Cellar Dweller to Contender: A Jon Robinson Story Part 1

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Jon Robinson

 

On January 14, 2016, the Tennessee Titans hired Jon Robinson, a Tennessee native, to be the new general manager of a team that had only won five games in their last two seasons.  The Titans picked second overall the year before in the draft and were preparing to have the first overall pick in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft.  Since that day Robinson has made 13 trades, signed many big name free agents, and made 23 draft picks to turn the Titans once lowly roster into a legitimate AFC contender.  How has he changed the 30th ranked offense in the NFL in 2015 to a unit looking ready to liftoff next season in just over two years? Let’s compare the two groups.

Quarterback

2015: Marcus Mariota, Zach Mettenberger, Alex Tanney

2018: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert, Luke Falk

Robinson was handed a franchise quarterback when he took the job in Marcus Mariota.  Despite missing some time with injuries in all three seasons thus far, Mariota has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback and should take another step forward under new offensive coordinator Matt LeFleur.  Behind Mariota, Robinson brought in veteran Matt Cassell as the back-up for his first two years. That seems to be one of the few mistakes of his tenure thus far.  He has fixed this problem this offseason by adding a journeyman backup in Gabbert and a young project in Falk leaving the position relatively strong heading into the 2018 season.

Running Back

2015: Antonio Andrews, Bishop Sankey, Dexter McCluster

2018: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen

In my opinion, this is the position that has improved the most since Robinson’s arrival.  His first big move as general manager addressed this position. He’s given hope to Titans fans in their front office.  Robinson traded for former Offensive Player of the Year Demarco Murray and a swap of fourth-round picks.  He followed up this move by drafting Heisman winner Derrick Henry in the second round who looks to be the workhorse alongside Murray’s replacement in free agency, Dion Lewis. Although Andrews was a feel-good story as an undrafted free agent, the halfback situation in Tennessee has improved dramatically and is now one of the best in football.

Wide Receiver

2015: Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham, Harry Douglas, Tre McBride

2018: Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe

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This group may be considered the weakest on the Titans’ roster, but also one with the most potential.  Robinson signed Matthews in his first offseason.  Matthews has quickly turned into one of the more consistent players on the team.  Matthews came close to 1000 yards in his first year in Nashville with nine touchdowns and despite missing time with an injury, last year, had just under 800 yards and four touchdowns.  Davis showed flashes of brilliance after being the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and is expected to make the jump to being a legit number one option next year.  Taylor and Sharpe are both young talents drafted in the middle rounds by Robinson who played well in their respective rookie seasons and will compete for time in the slot.

Tight End

2015: Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens, Anthony Fasano

2018: Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, Luke Stocker

Similar to the quarterback position, the depth has improved, but Robinson has been given no reason to change the starter.  Walker may be 33 years old, but is still one of the best tight ends in football. He is the go-to option for Mariota evidenced by leading the team in receiving last year. Walker played a key role in getting the Titans their first playoff win in over a decade. His six catches for 74 yards against the Chiefs on wild-card weekend set the pace.

Robinson did draft Jonnu Smith in the third round last year in order to be the successor to Walker’s throne.  Smith is almost a copy of a younger Walker and will start to see an increased role next year. Losing Fasano hurt the Titans in terms of having a true blocking tight end. Robinson did a great job to fill that hole with ex-Buccaneer Luke Stocker.

Offensive Line

2015: LT Taylor Lewan, LG Quinton Spain, C Joe Looney, RG Chance Warmack, RT Byron Bell

2018: LT Taylor Lewan, LG Quinton Spain, C Ben Jones, RG Josh Kline, RT Jack Conklin

The left side has remained steady, Robinson improved the rest of the unit greatly in the past two years.  Signing Ben Jones away from Houston was his first big free agent signing. That sigining not only helped the Titans but hurt a division rival.  Conklin was the 8th overall pick in Robinson’s first draft and turned in an All-Pro rookie year.  Kline was with New England when Robinson was there and was claimed off waivers. He’s become a great improvement over the first round bust Warmack.

Under Ruston Webster, many first round picks, most of which on offense, never truly made an impact.  Robinson’s additions have immediately changed the culture and talent of the team. Under LaFleur’s leadership it could have a meteoric rise to one of the top offensive units in football.

Have thoughts on how the offense has changed since Robinson arrived? Find me on twitter @LymanJake or @FPC_Titans and continue the conversation.

 

 

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