This weekly mailbag will address a series of Tennessee Titans questions that are stewing among the fan base. Saturday's topics of choice examine the Titans' ugly-winning style, their upcoming West Coast road trip and who steps up due to defensive injuries:
Are Titan fans so snobbish that we are upset at how we win now? Winning is not enough to make you happy, you have to win a certain way? That sounds spoiled. Enjoy the ride. How miserable it must be to be that type of fan. Team couldn't win more than 2 games years ago. Remember?
— D. King (@KingTitan_52) December 7, 2017
This is an interesting question, and one I tried to examine a bit with my piece on Mike Mularkey's success earlier this week. There does seem to be a pessimistic, "show me" type feel about this Titans team from some of their local fanbase and many in the national media.
It all depends on whether you look at the Titans in the full scope of coming from 5-27 in 2014-15 to 17-11 under Mularkey in 2016-17 or just look at their offense not living up to their high expectations this season. Anybody would have considered 8-4 through 12 games a great place for the Titans to be going into the fourth quarter of the season, but the reaction has been iffy because there's been so much "ugly" or "dump truck" football as NBC analyst and Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy called it.
I lean more to your take that folks should enjoy the ride. It's more fun that way and it's hard to win games in the NFL -- ugly or pretty. Imagine being a Browns fan. I think making the playoffs for the first time since 2008 would be a success and a step forward for the Titans, and winning playoff games would be a lovely bonus.
— Casen Sloan🤷🏽♂️ (@jaboo54) December 8, 2017
It's not typical. Mularkey, a long-time coach, and seven-year veteran DeMarco Murray said they haven't had this sort of lengthy cross-country trip in their career. The Titans left for Phoenix on Friday and will play the Cardinals on Sunday, then they're staying in Arizona the week after to practice before heading to Santa Clara the following weekend for a road game against the 49ers.
Several Titans mentioned avoiding trouble and too many late nights around the lively Arizona State scene. I'm sure the team will have some team-bonding activities planned, too. Marcus Mariota wants to make at least one trip to In-N-Out.
Who do you think will step up on defense this week with Jones and Morgan out? -- Michael Godar, via Facebook
The Titans will lean primarily on Austin Johnson, and to a lesser extent, David King, to step in for DaQuan Jones, who is on injured reserved with a torn bicep muscle. Karl Klug will continue his role as a subpackage and could see an increased role as well. Jones was an important player, who had come on strong recently, and Johnson will have to show he can be strong stopping the run like Jones.
"He's one of the most violent players I've been around. That's my kind of guy," Mularkey said. "I don't see us missing a beat with him out there."
Depth will be more important here as 2016 second-round pick Kevin Dodd will be asked to step up as the top outside linebacker off the bench. Dodd hasn't shown much in his career and Mularkey said this is a "really good opportunity for him." Let's see if he responds.