NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans went into the NFL draft intent on improving one of the NFL’s worst offenses.
They believe they did.
The Titans put the finishing touches on their efforts Saturday, using seven of their nine total selections on offense and giving coach Ken Whisenhunt a chance to revamp a unit that scored fewer points than all but two other NFL teams last season. A year in which Tennessee went a dismal 2-14.
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The Titans began the resurrection efforts by drafting Marcus Mariota at No. 2 overall. Expecting him to start the season opener Sept. 13 at Tampa Bay, general manager Ruston Webster said it was very important to do everything they can to help Mariota be successful so that set the tone for the draft.
”We are fairly young on offense, and hopefully it’s a good thing that everyone grows together, that they’re tight and they grow together and become a cohesive unit,” Webster said Saturday night.
They added a big wide receiver in 6-foot-5 Dorial Green-Beckham, who had several off-the field issues at Missouri, though the Titans feel the potential rewards he could bring made it work the risk. They also took tackle Jeremiah Poutasi out of Utah, then finished Saturday with four of six selections on offense. That group featured running back David Cobb of Minnesota, fullback Jalston Fowler from Alabama, center Andy Gallik of Boston College and wide receiver Tre McBride of William & Mary.
”When you go with a quarterback at two, especially one you feel so strongly about, yes it’s pretty exciting,” Whisenhunt said. ”I feel good about where we are, the pieces we have in place and what we can do with this. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how much we can grow in this offseason.”
Lineman Angelo Blackson of Auburn and linebacker Deiontrez Mount of Louisville are the only defensive players Tennessee drafted.
The Titans cycled through three quarterbacks last season, and running back Bishop Sankey out of Washington in the second round didn’t produce like they wanted. They ranked 26th averaging only 90.4 yards per game while being 29th in time of possession and 30th scoring 15.8 points per game.
Sankey ran for a team-high 569 yards averaging 3.7 yards per carry. The Titans tried to keep Sankey updated through the offseason program that he missed using their new iPads, but it wasn’t enough.
”I have no doubt missing the spring last year hurt him,” Whisenhunt said. ”That’s one of the things we look at now about guys when we get to this point even draft-wise if they’re going to be here for the spring practices, for the OTAs. So I think Bishop will be better. He understands his role better.”
Cobb set the single-season rushing record running for 1,626 yards in 2014 for Minnesota, and he averaged 5.2 yards per carry. The Titans coached him during the Senior Bowl and saw enough to ignore an injured quadriceps muscle that resulted in a slower time in the 40-yard dash.
”That’s probably why we’re picking him right now,” general manager Webster said of their fifth-round pick.
Fowler had his best season in 2011 running for 385 yards and four touchdowns while sharing carries in the Alabama backfield with Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. A knee injury ended his 2012 season for the 5-foot-11, 254-pound Fowler, but he is versatile and can play at tight end, tailback or fullback as needed.
McBride expected to be drafted no later than the fourth round after running a 4.41-second 40-yard dash. Now he can’t wait to work with Mariota.
”I can’t wait to get with Mariota and blow this thing up,” McBride said.
Tennessee focused on defense in free agency signing outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, cornerback Perrish Cox and safety Da’Norris Searcy in free agency while bringing back linebacker Derrick Morgan. They finally gave Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, hired earlier this offseason to oversee the defense, a couple draft picks to work with as he attempts to upgrade a unit that also was one of the NFL’s worst last season.
The 6-foot-4, 318-pound Blackson played 42 games for Auburn the past four seasons with 65 tackles, and he had 5 1/2 tackles for loss last season with three sacks. Webster said Blackson can play end in their three-four or nose tackle.
Blackson talked with the Titans only by telephone and at the combine while visiting Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago, Jets and the Broncos.
Mount was the first of two sixth-round picks, and the outside linebacker has the size at 6-foot-5, 249 pounds and speed they like out of Louisville where he had 18 tackles for loss and 9 1/2 sacks in four seasons.
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