1. Marcus Mariota
Mariota is at the point in his career Carr was heading into last season. Carr was drafted in 2014, Mariota in 2015. Both have improved in each of their seasons in the NFL. Carr is obviously a year ahead in that, which means if both continue that trend, Mariota is ready to take the Titans to new heights.
Coincidentally, Mariota and Carr were both lost late last season to broken fibulas. And like Carr, Mariota also has a potent arsenal on offense including a solid receiving corps, tight end, running game, and offensive line.
2. Delanie Walker
Last season when the Raiders faced the Titans, they were without their Pro Bowl tight end. Walker has averaged 926 yards and just under 6 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons. He is known as one of the most dangerous weapons in the league. Without him, the Raiders squeaked by the Titans 17-10 last season. With him, the Titans are sure to put up more yards and points on offense.
The big question is who do the Raiders have to stop him? They drafted Obi Melifonwu in the second round in the hopes that he could provide just that type of service, but Melifonwu suffered a knee injury and will be in IR for at least the first 8 games. Walker is a mismatch for linebackers as it is, and the Raiders’ linebackers have never shown an ability to cover the tight end. Their best looking linebacker this preseason has been Cory James, who is questionable for the game with a knee injury.
Several times in camp while Sean Smith was bouncing between first and second team, he lined up opposite the tight end. It might surprise some to learn, he did that at times last season too, including in the game against the Titans. We could see it again Sunday. Karl Joseph should also get assigned to Walker on a few times as well. It could take a team effort to keep Walker from running all over the Raiders.
3. Pass rushers
This is actually two players. Titans had 40 sacks last season which was tied for sixth in the league. Nearly half of those sacks (19.5) came from Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo (10.5) and Derrick Morgan (9.0). Those two also combined for 41 QB hits. For comparison, the Raiders got 18.0 sacks and 51 QB hits from Khalil Mack (11.0) and Bruce Irvin (7.0), though not much from anyone else.
While the Raiders led the league with the fewest sacks allowed (18.0), one of those was Orakpo in their meeting last season. On the play, Morgan got pressure around the right tackle (Vadal Alexander), causing Derek Carr to step up in the pocket where Orakpo sacked him.
4. DeMarco Murray
When these teams faced last, Murray lit up the Raiders. He had 114 yards rushing on 16 carries (7.1 yards per carry!) and their only touchdown. He also had 5 catches for 41 yards.
Murray is a former rushing champ, having run for an 1845 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Cowboys in 2014. After a down season with the Eagles, he joined the Titans and rebounded to 1287 yards and 9 touchdowns.
His game against the Raiders was his fourth highest rushing total of the season and his third highest yards per carry game. When he needs a breather, don’t expect the Raiders defense to get a rest. They just bring in Derrick Henry to continue wearing down the defense
5. Adoree’ Jackson
Only one player will be out for the Titans. It’s starting cornerback LeShaun Sims. Replacing him will be the second of two Titans’ first round picks, Adoree Jackson. Jackson was selected at 25th overall and will be thrown into the fire against the Raiders’ top flight offense. The Titans didn’t have a strong group of corners, so it’s possible Jackson could be an upgrade. He could also have some first game jitters. Derek Carr will be testing him to find out.