The defending Super Bowl champion Tennessee Titans are currently sitting at 7-3 and look on track to once again qualify for the playoffs. The Titans finish the season against no teams over .500 but of their first 11 games, 8 of those teams were .500 or better. So the Titans strength of schedule was tough to start off the year, opening up with the Ravens, Dolphins and Jaguars. In game 1 vs the Ravens, the Titans defense picked Lamar Jackson off 7 times and forced a fumble and won the game running away. The next two games would not be so forgiving though, The Titans blew a 10 point lead to the Dolphins and then lost a shootout 51-48 at home against the Jaguars.
Sitting at 1-2, things looked grim for the Titans but something happened during those losses that Coach J described at a recent press conference, in length, “We were a running team. For this entire cycle, we have been set up to run the football. With all the success that we have had, we realized that we needed to make a change and we set out this offseason to do that. We surrounded DeCicco with crafty veterans and a rookie with blazing speed and we set out to become a team that can sling the rock, keep defenses honest and win high scoring affairs.”
This quote from Coach J was very indicative of what has happened this season. Statistically the Titans are the number 1 scoring offense in the XCFL. They are also the number 1 passing offense in the XCFL, this is in stark contrast of years past as the Titans have consistently been either the top or one of the top 3 rushing offense in the XCFL all cycle. Obviously, this was a goal of Coach Js but the 4 games that Star RB LeTevin Phillip was suspended had helped accelerate that goal.
Turner DeCicco was shipped from the Broncos to Tennessee for Marcus Mariota. The 1st round pick had already been labeled a bust and was only brought to Tennessee so they could clear cap after a run to the Super Bowl. Many thought that this would set Tennessee back but in year 1 they reached the AFC championship. After this season, Turner was labeled a “game manager” he only threw for 2,173 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions on the way to the AFC championship game and was supported by elite RBs Leveon Bell and Christian McCaffrey. The following year, DeCicco stepped up his game and there for 3778 yards, 25 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The Titans again made the super bowl but this was almost entirely because of their defense and running game, DeCicco was still considered a game manager. That brings us to last season, the season the Titans finally won the big game. Turner threw for less yards and touchdowns but more interceptions and was completely overshadowed by LeTevin Phillip bursting on the scene as the best RB in the XCFL. Coach J knew something must be done, he set out to get Turner a game breaking receiver and he did that with the final pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Pick #32, Anton Newsome, Wide receiver from Lehigh.
So far through his rookie campaign, Newsome is #3 in receptions with 58, #2 in yards with 1437, #3 in receiving TDs with 14 and has the second longest reception this season. Newsome also leads the league in Kickoff Return yardage and touchdowns with 4. That brings his total TDs this season to 18, leading all rookies. Newsome is small and fast but brings a competitiveness fostered at his FCS college that is second to none. DeCicco has found a receiver he can trust to get open vertically and that has helped him immensely as Hopkins and Washington are averaging the most YPC they have as Titans.
Look for this team to finish strong. With the return of Phillip, Newsome playing at a high level and a very favorable schedule to end the season, the Titans could be looking at a nice road in the playoffs as they look to defend last years championship