The Miami Dolphins will host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in the regular season opener. With every team entering Week 1 at 0-0 on the year and hope springing eternal around the league, this is also the start of figuring out who and what every team really will be. While we think we have an idea of who the Dolphins are in 2018, we will still be surprised when they actually get on the field and start showing things they held close throughout the summer.
As for the Titans, Dolphins fans - and the NFL - really do not know who or what they are. But, we do know someone who is pretty close to the team and can give us a better look. Music City Miracles editor-in-chief Jimmy Morris took some time to give us his thoughts on the Titans heading into 2018.
And, if you would like to see my aqua-colored glasses take on the Dolphins, check out my answers to Jimmy’s questions.
1. Let’s start with the obvious question: How has Marcus Mariota looked this summer? After two strong seasons to start his career, he fell off last year. What improvement have you seen this year and what do you expect to see from him?
He has been up and down this summer. We all expect him to take a huge step forward this year now that he is in an offense from this century, but the results in the preseason were mixed. Some of that was to be expected as the new offense that is being installed is night and day different from what they ran last year. Dan Orlovsky, who was in Rams’ camp with then Rams OC Matt LaFleur how is not the Titans OC, has said on multiple occasions that it takes a while for this system to click. We still have a lot of questions about the offensive, but my faith in Mariota’s ability to succeed in it has not been shaken.
As for changes this year, I expect Mariota to look like the confident quarterback he did in 2016. Last year he was coming off a devastating injury and never looked comfortable or confident in what was going on. I think that will change this year and he will go back to throwing no look touchdown passes in the red zone.
2. All summer, the Dolphins played a very vanilla version of both their offense and defense, looking to keep things from appearing on film. It sounds like new head coach Mike Vrabel admitted the Titans did the exact same thing, preferring to use practice - away from the public, media, and (potentially) scouts eyes whatever they really want to do. With that said, what can we expect to see from Vrabel’s team, and how is he adjusting to being a head coach?
Vrabel’s acclimation as a head coach seems to have gone pretty well. There has been some stress here between him and the media and the fans because of how he (Vrabel) gave absolutely nothing on injuries throughout the preseason, but what else would you expect from a guy that spent so much time with Bill Belichick in New England. The good news is the players seems to love playing for him. That is all that matters at the end of the day.
I think Vrabel would hope that you see a disciplined, tough-nosed team (which I guess you could say for every football coach). He has been very big on accountability with guys. That hasn’t always been the case with head coaches here. Outside of that, I still have as many questions about what this football team is going to look like on both sides of the ball as you do.
3. Injuries always seem to be a story coming out of the preseason, and the Titans have definitely had some injury issues this summer. Who should we expect to see this weekend, and who could be missing playing time?
The Titans really took a hit at the linebacker position throughout camp. Brian Orakpo missed pretty much all of camp/the preseason, but he seems to be a full go. Derrick Morgan reportedly had a procedure to repair a torn meniscus, but he returned to practice in full yesterday and looks to have a good chance to play. Their first two picks in the 2018 draft, Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, who they are going to need production from to be successful this season, seem like long-shots to play here. Jack Conklin, the All-Pro RT, tore his ACL in the playoff loss to the Patriots. He hasn’t practiced in full yet. There is little to no shot he plays on Sunday. Everyone else should be good to go.
Note: Jimmy and I spoke before Friday’s injury report was released, where the Titans officially ruled out Evans, Landry, and Conklin.
4. What new name for the Titans excites you the most? What player Dolphins fans do not yet know will play a big role this weekend?
The 2 new guys that are going to have the biggest impact on this team are 2 guys that are going to be very familiar to Dolphins fans- Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler. Lewis is a guy that they are going to use all over the field to exploit match-ups. I expect him to play a big role in this game on Sunday.
Butler is a guy that brought energy to camp day in and day out. He should help them have a secondary that is going to be one of the best in the league.
As for people you don’t know about, I am intrigued by Taywan Taylor. He was the talk of the fantasy community for a week after he scored on a screen pass in week 2 of the preseason. He is one of those guys, however, that we just still have a lot of questions about. Tajae Sharpe worked ahead of him for most of the preseason. I have no idea what his role will be like in week one.
5. What are your expectations for Tennessee this year?
This team went 9-7 and won a playoff game last year with the most antiquated offense in the league. I expect them to take a step forward and be in contention for a division title and in the mix in the AFC playoffs. That’s bold, but hey, what else are we supposed to expect about our team before week 1 kicks off?
Bonus: What are your thoughts about the new uniforms?
I love the helmets. I hated the numbers when they were first released, but they have grown on me over time. They still look kind of silly on some guys- like check out the 77 on Taylor Lewan. It looks really, really thin. I love them other than that!