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Julio Jones Joins Titans: AFC South

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

Although Julio Jones adds even more star power to the Titans' offense, don't expect the Titans to run away with the AFC South.

All-pro WR Julio Jones is now a Tennessee Titan. He joins superstars Derrick Henry and AJ Brown in a loaded offense. With Jones' arrival, the Titans will be considered the favorites in the AFC South. The division is likely to have a captivating dynamic all year with two playoff contenders (Colts & Titans), the No.1 overall pick (Trevor Lawrence), and one disastrous franchise (Texans) who is watching it all slip away.

How much value does the 32-year old Julio Jones give the Titans anyway? According to BetMGM, the Titans were +110 to be divisional champions. The post-Jones trade odds barely jumped as the Titans are now an equal value bet with the Colts to take the AFC South crown at +105. Various things can explain the minimal jump in odds after receiving such a talented player.

Titan success the past couple of years was due in large part to their all-time leading rusher Derrick Henry and former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who left town and is now the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

Titanic Changes

While the Titans added Julio Jones, they lost former OC lost Arthur Smith. Todd Downing is the new OC after spending the past two seasons as the TE coach in Tennessee. Downing spent 2017 as the OC for the Oakland Raiders.

Derrick Henry before Arthur Smith as OC (2016-2018)

  • 49 YPG

  • 4.5 YPC

  • Most yards in a season: 1059

Derrick Henry with Arthur Smith as OC (2019-2020)

  • 114.7 YPG

  • 5.25 YPC

  • Most yards in a season: 2027

The 2020 Titans rushed the ball 521 times. This accounted for over 50% of their total offensive plays. With the Raiders, Downing was criticized for his lack of play-action usage. This will be a scheme that Downing will need to take advantage of with the talent he has available.

Opposing teams will need to decide to either put an extra man in the box to coral Henry or an extra DB on the field to cover Jones and Brown. Both options leave the defense vulnerable.

Titantic Tackling

As great as Julio Jones is, he can only play on one side of the ball. Last season, the Titans ranked fourth-worst in pass defense and were middle of the pack in rushing defense. Overall they were ranked 24th in total team defense.

Tennessee promoted outside linebacker coach Shane Bowen to defensive coordinator ahead of the 2021 season after playing in 2020 with the position unfilled. Bowen will be tasked with improving a subpar unit that allowed 27 points per game last year.

The Titans spent their 1st pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley. While Farley is big, strong, and can cover ground quickly, analysts and former NFL Scout John Middlekauff who hosts The 3 and Out Podcast, speculated that Farley is one back injury away from never playing a snap of football again. Farley missed the Hokies Pro-Day following a back procedure.

Todd Downing must work out how to balance the offense while Shane Bowen and Mike Vrabel revamp the defense. If Colts QB Carson Wentz can play anything like his old self, expect the Colts to have the edge in the divisional race.
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