NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Not long after Peter King picked the Titans 32nd in his MMQB's 2015 offseason power rankings, he received some feedback via social media.
"I heard from maybe 50 Titans fans. They pretty much said, "You're an idiot,'' King said with a smile. "They let me know, "We're going to be a whole lot better than that."
On Wednesday, as King made his way through the Titans locker room during his visit to Nashville, he nearly made it out unscathed. Then Titans safety Michael Griffin spotted him, and offered some good-natured ribbing.
"We're 32nd in the league?,'' Griffin, smiling, said to King. "Really? So what do you think now?"
King, who put together his NFL power rankings at the end of May, stopped to chat.
After taking in the morning practice on Wednesday, King told Griffin he might reconsider his stance on the Titans heading into the 2015 season.
"You may not be 32nd. Here's the two things I saw today: Your receivers are big, and you won't be 32nd with him,'' said King, pointing in the direction of quarterback Marcus Mariota. "He is pretty good. And you guys are good in the secondary, too. If (Brian) Orakpo can rush the passer, and Dick LeBeau. We'll see…"
King, senior writer with Sports Illustrated and MMQB.com, isn't ready to call the Titans a contender just yet, however.
King has been making the rounds at NFL training camps, and by the start of the season he'll do a prediction for each team.
On June 1, he ranked Baltimore, Seattle and Green Bay as the NFL's top three teams. He ranked the Titans 32nd, behind teams like Tampa Bay (29th), Jacksonville (30th) and Oakland (31st).
On Wednesday, he explained himself.
"Sometimes rookies come in and play great their first year, but this has to be a building block year. It has to be a year when you climb the ladder,'' King said of the Titans. "There have to be reasonable expectations…
"You have to pick somebody 32nd, but I don't know if it's going to be these guys. I don't know if it's going to be Oakland, I don't know if it's going to be Tampa. It could be Cleveland. There's 10 candidates, really. I look at this team and I think they have a lot of question marks. You don't know how fast the quarterback is going to come along. I think it is realistic to think the Titans could win four or six (games). Could they win more? We'll see. I just think in general when you are making so many changes it's hard.
"But you know Ken Whisenhunt is going to have a physically tough team, and the addition of LeBeau is going to help,'' King continued. "The big thing is how quick can Marcus come along? All of that can change things. The fact that Marcus is doing so well and so consistently early, that could change (my thinking)."
Titans players take the field for training camp on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Donn Jones Photography.com)
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said after King's rankings came out he didn't blame him for picking the team 32nd, and he repeated that stance on Wednesday.
The Titans and Buccaneers finished 2-14 last season.
Since, the Titans selected Mariota second overall in the draft, and added a number of key free agents on both sides of the ball. Receivers Harry Douglas and Hakeem Nicks, and tight end Anthony Fasano, have all looked good on offense. On the defensive side of the ball, the team signed linebacker Brian Orakpo, cornerback Perrish Cox and safety Da'Norris Searcy.
On Wednesday, the mindset of the Titans was pretty consistent when asked about low expectations from national media.
"We did go 2-14 last year. We had a bad year last year,'' center Brian Schwenke said. "You go 2 and 14 and you kind of kind of know people don't expect much from you. But I've always kind of liked the underdog thing.
"But the good thing about the NFL and the good thing about football in general is you start over Day 1 of a new season."
Added linebacker Derrick Morgan: "We are already under the radar, we're a small market team, and we went 2-14 last year, so no one is expecting us to do anything. But that is the way we want it. But we are just focusing on what we have to do as a team."
Yes, the Titans have plenty to prove heading into 2015.
At least for now, they appear to have made some headway in King's mind.
But the Titans know they have to keep working. No teams turn things around in August.
"I think we need to earn everything we get,'' tight end Delanie Walker said. "We don't need a chip on our shoulder. We need to go out there and earn our spot in the NFL. We have a long road to go. People can't get excited early right now. It's early, and we look good. But everybody looks good in training camp when you are playing against your own defense. So we'll see what happens when we play against someone else."