The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.
Report date: July 28 for rookies and veterans
1. Will Marcus Mariota be healthy and take another step?
After seeing Jake Locker, another top-10 draft pick, languish for several years before retiring, Titans fans hoped Mariota wouldn’t suffer the same fate. So far, so good. As a second-year pro last season, the former No. 2 overall pick took a gigantic leap, totaling 28 total touchdowns (two rushing) and tossing just nine interceptions. What made Mariota so special was his decision making when it mattered most. For the second consecutive season, he didn’t throw a single interception in the red zone. As one of the league’s most enticing dual-threat quarterbacks, we can expect him to take another step in his third year. The biggest question with Mariota in training camp will be the state of his right leg, which was broken late last season. All the signs so far are good in his recovery, but he’ll be watched closely before the season starts.
2. Are the receivers good enough?
Mariota, who rushed for a healthy 349 yards, has plenty of help around him including an elite offensive line. Maybe just as important is an improved receiving core. Recently acquired Eric Decker is a big body, sure-handed target who should immediately help move the chains. The real question is what Mariota gets from rookie Corey Davis, the fifth pick in the draft out of Western Michigan. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Davis is a supremely talented athlete who plays through contact. We expect him to make an assortment of big plays, but consistency is always a question for young receivers. Finally, don’t sleep on third rounder Taywan Taylor. Like Davis, he’s a small school guy (Western Kentucky), but purely as a slot guy, Taylor will be on the field early. As a senior, he totaled 1,730 yards and 17 touchdowns. Getting the rookies up to speed and Decker comfortable in the offense (he signed in June, after the New York Jets cut him) is a big priority in training camp.
After a poor season in Philadelphia, the 29-year-old Murray rediscovered the Pro Bowl caliber form of his Dallas days. In his first season with the Titans, Murray accumulated nearly 1,300 yards on the ground and 12 total touchdowns. Joining him in the backfield was rookie Derrick Henry. The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner showed tremendous power and enough quickness to offset concerns over his limited breakaway speed. With Mariota’s dynamic running capabilities, the Titans have formed one of the most devastating rushing attacks in pro football. But one thing we still don’t know is how head coach Mike Mularkey will split up the carries. Murray’s elusiveness and pass-catching ability has become a boon to Mariota, as has Henry’s power. Ideally, they will further complement each other so neither wears down when it matters most.
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