NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Like everyone else, analyst Charles Davis saw Rams quarterback Jared Goff make an enormous leap in 2017.
He called it a resume-topping moment for Matt LaFleur, who was named offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans this offseason. LaFleur served as offensive coordinator for the Rams last season, when Goff threw for 3,804 yards with 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions en route to reaching the Pro Bowl.
In LaFleur's first season in L.A., the Rams led the NFL in scoring in 2017, averaging 29.9 points per game.
"It's not necessarily 'drop the mic' but I think it proves, 'We do know what we are doing here, folks. I do believe we've got this down'," Davis said of LaFleur. "But he's kind of proven that every place he's been."
Davis, color analyst for NFL Network/FOX, thinks LaFleur's arrival in Tennessee should benefit quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Titans in 2018.
Davis is quite familiar with the Titans. The former University of Tennessee defensive back called the team's preseason contests alongside play-by-play man Dan Hellie in each of the past two seasons. The pair will continue to call preseason games for Titans in 2018, with WKRN's Cory Curtis serving as the sideline reporter for the four broadcasts in August.
In an interview this week with Titans Online, Davis shared his thoughts on a number of Titans-related topics…
On new Titans coach Mike Vrabel…**
"You've seen him as a player, you've seen him as an assistant coach in the league, and you saw him as a defensive coordinator last year. You can tell those guys who are on the fast track and he has been on it for a while. You can understand why teams would be interested in him. He played at a high level, has won Super Bowls. He has coached at a high level, and he is not so far removed from the game, so I think the players are going to "get" him. They know him, and no matter how you cut it, players respect guys who have played the game. And I think that is a big thing for them. Having Vrabel around, it changes the tempo, the volume, how things are going to be done. And he inherits a team that went to the playoffs last year."
More on LaFleur ….**
"I like him a lot, and I have known him through his coaching for years. And a lot of what he has done, he probably doesn't get credit for, behind the scenes. Just look at the pedigree he has trained under, and how the players he's coached have responded to his coaching. You are talking about some pretty high-powered guys. If you just take last year, and go night and day for Jared Goff, you can't ask for a better resume moment there. I've heard nothing but positive things about Matt, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes in Tennessee."
On quarterback Marcus Mariota …
"This is a monster year for Marcus. I mean, this is an absolute monster year for him. Give him good health, give him 16 games, and he'll be set up. But that big leap has to happen. It is interesting because I know they play in the preseason against Tampa Bay, and here we are, the No.1 and No.2 picks in the draft in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Where are we in year four for them? Big things are expected out of both of them, and for Marcus, change is in the air, but I think it is change for the better for him in a lot of ways."
"The whole league is about speed – you see it week in and week out. Guys who can run, guys who can make plays. Sometimes rookies will run themselves into errors, but sometimes their speed will run them into an error and out of an error and into a play at the same time. Rashaan Evans, the way he has been trained, coached, calling defenses – they do a lot of things in a pro style at Alabama. He's a mature kid who knows how to practice, knows how to be physical. He understands the tempo, and fundamentals. … And think about Harold Landry, who is coming in with a lot to prove. He wants to prove that he was the guy who should have been a first-round pick a few years ago, compared to the guy who played with a bad ankle last year and didn't put up the same numbers, and had people doubt him. I like both of them a whole lot."
On his overall thoughts on where the Titans are headed …**
"It's a team that made it to the playoffs and won at Kansas City last year when no one gave them a chance to win. This is no longer a franchise that's on the rise, it's a team looking to take the next step. … The team is going to have a new offense, a new defense, and new terminology. So a lot is going to be new. But it's going to be a lot of fun to watch them. I love the moves GM Jon Robinson has made, and he has been making excellent moves since he took over as GM, in the draft and free agency. The Titans are now looking to take things to the next level."
On the improvement of the AFC South ….
"Remember when people had so much fun making jokes about the division? Well, are we making those jokes any more? The Jacksonville Jaguars were within a whisker of going to the Super Bowl last year. The Titans were in the playoffs, and as we just talked about, they won at Kansas City and played pretty tough when they had to deal with New England. Houston gets Whitney Mercilus back, and they get J.J. Watt back. And who would have thought a player other than J.J. Watt coming back would be the bigger story for that franchise, but that's where they are with Deshaun Watson in Houston. If he's back at full strength, that's a whole different ball club. If Indianapolis gets Andrew Luck back like everyone thinks they do, well, they get transformed right away. So now people are not making jokes. They're now saying: That's a pretty darn good division."
The Titans take the field for Tuesday's organized team activities (OTA) at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn, AP)