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Five Questions Facing the Titans Coming Off Their Bye Week


NASHVILLE – The bye weekend is now in the rear-view mirror for the Tennessee Titans.

On the horizon: Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, part of an 11-game stretch to close out the 2023 regular season.

The Titans have several things to sort out.

Here's a look at five questions facing the Titans coming out of the bye:

Who will be the team's starting QB?

Right now, everything depends on Ryan Tannehill's health. Coach Mike Vrabel said if Tannehill is healthy, he'll start. But the last time Tannehill was spotted he was on crutches, and in a walking boot, after suffering an ankle injury in the team's game in London just eight days ago. Tannehill missed two games after suffering a similar injury a year ago, and he never really got right. If Tannehill can't go, the decision is between Malik Willis and Will Levis. The Titans have given Willis chances in his first two seasons, and he's produced mixed results. The Titans didn't exactly take a flier on Levis: He was picked 33rd overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. Is it time to see what he can do?

Who will start at left tackle?

Andre Dillard started the first six games of the season at left tackle, but he was pulled from the team's game against the Ravens and replaced by Nicholas Petit-Frere. While Petit-Frere started 16 of 17 games at right tackle a year ago, his best chance to get on the field now appears to be on the left side. That's because the team is happy with the job Chris Hubbard has done at tackle on the right side, and Dillard left the door open for someone to replace him with some inconsistent play. Vrabel raved about Petit-Frere's play style and attitude after he was thrown into action against Baltimore. It made me wonder if he'd earned himself the job.

Can Treylon Burks make a big impact when he returns?

Treylon Burks had a productive offseason, and he looked to be in a prime spot heading into the 2023 season. Then came his knee injury in a joint practice against the Vikings in Minnesota, and everything changed. After playing in the team's first three games of the season, Burks has been sidelined the past three because of lingering issues with the knee. Burks didn't make a big contribution in the three games he played (six catches, 99 yards), and he'll certainly need to get back up to speed. Vrabel sounded optimistic when speaking about Burks last week. The Titans need more playmakers on offense, and they could sure use Burks.

Will the Titans trade assets at the trade deadline?

It's hard for me to sit here and endorse this, because the team still has 11 games left, and I'm all about the present when it comes to football seasons. But there's no denying the Titans have some intriguing assets other teams would like to have, and currently with just six draft picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, it's perhaps irresponsible to at least not think about the future. GM Ran Carthon was hired to help the franchise moving forward, and he's been on the job less than a year. Here's how Vrabel responded when asked if the team would consider trading assets at the deadline to prioritize next year's draft: "I think we would always consider trying to strengthen the team, whether that's right now, this week or in the future. Absolutely." The NFL trade deadline, by the way, is October 31.

Can the Titans be AFC South contenders?

Well, things don't look great right now. The team is in last place in the AFC South, behind the Jaguars (5-2), Texans (3-3) and Colts (3-4). Through six games, the Titans haven't looked like contenders on several Sundays. But there's a lot of season left, too, and I think everyone remembers the Jaguars starting 2-6 and 3-7 a year ago before winning 6 of 7, and then the division. Last year's 7-3 start didn't guarantee the Titans anything. A turnaround won't be easy. So far, the Titans have played six teams with a combined record of 20-19. The combined record of the teams over the next 11 games is 39-32, and that included the 0-6 Panthers. The Titans need to step it up.

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