Two preseason games is certainly not enough to draw much from when it comes to evaluating a team. But when you combine what you saw from the Tennessee Titans a year ago and then you combine it with what this organization did this offseason, there’s a reason that Mike Mularkey’s club has become a popular choice to win the AFC South. On Saturday afternoon at Nashville, the club held on for a 34-27 win over the Carolina Panthers to even its summertime record to 1-1.

Solid effort vs. Panthers

While the final score shows that the Tennessee Titans did indeed give up their share of points (27) and total yards (386) in the seven-point victory, it’s also worth noting that Mularkey’s team owned a 17-0 first-quarter advantage thanks to some big plays from all aspects of the club.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota played the first two offensive series for his club, led his club to 10 points, and completed six of his eight pass attempts for 61 yards and one touchdown. The score was a four-yard pass to Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker. And the short drive was set up by a fumble recovery by safety Kevin Byard.

Then there were more big plays, although the first did not count. Tennessee’s second first-round draft choice, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, had a 63-yard punt return called back by a penalty. No matter. Moments later, Panthers’ quarterback Derek Anderson (starting for Cam Newton) had a pass deflected and eventually intercepted by linebacker Justin Staples. It would set up a 17-yard TD run by second-year back Derrick Henry and the Titans were on their way.

Newcomers make big contributions

We mentioned the Tennessee Titans and the big plays generated by the team in the first quarter of the win over the Panthers. It’s something that this club was missing a year ago. Despite a very-respectable 40 sacks in 2016, with most of those by outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan, Dick LeBeau’s defensive unit allowed 25 touchdown passes while managing only 11 interceptions.

In fact, the Titans forced only 18 turnovers in 16 contests this past year. Hence it was good to see free-agent pickup Logan Ryan, former New England Patriot, force that first-quarter fumble of Panthers’ wide receiver Devin Funchess that was picked up by Byard. And while Jackson saw his punt return for a score wiped out by a penalty, that’s another aspect of this team that now has big-play potential.

All told, this is a Tennessee Titans team that has a lot to be excited about. It would be a surprise if they did fall short of the playoffs this upcoming season.