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New Faces, Old Opponent: Tennessee Titans

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Time to wake up from the fairy tale. The AFC South finally has some good teams in it.

Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

You remember in the Transformers movies when one of the robots starts gaining pieces from planes, cars, and other robots, and becomes much better than it was before? Yeah, the Tennessee Titans seem to be doing the same.

The past two offseasons have been an incredible ride for that franchise. Trading away the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and making changes at head coach and general manager set a precedent that the team intended to shake things up.

Through the Draft

With their first of two picks in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Titans selected Corey Davis, a stud wide receiver from Western Michigan who stretches the field and provides options for quarterback Marcus Mariota. So far this season, Davis has modest production, having caught seven passes for 73 yards and zero touchdowns.

Adoree’ Jackson was the 18th pick in the 2017 NFL Draf and probably filled a larger hole than Davis did. At cornerback, Jackson is already the fourth leading tackler on the team, though he was picked on early against the Bears Raiders in Week One. Expect him to receive punts and play the nickel position while he develops.

Third round pick Taywon Taylor only has five receptions through three weeks, but once he gets the ball in his hands, he has been very effective, tallying 72 yards. He comes in when the Titans spread things out and could be a threat to Houston’s thin secondary on Sunday.

Tennessee’s other third round pick, Jonnu Smith, has an amazing stat line after three games: three receptions, 54 yards, and two TDs. With Delanie Walker getting a lot of the attention coming off the offensive line, Smith has found a way to make an impact early in his first NFL season.

Free Agency Acquisitions

The Titans used their salary cap flexibility to bring in some much needed experience and firepower on both sides of the ball.

Logan Ryan tormented the Texans in last year’s divisional matchup against the Patriots, only allowing three catches for nine yards and snagging one interception. Now on the Titans, Ryan will be in charge of shutting down DeAndre Hopkins. Ryan’s calling card has always been his tackling, so do not expect to see many wide receiver screens on Sunday. Additionally, Ryan’s ability to stay relatively healthy was surely a reason for the Titans to bring him into their locker room.

Eric Decker also joined the Titans this offseason, taking WR2 position on offense. In the slot, Decker puts consistent pressure on nickel corners and linebackers, which allows Mariota to target him in short yardage situations. He is a good compliment to Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker. Be on the lookout for a combination of linebacker Zach Cunningham and safety Marcus Gilchrist to get time on Decker with the Texans so thin at corner right now.

Johnathan Cyprien was signed from in-division rival Jacksonville and was penciled in as the starting strong safety. He has been hampered by a hamstring injury since the opening game. I do not think Cyprien will be ready for Sunday, but the Texans will definitely feel his presence over the next few years. His run defense is considered one of the best in the league, though injuries have not helped his overall speed.

Other new Titans include nose tackle Sylvester Williams (2016 Broncos), safety Brynden Trawick (2016 Raiders) and kick returner Eric Weems (2016 Falcons)

In two of their three games, the Titans have been impressive. They stuck it to the Seahawks’ defense last week and the Jaguars the week before. Tennessee has depth, talent, and a new regime that has shown a willingness to be aggressive in the draft and free agency. With the Texans having had the upper hand for the last few years, things look like they’ll be much more competitive on Sunday at NRG Stadium.