NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans face the Miami Dolphins in the season opener on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
The Titans finished 9-7 last season, and advanced to the playoffs.
The Dolphins finished 6-10 in 2017, and one of their wins came in Week 5 over the Titans.
This week, I caught up with Armando Salguero, a Pro Football Hall of Fame voter who covers the Dolphins for the Miami Herald. You can follow Armando on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero, and join nearly 68,000 others.
Here's how our conversation went:
Wyatt: Hey Armando. Well, here we go again. The regular season opener is now upon us. Right out of the gate: Why should the Titans be concerned about the Dolphins heading into Week One?
Salguero: Well, for starters, what the Titans are looking at on tape based off of the preseason is not what they are going to see in the game. In the preseason, they didn't see a whole lot of (receiver) Albert Wilson, who the Dolphins signed from Kansas City. The Dolphins will have an Albert Wilson package on Sunday. They didn't see a whole lot done with tight end Mike Gesicki, who is a rookie second-round draft pick. The Dolphins have a lot of plans for him, particularly in the red the red zone, where in practices he has been a beast. He's 6-6, and has a 41-inch vertical leap. So if that translates to games in the regular season, well, that is going to be something to watch. Obviously, their offensive line is revamped and they think it is the strength of the team. Well, we'll see. There's no time like a regular season game to test what you think you've got. The Dolphins think they have a really good offensive line. And obviously they have a new quarterback, in their old quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, who has been out for over 600 days – that's the last time he played in a football game. And they think that he is going to be better than ever.
Wyatt: What are the biggest concerns surrounding the Dolphins? Why should fans there be cautious in their expectations?
Salguero: The linebacker corps is atrocious. It's not necessarily because they don't have talent. It's because they don't have experience. Kiko Alonso is the veteran of the group, and then they have Raekwon McMillan in the middle and he is a second-year player, but he missed his entire rookie season with an ACL injury. And Jerome Baker is their strongside linebacker, and he is a rookie, a third-round pick. So there will be a lot of growing pains with Baker and McMillan, and Kiko is going to have to shoulder the burden much of the time, especially early in the season. Last year when Lawrence Timmons was lost almost all the time on the field, and Kiko was burdened then with trying to get him right, and he couldn't do it. So it is going to be interesting to see if he can get these young guys right.
Wyatt: There's been a lot of chatter here about the Dolphins signing former Titans quarterback Luke Falk to the 53-man roster after he was released during the wave of roster cuts. The speculation is the Dolphins will try and pump him for information about the Titans to get an advantage. So, do you think that was their plan?
Salguero: They would say no. They would tell you there isn't a whole lot you can learn from your opponent based on one player coming in a week before the game. And that player being a rookie, no less. But having said that, it does matter that the Titans have a new coaching staff. And it does matter that a lot of things are going to be new with the Tennessee Titans, things that they haven't showed in the preseason but have done in the past. Luke Falk has seen a lot of that stuff in practice, so I am assuming the questions will be asked of Luke Falk. I don't know what they are going to do with the answers, but I am assuming the questions will be asked.
Wyatt: OK, just a few more here. The last time the Titans were in Miami, Jay Cutler was the quarterback of the Dolphins. Now Tannehill is back in the saddle. How has he looked, and what do you expect from him this season?
Salguero: Well, he's a 30-year-old quarterback, and everyone down here is expecting him to be the brand-new Ryan Tannehill because we haven't seen him in so long. My view of the situation is he is: He's a 30-year-old quarterback, and you don't suddenly morph into another person at 30 years old just because you turned 30 and you haven't played for a year. My sense is he is going to be good, not great. In spurts, he is going to be really good, and in other spurts he is going to be curiously bad. So I am not buying the whole: It's a brand-new day with Ryan Tannehill narrative. I think it is going to be the same old day, but that's not necessarily bad. But it's also not going to mean he's necessarily going to be elite. Tom Brady went from like 24 touchdown passes at 29 to 50 touchdown passes at 30. I don't necessarily think it was all because of Tom Brady. It was because they got Randy Moss, and they signed Wes Welker and suddenly their running game took off and they were scoring a ton of points. It wasn't because Tom Brady suddenly figured out how to play football -- he had won a Super Bowl already at that point.
Wyatt: So, what's your prediction for the 2018 Miami Dolphins?
Salguero: Of course everything is about how healthy your roster stays, and if they remain healthy, an if Ryan Tannehill isn't rusty, and if Kenyan Drake shows up and becomes the player the Dolphins hope he is going to be at running back and as a pass catcher out of the backfield, they have a chance to go 9 and 7 and maybe if things go amazing for them, 10-6. Otherwise they are going to be in the middle ground, where they have been for a long time, at 7-9 or 8-8. I am trying to be optimistic.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the team's all-time series against the Miami Dolphins. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)