Homegrown Titan players find first taste of success

Friday, December 9, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 50

"We have to win our games and control our own destiny," says Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan. "We can’t get caught up in where we are now. We’ve got to take care of business on our end.”

-- Scott Boehm Via Ap

Those looking at the Tennessee Titans’ season thus far as half-empty see a 6-6 team with enough flaws to offset many of the positive steps that have been taken this year.

But for those looking at the Titans’ season as half-full, it is hard not to notice that that same 6-6 record that speaks volumes about this season has Tennessee in an honest-to-goodness division title race for the first time in eight years.

Not since 2008 – not coincidentally, their last playoff berth – have the Titans been in first place so late in the season. Granted, their claim to first place is shared with the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, but for a team that had won just five games total over the previous two years, even being in the conversation about a division title is pretty far ahead of schedule.

Just flashing back three months ago when this season was beginning, the Titans were entering a major rebuild, wondering how a revamped offensive line would perform and whether DeMarco Murray could show if he had anything left.

There were other major issues to ponder, as well, including how Marcus Mariota would do in his second season, provided he could stay healthy.

And if Mariota did progress, who besides Delanie Walker could be counted upon to consistently catch the football for the Titans?

Most of those questions have been answered with the offensive line doing its job by not only opening holes for a rejuvenated Murray, but protecting Mariota, who has blossomed into one of the NFL’s brightest young stars now three-fourths of the way through his second season.

There are still major questions for the Titans, with secondary and special teams being among the most prominent issues remaining.

So with the Titans in contention, it is pretty easy to state that most of the roster is in uncharted waters.

Consider this: No player drafted by the Titans on the current roster has any playoff experience. The only players on the 53-man roster to have tasted the postseason are all players who came from other organizations through free agency, trades or waiver pickups.

So while the Titans may be benefiting from the mediocrity that is the AFC South, it means a little bit more than that to guys who have toiled in futility for most of their Titans’ careers.

So how do some of those players react to having meaningful football in Nashville at Christmas time for the first time in their lengthy careers?

They are following the lead of head coach Mike Mularkey and trying not to get too far ahead of themselves – especially with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos coming to town on Sunday.

“It’s good, but we’re not putting too much weight on it. Everything right now is tentative,” says linebacker Derrick Morgan, a Titan since 2010.

“We have to win our games and control our own destiny. We can’t get caught up in where we are now.

“We’ve got to take care of business on our end.”

Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who arrived a year later, agrees that being in first place and in contention is nice.

But it won’t mean much four weeks from now if the Titans don’t take advantage of it.

“It definitely means a lot, but it’s not something we’re paying a whole lot of attention to. We’re just focused on going out and taking care of business,” Casey said.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com