The Tennessee Titans emerged out of nowhere Sunday to finish a commerce for Julio Jones, sending a 2022 second and fourth spherical choose to Atlanta for one of many league’s most gifted receivers. A genius deal in its simplicity, Jones goes to a playoff workforce able to take the following step and make a critical push for the Tremendous Bowl, whereas Atlanta will get future belongings and sends Jones to a workforce they received’t play this upcoming season.
Buying and selling Jones was nonetheless the mistaken transfer for Atlanta, however the workforce discovered themselves between a rock and a tough place, particularly after Jones went viral when Shannon Sharpe cold-called him on Undisputed and had Jones, on reside TV, verify that he needed out so he might play for a contender. It accelerated the timeline for a deal, and will have probably damage what the Falcons might have acquired in a commerce — however what’s accomplished is finished.
Julio to the Titans may very well be the game-changing transfer of the low season.
An 11-5 workforce in 2020, the Titans have each bit the potential to make a Tremendous Bowl. Benefitting from enjoying in one in every of soccer’s weakest divisions provides them a head begin, however latest strikes by the entrance workplace have been nothing wanting good.
This all facilities on Ryan Tannehill, who freed himself from Adam Gase’s osmotic stench in Miami and turned a backup function into changing into top-of-the-line quarterbacks within the NFL. Pairing Tannehill’s accuracy with the league’s finest working again in Derrick Henry resulted in speedy success, and having a Professional Bowl receiver in AJ Brown was the icing on the cake.
Nevertheless, as we’ve now seen for 2 successive seasons, missing a second top-tier receiving menace has been the Titans undoing. In 2019 the Chiefs have been in a position to comprise Henry within the AFC Championship recreation, holding him to 69 speeding yard and bracketing Brown to the purpose the place a then-second choice Corey Davis needed to be the star — an not possible process towards Kansas Metropolis’s juggernaut offense.
Then, within the 2020 playoffs we noticed an identical chorus, this time within the Wild Card spherical. The Ravens knew their path to victory was stopping Henry and bracketing Brown. As soon as once more, it labored. The Titans misplaced 20-13, ending their season in related trend for the second straight yr.
This actually put Tennessee at a turning level, heightened by No. 2 receiver Corey Davis leaving in free company for the Jets. Believed to be in on a primary spherical receiver within the NFL Draft, the Titans went in a distinct course, solidifying their secondary — and taking depth receivers later within the draft.
As constructed, this workforce was not going to win a championship. Julio Jones adjustments all that. You now have the correct Tannehill, with two 1,000 yard, Professional Bowl receivers — and the very best working again in soccer as well. The twin deep threats of Brown and Jones will pressure groups to present defensive backs assist in protection, however how do you handle that, and nonetheless count on to have safeties work within the field to cease Henry working throughout you?
You possibly can’t, a minimum of on paper, and defenses might want to try to give you inventive choices to comprise all these weapons. Any time you ask defenses to get “inventive,” you’re taking them out of the consolation zone, and skill to manage the tempo of the sport — which means, the Titans will step on the sphere with a bonus, earlier than the primary snap ever happens.
Make no mistake, the street to the Tremendous Bowl within the AFC continues to be completely brutal with the likes of Baltimore, Kansas Metropolis, and Buffalo lurking, however that is nonetheless the very best probability the Titans have had throughout the Mike Vrabel period.
Regardless of all this pleasure, there are some issues
To take a look at the roster upgrades, mud your fingers off and say “job accomplished” actually ignores a few massive elephants within the room. The primary, and largest, is the absence of offensive genius Arthur Smith.
Smith took over as offensive coordinator in 2019, and made the larger influence on the workforce than any coach within the NFL. The 2018 Titans completed twenty seventh within the NFL in factors scored, and twenty fifth in whole yards. Woeful numbers, propped up by the power of the Titans protection.
In two quick seasons Smith improved these numbers to a median of seventh within the NFL in scoring and yards. The largest enchancment within the league, and unquestionably the rationale the Falcons determined to rent Smith as their head coach earlier this yr.
The hallmark of Smith’s offense was his genius pink zone play calling. An unreal potential to name up the right play when it counted, and seemingly have success. We all the time, rightfully, speak in regards to the brilliance of the Chiefs’ offense — however relating to the pink zone no person in comparison with the Titans during the last two years. Rating 1st in 2019, and 2nd in 2020, then solely workforce in the identical zip code as Tennessee was Inexperienced Bay.
It stays to be seen how the Titans will function with out Smith. There’s excessive hopes for incoming coordinator Todd Downing, who serves as tight ends coach. Nevertheless, there’s motive to be somewhat nervous too. The final time Downing served as coordinator was in 2017 with the Oakland Raiders, a workforce that was within the bottom-half of the league in each scoring, and whole yards.
In Downing’s protection, the Raiders have been grappling with loads of points that season, together with Derek Carr scuffling with harm for a lot of the yr, however there’s nonetheless a major leap of religion required in hoping Downing may be nearly as good as Smith.
There’s additionally some fear on the offensive line. The Titans are adept at run blocking, however have struggled in move safety. Now, with extra of a spotlight being placed on the passing recreation with Jones arriving, there’s going to be a necessity for some guys to step up on the road and make extra of an influence. That requires a leap of religion as effectively.
That mentioned, buying and selling for Jones was nonetheless a stoke of genius
Sure, there are issues for the Titans shifting ahead. Nevertheless, they pale compared to touchdown a participant of Jones’ expertise. With out him this was a workforce poised for a serious step again, regressing farther from the AFC elite and changing into one in every of many good, not nice groups within the NFL.
Now they’re probably the most thrilling offenses within the NFL on paper, with a possible the supporting constructions might maintain them again. That’s a threat value taking. Assuming Downing can handle the offense effectively, and the road can maintain up, we actually may very well be a workforce able to make the Tremendous Bowl. I don’t know if it’s attainable to say that previous to Julio Jones’ arrival.