco Murray. It was at the end of that season, however, that Henry earned his place as running back holder, carrying less the ball than Murray but traveling more yards.
The following season, Derrick Henry crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. Then, last year, the Tennessee runner moved into the big leagues, finishing top runner of the regular season, with 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns. What to get a ticket for the Pro Bowl.
During the great adventure of the Titans in the play-offs last season, Henry martyred the opposing defenses, galloping 182 yards against New England and 195 yards against Baltimore.
This season, Derrick Henry rivals Dalvin Cook, the running back of the Minnesota Vikings, for the place of best runner. He currently totals 946 yards, against 954 to his rival. Henry attacked from the start, running 116 yards against the Denver Broncos. His peak, he then reached against Houston in October, gaining 212 yards in just 22 carries.
If the Titans have marked time in recent weeks, Derrick Henry, he has not weakened. In the defeats against Cincinnati (31-20) and Indianapolis (34-17), he had run respectively 112 then 103 yards. Counting on his running back star, Tennessee can therefore hope to return to victory.
Mike Vrabel is in his third season as the Titans coach. (C. Hanewinckel / USA Today Sports / Reuters)
Mike Vrabel, the architect
In 2017-2018, after bringing the Titans back to the play-offs, Mike Mularkey decided by mutual agreement with the bosses of the team to leave. The latter then gave Mike Vrabel his first job as head coach in the NFL.
Eight years earlier, Vrabel had put an end to his brilliant career as linebacker. He had roamed the NFL fields for 14 seasons, mainly with the New England Patriots, with whom he had won the Super Bowl three times.
Vrabel then began a coaching career, first at Ohio State University, dealing with linebackers and the defensive line. Then he arrived in the NFL in 2014, with the Houston Texans. Vrabel worked there for four years, as coach of linebackers then as defensive coordinator. And that’s where the Titans went to get him.
In his first year with Tennessee, Vrabel succeeded where he specialized, which is in defense. In this area, the Titans were struggling (13th in 2017-2018). But the new coach allowed his team to finish 8th in defense of the season, a year later. The Nashville franchise, however, narrowly missed qualifying for the play-offs.
Last season, it was Tennessee’s attack that was changed. Vrabel launched Ryan Tannehill, focused more the game on Derrick Henry and benefited from the contribution of rookie receiver AJ Brown (1051 yards). The defense had remained on the same pace, then disgusted New England and Baltimore in the play-offs.
It is against these same Ravens on Sunday that the Titans and Mike Vrabel will try to win and position themselves more towards a new qualification for the play-offs.