NASHVILLE – CBS analyst Charles Davis had his sights set on Super Bowl LV last week, and in Tampa he watched veteran quarterback Tom Brady continue his dominance on a new team, in a new city, capture yet another Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Now, the race is on for next year's trophy, and Davis believes the Titans are in a position to contend once again, in part because of continuity.
But there's work to be done, he said, following a season when the Titans won the AFC South, but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
"I absolutely do believe they'll be a contender again," Davis, who also works as an analyst for NFL Network, said of the Titans. "You talk about the jumps that were made on offense this year. We all know about Derrick Henry, what he has done, what is capable of continuing to do. Ryan Tannehill has proven he can win games for you, too. A.J. Brown continues to ascend, and they have other weapons. I love how physical the offensive line is, and of course the Titans get Taylor Lewan back.
"But the defense is obviously the question mark, and they have to figure out how to get off the field on third down and get better (next year). And they have to get more (help). They are going to have to add some more players, and that is (GM) Jon Robinson's job and he knows that. I like Harold Landry, and I'm a big fan of Jeffery Simmons. But it's all about pressure, pressure, pressure. That is what does it on defense and they have to figure that out and get better there."
Last month, Titans coach Mike Vrabel announced plans to promote tight ends coach Todd Downing to offensive coordinator, where he'll replace Arthur Smith.
Smith was named head coach of the Falcons following a season when the Titans finished 2nd in the NFL in total offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, Vrabel officially named Shane Bowen the team's defensive coordinator. Bowen called the defense in 2020 while working as the team's outside linebacker coach.
"I'm a big fan of continuity," Davis said, "and I don't think Mike Vrabel makes those moves if he doesn't believe they have a very good chance of working."
Davis believes the Downing will likely keep things somewhat similar on the offensive side of the ball following a season when the team scored 30-plus points in 10 of 16 games, and 40-plus points in five contests. The team has two key players – receiver Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith – scheduled to become free agents in March, however, so their future is uncertain.
While adding pieces on defense will help, Davis believes Bowen could also get a boost with the title change.
"Shane essentially was the defensive coordinator last year but there wasn't a title on it," Davis said. "I'm not saying this was the case in Tennessee, but when you don't have 'DC' next to your name, sometimes some players might be inclined to say, "I'm listening to ya coach", but they are looking at the head coach or they are looking at someone else. You know what I mean? It is a psychological thing, but Shane is now DC and with players I think it'll be more like, "OK, he's our guy, here we go."
Davis, who is just beginning his prep work for the 2021 NFL Draft, believes player acquisition will be key this offseason for the Titans.
But he likes the team's chances, and he predicted a bounce-back season for safety Kevin Byard after "a down year statistically."
"Overall, continuity is big for everybody," Davis said. "Now again, they are going to have to add players, and what happens on defense is going to be key. Personally, I don't think Shane Bowen should've been getting all the criticism like it was all on him because there was a lot to it. Mike was a part of it, the whole staff was a part of it. Now, as the DC, if Mike is not just making Shane the DC in title but empowering him, as in, 'You're the guy", then now Shane gets to exhibit week in and week out what he has, how he plans to scheme, how he plans to adjust, and all those things.
"The reality is, the type of offense the Titans have, it should be a defense's dream, the way they control the ball, with the run game. This offense is giving you a good reason to be a good defense. But they have to figure some things out on defense to capitalize from this offensive style."