Projecting the Tennessee Titans’ 11 starters on offense in 2024

By now you’re aware the Tennessee Titans are going to field a significantly different looking offense in 2024. New head coach Brian Callahan has been busy installing his offense all offseason long. It’s expected to be a pass-happy one that differs greatly from Mike Vrabel’s run-first approach.

Players have described the offense as “exciting” with tight end Chig Okonkwo going as far to admit, “we’re going to rely a lot on the [passing game].” Other players have routinely echoed that sentiment.

I’m projecting the Titans to have a minimum of eight, possibly nine, new offensive starters against the Chicago Bears in Week 1 compared to their debut game last season. General manager Ran Carthon acquired talents that are tailor-made fits for the new scheme. The changes in personnel have been equally as significant as Callahan’s changes to the playbook. I’ve offered my projected predictions below for the Titans’ 11 Week 1 starters on offense, with thoughts, analysis, and opinions on scheme fits.

Quarterback: Will Levis

Almost everything the Titans have done this offseason, including appointing Callahan as coach, has been about prioritizing Will Levis’ development. In addition to hiring a coach that’s been described as a QB guru, massive upgrades have been made to the offensive line and wide receiver rooms as well. The goal was to surround Levis with a more favorable supporting cast as the Titans pursue the answer to whether or not he’s a legitimate franchise quarterback.

Levis showed plenty of promise as a potential long-term solution down the stretch of last season. Some of his more impressive metrics included a league-high 11.1 aDOT (average depth of target), and a fourth-best “big-time-throw” rate 5.9 percent (both metrics provided by Pro Football Focus, with minimum qualifiers included). Levis’ desire to manufacture big plays in an offense that was starved for them was evident.

Levis’ goal is to now learn to play within structure with more success as opposed to chasing the big play when unnecessary. Callahan’s biggest challenge is to rein Levis in while also ensuring he maintains his natural aggressiveness when called for. The Titans believe in their young quarterback. Everything they’ve done this offseason was to support his progression.

The onus is on Levis to make the Titans feel vindicated.

Running Back: Tony Pollard/Tyjae Spears

The expectation is that Tony Pollard and Tyjae Spears will form a “1A” and “1B” tandem in the wake of Derrick Henry’s departure. A relatively even timeshare should be maintained throughout the season, though Pollard is the slight favorite to out-touch Spears, mostly due to his experience, and the financial commitment made to him (three years, $21.7 million).

Pollard and Spears are better fits for Callahan’s offense. Their interchangeable skill sets as ball-carriers that can execute multiple run-game schemes, or serve as pass-catchers on any given downs, should make Callahan’s offense more multiple and less predictable. It’s all part of a modern-day shift in offensive philosophy and approach.

Pollard is hoping to experience a bounce-back year. The Titans paid Pollard handsomely despite him averaging a career-low 4.0 yards per carry last season, choosing to believe in the more advanced metrics, such as the 819 yards he gained after contact (per third-most among all RBs per Next Gen Stats). Spears should also see a considerable increase in play-time and opportunities as a spark plug that totaled 838 yards while averaging 5.5 yards per touch as a rookie.

X: DeAndre Hopkins

DeAndre Hopkins outperformed everyone’s expectations last season by proving he possessed plenty of gas left in his tank following his release from the Arizona Cardinals. Hopkins produced 1,057 receiving yards as Levis’ go-to target, his first 1,000-yard season since 2020, the same year Tennessee last had a four-digit receiver. It’s more impressive considering he was the only receiver on the team that consistently produced separation and big plays.

The question surrounding Hopkins now is can he maintain his position as a first-choice receiver in an explosive offense that has multiple options? Will another season of wear-and-tear impact the 32-year-old’s effectiveness at all? Hopkins is entering a contract year. He’ll attempt to prove he deserves a short-term (but lucrative) extension in Tennessee, or that he’s worthy of one final large payday elsewhere.

Z: Calvin Ridley

Callahan and the Titans didn’t just tell you they’ll prioritize the passing game, they showed you by signing Calvin Ridley to a four-year, $92 million contract in free agency. Ridley checked boxes at OTAs, carrying the appearance of the explosive receiver the Titans signed him to be. It wouldn’t be shocking if he surpassed Hopkins to become the Titans’ leading receiver this season.

Ridley produced a modest 1,016 receiving yards for the Jaguars throughout 2023. The Titans’ willingness to reunite Ridley with his passing-game coordinator from last year (and new Titans OC) Nick Holz indicates they feel whatever went wrong in Jacksonville wasn’t his fault.

The Titans entered last season with Treylon Burks earmarked to play the “Z” or “flanker” position (detached from the line of scrimmage) that Ridley will call his own in 2024. It goes without saying that Ridley projects as a massive upgrade.

Slot: Tyler Boyd

I would have listed a second tight end in this position last season (Trevon Wesco) given Vrabel’s preferred approach. But Tennessee’s offense will undoubtedly be shifting to 11 personnel as its most-common usage given Callahan’s arrival. The Titans signed a familiar face in Tyler Boyd to ensure it.

Boyd spent five seasons (2019-23) playing in Callahan’s offense with the Cincinnati Bengals. The former Pittsburgh Panther accumulated 361 receptions for 4,144 yards and 21 touchdowns across those five campaigns. A more modest expectation may be the 667 yards he produced in 2023, a personal-low mark since an injury-shortened 2017 season.

Boyd won’t face competition from Burks, Kyle Philips, or Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for the slot position. Callahan is extremely comfortable with him in that spot. Boyd was on the field for nearly 76% of all Bengals offensive plays last season, per Pro Football Reference. A similar snap-share (maybe with a slight dip) is expected in 2024.

Tight End: Josh Whyle

I’m predicting a mini surprise and listing Josh Whyle as the starter ahead of Chig Okonkwo. It’s becoming a popular prediction within Titans media circles for straightforward reasons. The 6-foot-7, 248-pound Whyle is an outstanding fit as a dual-threat tight end that can both block and run routes in Callahan’s 11 personnel.

A notable role should be reserved for Okonkwo, the team’s best athlete and pass catcher at the position. Expect Callahan’s usage of Whyle and Okonkwo to be decided by down-and-distance, personnel packages, etc. A healthy Whyle appears primed to take a sizable sophomore jump this season.

Left Tackle: JC Latham

Even though first-round selection J.C. Latham has yet to play an NFL snap, he already projects as a massive upgrade over Andre Dillard and Dennis Daley. Just when we thought it was difficult for the Titans to get worse at left tackle in 2023 following Daley’s performance in 2022, the four players who played snaps at that position this past campaign combined to allow 92 pressures.

Latham was outstanding throughout rookie minicamp, OTAs, and mandatory minicamp. He was routinely engaged as a hard-working player that asked good questions and showed day-by-day improvement, famously learning to master Bill Callahan’s unique blocking sleds.

Left Guard: Peter Skoronski

Outside of Latham, it’s starting left guard Peter Skoronski that Titans fans should be most excited about on the offensive line in 2024. He’s also the lone (projected) returning starter on the offensive line from Week 1 last season. Skoronski appears primed to experience a breakout sophomore campaign.

Skoronski’s rookie campaign was derailed by an emergency appendectomy, an unexpected procedure that sidelined him for multiple weeks while causing him to lose significant play strength and weight. Now healthier, bulkier, and flanked by upgrades at left tackle and center, there’s little standing in Skoronski’s way. The pathway to Pro Bowl-caliber football is within the realm of possibility under the tutelage of Bill Callahan.

Center: Lloyd Cushenberry

The Titans quickly identified Lloyd Cushenberry in free agency as the solution to their center woes. His acquisition was all about the ongoing efforts to shift to a more pass-happy offense. Cushenberry is an expert blocker in pass protection, allowing just 14 pressures and one sack as a 17-game starter for the Denver Broncos last season, per Pro Football Focus.

Only one center (The Colts’ Ryan Kelly) allowed fewer pressures at center. Brian Callahan has repeatedly discussed getting bigger and beefier up the middle in both trenches. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Cushenberry is notably larger and longer (34 1/8-inch hands) than Aaron Brewer (6-1, 295’ish).

Cushenberry pleases the Titans from an experience, size, and history of production standpoint. Carthon didn’t hesitate to place Cushenberry among the highest-paid centers in the league. The former LSU standout should help the offensive line be considerably better in 2024.

Right Guard: Saahdiq Charles

One of the more surprising developments at OTAs saw modest free-agent signing (one year, $1.5 million) Saahdiq Charles work his way up the depth chart. Last year’s starter at right guard was Daniel Brunskill, but early indications are that this is a legitimate competition, with Charles and maybe Dillon Radunz, pushing for the role. I’m backing Cushenberry’s former teammate at LSU to start next to him.

The first time he spoke with the media, legendary offensive line coach Bill Callahan indicated he recommended Charles in free agency. Charles is a massive blocker at a listed 6-foot-4 and 322 pounds. He’s the largest of three candidates, and that appeases Callahan, who’s history indicates he prefers bigger, beefier guards (which falls in-line with Brian Callahan’s wish to build a sturdier wall in front of Levis).

Charles struggled in 2023 with the Washington Commanders, one of few offensive lines that allowed more sacks than Tennessee’s. Pro Football Focus credited him with allowing 37 pressures and four sacks. Projecting success for Charles in 2023 is a gamble, one that both Callahan’s appear willing to make.

Right Tackle: Nicholas Petit-Frere

The Titans will likely have four, not three, new offensive line starters in Week 1 partially because Nicholas Petit-Frere was suspended to begin last season due to violating the league’s gambling policy. Had Petit-Frere been available, he would have been the starting right tackle. He should consider himself fortunate that he’s still being penciled into that role despite experiencing a disastrous off-field and on-field season in 2023.

Petit-Frere’s midseason return to the lineup was short lived as he quickly suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. The former Ohio State performer was credited with allowing 11 pressures and three sacks via just 66 pass-blocking snaps en route to a PFF protection grade of 27.8. Had the Titans not had so much to accomplish elsewhere this offseason, they almost surely would have identified right tackle as requiring an upgrade.

Petit-Frere continued to miss OTAs while presumably rehabbing that shoulder injury. It’s imperative that Petit-Frere is healthy once the Titans begin training camp in a few weeks time. If not, alternative candidates such as Jaelyn Duncan, John Ojukwu, Geron Christian, and Leroy Watson could get in the mix.

Author: Justin MeloSenior Writer, Interviewer and Podcaster for Broadway Sports covering the Tennessee Titans and NFL draft. For more than five years, Justin Melo has professionally covered all things NFL draft and Titans for The Draft Network, SB Nation and USA Today. Best known for his Interview Series with NFL draft prospects, Justin has interviewed more than 500 NFL players. Co-host of the Music City Audible podcast alongside Justin Graver (@titansfilmroom).

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