Jim Wyatt, Senior Writer/Editor, TitansOnline.com
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Titans got the NFL’s attention in 2016.
And at the Pro Bowl, the team’s five Pro Bowlers received plenty of positive feedback from their peers around the league.
“Everybody I talked to, they have said, ‘Man, you guys were balling all year long,’’’ Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “It’s been great, hearing from some of the guys. I think the way we all played, the Titans look like a team for the future. They all say, ‘You guys are going to have great expectations next year.’”
The Titans finished 9-7 in 2016, and just missed the playoffs. It was a six-game improvement in the win column compared to the previous year.
The Titans posted wins over six teams with winning records, and five teams that went to the playoffs — the Dolphins, Chiefs, Packers, Lions and Texans. They also beat the Broncos (9-7), the defending Super Bowl champs.
Along with Orakpo, running back DeMarco Murray, tight end Delanie Walker, tackle Taylor Lewan and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey all were voted to the Pro Bowl, and played in the AFC’s 20-13 win over the NFC on Sunday night. Quarterback Marcus Mariota would’ve been at the Pro Bowl as an alternate if not for injury.
“They know we are doing good things, and they are waiting to see what we are going to bring next year,’’ Casey said. “The thing about this is, when we sit around and talk to each other, we all know we have the team to get done. We’ll either have a lot more of us around here next year, or we are going to be in the Super Bowl for sure next year.”
Casey and Walker were the team’s only two Pro Bowlers a year ago, following a 3-13 season.
There wasn’t a lot of positive buzz surrounding the Titans then.
“They can see we made a big change, and how tough and physical we are,’’ Walker said. “Guys have been complimentary, giving us props. I think a lot of people will be interested to see how we are going to be next year.’’
The five Pro Bowlers this year marked the highest total since 2008, when six players were voted to the Pro Bowl, and eight eventually made it.
Murray, who made the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career, enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces during the week, guys with the Titans fireball logo on their helmets. After one season with the team, he sees a bright future.
“It is great to have the guys here to back you up and let people know we are a good team,’’ Murray said. “I am happy for Taylor, who made it for the first time and it is well-deserved. He works his butt off during the week and he had a great season.
“Delanie, Orakpo and Jurrell have been here before and I am glad they made it back. They were all very deserving of the trip. I really do feel like we have a good thing going and I think other guys see that, too.”