DENVER – The Titans face the Denver Broncos on Monday night at Empower Field at Mile High.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
The Titans rode running back Derrick Henry at the end of the 2019 season, and it took them all the way to the AFC Championship Game. At the start of a new year, the Titans figure to ride the big man once again after he led the NFL with 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns. The pieces are in place for it to happen again, as the team returns an experienced offensive line ready to lead the way. The Broncos, of course, were no pushover when these teams met last October. Henry manage just 28 yards on 15 carries in a 16-0 loss and Denver allowed just 4.13 yards per carry a year ago, which was 13 best in the league.
Tannehill Time From Day 1
Titans fans remember what happened here a year ago. In the third quarter, with the Titans trailing 13-0, starting quarterback Marcus Mariota was benched, and Tannehill replaced him. Tannehill never gave the job back, and he finished the 2019 season with 22 touchdowns vs only six interception while finishing as the NFL's top-rated passer. Well, it's Tannehill job from Day 1 in 2020. His performance a year ago earned him a new contract during the offseason, and he'll aim to pick up where he left off tonight.
The Clowney Factor
Last year's No.99, Jurrell Casey, will be wearing a Broncos uniform tonight. This team's No.99, Jadeveon Clowney, will make his Titans debut. Clowney has been a disruptive force during the course of his NFL career with the Texans and Seahawks. As a Titan, he's expected to make plays, but he'll also free up players around him to make plays as well. How will the Titans use Clowney? And how will he impact the game in two-tone blue? We'll start to get our answers tonight.
Punter Brett Kern is back, as he returns to the city where he began his NFL career back in 2008. Kalif Raymond will handle punt and kickoff returns for the Titans. But the Titans have a new kicker in former Patriot Stephen Gostkowski, and the expectation is he'll solve the kicking problems from a year ago. But Week One is always an interesting game for special teams units who will be covering and returning for the first time with a lot of brand-new faces. The Titans hope to be good from the get-go here.
A.J. and the Receivers
So what does Titans receiver A.J. Brown do for an encore after his 1,051-yard, eight touchdown performance during his rookie season? And how will the team's other weapons fare while returning from a year ago? One of the reasons the team is optimistic about the offense at the start is because all of Tannehill's top weapons are back, from Brown to Corey Davis to Adam Humphries to Jonnu Smith to Anthony Firkser to Raymond. And OC Arthur Smith is back as the signal-caller. A year after getting shut out here, the Titans seem poised to produce at the start.
All the Unknowns
Week One is always a mystery across the league, with new coaches and players and changes from the previous year. The start of the 2020 season brings more questions across the league than normal because of issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday Night Football, will the Titans benefit from an empty, and quieter Empower Field without fans? Will the team be rusty with no preseason games to work out the kinks? How will the Titans handle things on defense in the first game without retired DC Dean Pees? What will the secondary look like following the late scratch of starting cornerback Adoree' Jackson? Will opening night, MNF jitters play a role for either team and lead to mistakes? At the start of a new year, there are plenty of reasons to stay up late and watch.
The Tennessee Titans travel to Denver to take on the Broncos on Monday Night Football. (Photos: Donald Page)