What Vikings Fans Need to Know About the Tennessee Titans

The Vikings’ GM and the Titans’ GM are friends.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah began his January press conference with an enthusiastic congratulations to Ran Carthon, who is entering his first year as the general manager for the Tennessee Titans. The twosome worked together for San Francisco. Seeing them orchestrate joint practices ahead of their preseason game is of little surprise.

What should Vikings fans know about Tennessee before joint practices? At the risk of asking our readers to drink from a fire hose, PurplePTSD has tried to capture some of the essential information in a piece for Vikings fans.

The Tennessee Titans Are Coming to TCO & U.S. Bank

Mike Vrabel’s Titans are coming off a disappointing season.

Tennessee missed the playoffs last year, finishing with an uninspiring 7-10 record. Previously, the Titans were the cream of the crop in the AFC South. Vrabel’s squad won a division title in 2021 with a 12-5 record, a feat they also accomplished in 2020 behind their 11-5 record.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Jan 7, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel leaves the field after losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The most recognizable player on Tennessee’s roster is Derrick Henry, the monstrous running back who terrorizes 31 NFL defenses. Henry, 29, stands at 6’3″, 247 pounds. He was relied on for 349 carries in 2022, a workload that led to 1,538 rushing yards and 13 TDs. The RB also had a career-high 33 catches go for 398 receiving yards. Pretty wild stuff.

Of course, the modern NFL is different from the one your parents followed. Running backs don’t rule the roost. Instead, it’s a quarterback league, and the Titans have quite the situation at quarterback.

The team is sifting through a competition that includes Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis, and Will Levis. Willis stands out since he’s a sophomore who was picked in the 3rd round of the 2022 NFL Draft; Levis stands out since he was a 2nd-round pick from the 2023 NFL Draft. Don’t be shocked if Willis ends up getting moved before September arrives (and don’t be shocked if Minnesota is one of the teams interested in his services).

NFL: Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans
Dec 24, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis (7) carries the ball for a first down during the fourth quarter at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, Tennessee made some headlines by signing DeAndre Hopkins. The veteran receiver joins young talent, such as Treylon Burks, in the hopes of trying to resurrect the Titans offense. Last season, Vrabel’s crew finished 28th in the NFL by averaging just 17.5 points per game.

Defensively, the Titans are led by standout defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons. The 19th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Simmons is coming off a season where he picked up 7.5 sacks. He has been a second-team All Pro in consecutive seasons and is the proud owner of a 4-year, $94 million deal. He’s going to give the Vikings’ iOL all it can handle.

Simmons partners with Denico Autry, Harold Landry, and Arden Key to create the pass-rush sizzle in Tennessee. They’re supported by Azeez Al-Shaair at linebacker, Kevin Byard at safety, and then some highly-picked youngsters at corner: Kristian Fulton (61st overall in 2020), Caleb Farley (22nd overall in 2021), and Roger McCreary (35th overall in 2022). Last year, Tennessee finished with the 14th-best defense by allowing 21.1 points per game.

Nov 17, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

During the NFL Draft, Tennessee opted for Peter Skoronski in the opening round. The rookie offensive lineman will face a tough task when matching up with some of Minnesota’s talented pass rushers. Otherwise, their most notable pick was definitely Will Levis, the Kentucky QB who was supposed to go in the opening round. Tennessee snagged him at 33rd overall (read about the rest of their picks here).

Currently, the Titans are sitting on a touch above $12.6 million in cap space. It’s an amount that will allow Carthon to add talent to his roster if the right player becomes available. In fact, the Titans recently held a workout for Ronald Darby, the veteran corner who also had a workout with the Vikings. Shout out to Ian Rapoport for the update: “Free agent CB Ronald Darby worked out for the #Titans today, source said, as Tennessee looks into some CB depth.”

Former Vikings Jaleel Johnson, Mike Brown, and Zach McCloud are on Tennessee’s offseason roster.

The Vikings/Titans game takes place at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday, August 19th. The game will begin at 7 p.m. CDT. Before that game arrives, the Titans will square off with the Vikings on Wednesday, August 16th and Thursday, August 17th for joint practices at TCO Performance Center. See the Vikings’ website for more information.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

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