For having a losing record, the Tennessee Titans (3-4) have actually played pretty solid football. They lost a tough opener against Minnesota, 25-16 – a game in which the Vikings scored two defensive touchdowns – but they have won, or at least been competitive, in every game since.
“They have not been that bad of a football team,” Titans Online reporter Jim Wyatt said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “It’s a team that’s definitely on the rise. It’s a team that has some players that certainly are popular nationally. I’m taking about Marcus Mariota, I’m taking about DeMarco Murray. I’m talking about Derrick Henry, a Heisman Trophy winner last year. I’m talking about Brian Orakpo, who has 7.0 sacks this year and is a three-time Pro Bowler from his days with the Redskins. This is a Titans team that certainly has some name recognition and is a team that is certainly improving.”
The Titans host the Jaguars (2-4) on Thursday Night Football in a game many are billing as one of the worst Thursday-night match-ups the NFL has given us.
“I understand it,” Wyatt said. “The Titans won three games last year. They won two games the year before that. They’re going to have to earn the respect nationally, so I get it. If I’m sitting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, or I’m sitting in San Diego, California, or I’m sitting in Phoenix, Arizona, those places don’t know a lot about the Titans at this point. So I think the Titans feel like, hey, this is our chance to kind of show the nation what we’re all about and hope this is a year that will put them on the map and earn them some more prime-time (games). I’m sure the Jaguars are looking at it that way as well. This is a team that I think has drafted well, they’ve done well in free agency. They’re off to a slow start, but a couple of teams still are trying to fight their way back into relevance.”
If you need a reason to tune in Thursday night, two words: DeMarco Murray. The 28-year-old has been arguably the best running back in football this season. He’s rushed 139 times for 633 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. He also has 27 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
“There’s a reason Derrick Henry hasn’t played more: DeMarco Murray has been the best player on the team this year,” Wyatt said. “He’s on pace for over 1,400 yards, he leads the team in receptions, he’s been good from the get go and likes to play and wants to be in the game at crunch time. Derrick Henry has a promising future. When he’s played, he’s looked good, and I think at some point this season he’s going to help them. But Murray has been the star here, and he’s kind of set a tone here for the way he works, the way he handles himself in the locker room, kind of his no-nonsense approach. They were lucky to get him.”
Murray had a down year in Philadelphia in 2015. When he was traded to the Titans, many thought he would simply fade into the abyss.
“Well, he’s back,” Wyatt said, “and I think people watching Thursday night will see that.”