NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
From a record standpoint, the improvement was easy to measure in 2016.
The Titans finished with a 9-7 record – a six-game jump from the previous season’s 3-13 mark.
Here’s a look at five areas where the Titans made their biggest strides on the field:
2015: NFL rank: 25th, 92.8 yards per game.
2016: NFL rank: 3rd, 136.7 yards per game.
Why: The Titans changed the look of the entire running game, acquiring running back DeMarco Murray via trade and then drafting Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. Murray ran for 100-plus yards in five games en route to a 1,287-yard, Pro Bowl season while Henry added 490 yards and five touchdowns. A revamped offensive line paved the way for a 43.9-yard per game improvement.
2015: NFL rank: 18th, 112.3 yards allowed per game.
2016: NFL rank: 2nd, 88.3 yards allowed per game.
Why: Improved play across the board contributed to a 24-yard improvement in run defense. The Titans consistently stuffed the run, limiting the opposition to under 100 yards in 11 of the team’s 16 games. Opponents failed to reach 70 yards in seven of those contests, and that happened just twice in 2015. Linebacker Avery Williamson led the team with 149 tackles.
2015: NFL rank: 29th, 31.8 percent.
2016: NFL rank: 3rd, 46.1 percent.
Why: Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota made quicker, and better decisions in his second NFL season, and his first under offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie. The Titans were 100-of-217 on third down compared to 64-of-201 in 2015. The Titans improved from 30th to 11th in total offense, and 28th to 14th in points per game. Mariota continued to stay hot in the red zone, where he has now thrown 33 touchdowns and no interceptions.
2015: 54 sacks allowed.
2016: 28 sacks allowed.
Why: A lot of credit goes to a reshaped offensive line here, under the direction of offensive line coach Russ Grimm. The Titans drafted an All-Pro right tackle in Jack Conklin, Taylor Lewan turned into a Pro Bowler at left tackle and Ben Jones was a consistent force in the middle at center. And Quinton Spain and Josh Kline were solid at the guard spots. As a result, Mariota was sacked just 23 times in 15 games after being sacked 38 times in 12 games in 2015. Pro Football Focus ranked Tennessee's offensive line No.1 in the NFL in 2016.
2015: Tied for 28th in NFL in 25-plus yard catches.
2016: Tied for 9th in NFL in 25-plus yard catches.
Why: A combination of things happened to help things here. Mariota improved his accuracy on the long ball, the addition of gritty veteran Rishard Matthews made a huge difference, play-calling, and the threat of the run all contributed to success. The Titans completed 53 passes of 20 yards or more in 2016 and 33 passes for 25 yards or more. Both were big leaps. Matthews led the way with 10 catches of 25 yards or more, while tight end Delanie Walker was second on the team with eight catches of 25 yards or more.