NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Every NFL team begins each season with a degree of newness and unfamiliarity, but the 2021 Tennessee Titans, who began Training Camp on Wednesday, will have a uniquely high number of new faces, particularly on defense.
Tennessee will have seven new starters on defense in 2021. On offense, they’ll have a new right tackle, a new, high-end weapon in WR Julio Jones and a new offensive play-caller.
Almost all of the Titans’ new guys are improvements over their replacees, and general manager Jon Robinson has crafted one of the best and most exciting rosters in the franchise’s history.
With such a high degree of unfamiliarity, though, it will be paramount for all of the team’s new players—and new offensive coordinator Todd Downing—to get on the same page.
QB Ryan Tannehill, a team captain and one of the NFL’s most efficient signal callers, fully understands that.
“We realize that, yeah, we have some talent on this team, but it doesn’t really mean anything,” Tannehill said. “Most talented teams often don’t end up winning championships. It is only when they come together and form a true team and find a way to win tough games.”
The process of coming together and forming a true team, as Tannehill put it, must start now for the Titans. Training Camp is the perfect time to develop the chemistry necessary to get everyone on the same page.
Golden quote from @amanihooker37 on communication problems within the #Titans defense: He said everyone has to realize they aren’t “independent contractors” and make sure they’re working with and for each other on the same page.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) May 27, 2021
X’s and O’s
That process should start from a schematic standpoint. Specifically, the Titans’ players on both sides of the ball need to understand the system so well that, on a given play, they know all of their teammates’ assignments in addition to their own.
Arriving at that level of understanding allows a team to cohesively work as a single unit, rather than as, in the words of third-year safety Amani Hooker, “independent contractors.”
“We want guys not just to know what they’re doing, but to know what the guy next to them is doing,” Hooker said.
Not having that level of understanding across the board is one of the reasons that the Titans defense performed so poorly in 2020. Several players complained about communication deficiencies during the season, and the unit consistently looked disheveled and confused.
It is important to note that developing such a high level of understanding within a unit certainly isn’t easy.
“It takes time, it takes understanding, it takes communication,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said.
But the 2021 Titans are talented enough to go on a deep playoff run, perhaps even as far as the Super Bowl, and reaching that potential will require the team to hit some difficult marks.
This is one of them.
“Building a Team”
In addition to the X’s and O’s, getting a team on the same page comes down to players bonding and developing personal relationships off of the field.
That’s not to say that everyone needs to be best friends, but a lack of camaraderie within a locker room could absolutely kill a talented team’s championship potential.
“That is all part of building a team,” Vrabel said. “That is what we have talked about, some of those objectives for training camp. That can be done, hopefully, in the meeting room, in the weight room, cold tubs and the locker room.”
Chemistry in the locker room and outside of the facility leads to chemistry on the field. A lack of chemistry in the locker room and outside of the facility leads to a lack of chemistry on the field.
It will be paramount for the Titans’ players to develop that kind of chemistry, in addition to achieving a high level of understanding of their respective schemes, as they practice nearly every day for the next month.
“That is one of our keys to this training camp: to build a team,” Tannehill said.
“Getting that familiarity with the coaching staff, with teammates who haven’t been here before, getting everyone accustomed and up to speed to the way we do things. Then, holding that standard throughout training camp and throughout the season is going to be crucial.”
Cover image: Steve Roberts/USA Today