Projecting the Accuracy of ESPN’s Projections


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ALLTITANS

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Noted prognosticator Mike Clay has said what he expect to see from Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and others in the 2022 NFL season. Here’s a look at what he did or did not get right.

NASHVILLE – The five weeks between the end of the Tennessee Titans’ minicamp and the start of training camp leaves way too much time to ponder and speculate.

It’s easy to wonder how this season will take shape, especially in regard to the offense, which has many more questions to answer than the defense.

Mike Clay, ESPN’s resident NFL prognosticator, has offered up his annual projections for the Titans and the NFL’s other 31 teams.

The majority of the forecasts relate to the key players on offense, namely quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Derrick Henry and wide receiver Robert Woods. There is also a prediction for how many games the two-time AFC South champions will win.

Below are 10 of Clay’s Titans projections, followed by my take on whether they’re too high or too low.

I will, of course, reserve the right to change any and all June predictions as the actual start of the season draw near. But for now, here’s how it all shapes up..

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Ryan Tannehill

PASSING YARDS

Clay’s projection: 3,639 yards

My take: Too high

Why: Clay’s projection is based on 16 games (factoring in one game lost to injury), which means Tannehill would throw for an average of 227 yards per contest – seven yards more than he averaged in 2021. I’m sure the Titans would like to see Tannehill bump that yardage even higher, especially since the team desperately needs more explosive plays in the passing game. But with the loss of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, the number of new faces in the passing game, and the injury/illness concerns to Robert Woods and Treylon Burks, it’s hard to be too ambitious on this prediction.

PASSING TOUCHDOWNS

Clay’s projection: 22

My take: Too low

Why: The Titans may not march up and down the field through the passing game (as noted above) in 2022, but I still think Tannehill – who threw 21 touchdown passes last season – betters this projected total. One reason is that the addition of Austin Hooper gives Tannehill a better red-zone option than he had at the position last season. In addition, the 6-2, 225-pound Burks – even if he develops slowly – is the kind of big target that should help in the red zone as well. I don’t envision Tannehill making a huge leap from last year – the loss of Brown will make it hard – but 25 touchdown passes sounds about right to me.

INTERCEPTIONS

Clay’s projection: 14

My take: Too high

Why: Tannehill did throw 14 picks in 17 regular-season games last year, but that was a surprising jump after throwing a combined 13 interceptions in 26 starts during his first two seasons with the Titans. Knowing how much the interceptions hurt the Titans last year, and knowing the emphasis the Titans will place on trimming that number in 2022, I’ll give Tannehill the benefit of the doubt and say he’ll be closer to the earlier edition of himself. It can’t hurt that the Titans have added a passing-game coordinator in Tim Kelly. Surely one of Kelly’s responsibilities will be to help return Tannehill to more of his turnover-stingy 2020 ways, when Tannehill’s 1.5 percent interception rate was tied for fifth-best among NFL starters.

Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports

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Derrick Henry

RUSHING ATTEMPTS

Clay’s projection: 353

My take: Too high

Why: Clay’s projection is based on 15 games (factoring in injury), meaning Henry would be averaging about 24 carries per contest. That would actually be down from Henry’s eight-game season in 2021, when he averaged over 27 carries. Still, I have a feeling the Titans will trim the workload even more for the 28-year-old Henry, who is returning from a broken foot after rushing a combined 900 times over the past three seasons. Rookie Hassan Haskins looks like he’ll be able to give Henry at least a couple of series off per game, so I’m thinking Henry will wind up closer to 300 carries this season.

RUSHING YARDS

Clay’s projection: 1,503 yards

My take: Too high

Why: Since I’m estimating that Henry’s total carries will wind up somewhere around 300, he’d have to sport a pretty impressive average – about five yards per carry – in order to hit 1,503 yards for the season. He topped that average in 2019 (5.1) and 2020 (5.4), but Henry slid to a 4.3 yards per carry average in eight games last year. Considering the Titans still have offensive-line questions at two spots – left guard and right tackle – big holes may be tough to come by for Henry in 2022. I see him finishing with around 1,300 yards.

George Walker IV / The Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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Treylon Burks

RECEPTIONS

Clay’s projection: 65 receptions

My take: Too high

Why: I would have been more inclined to think this number accurate prior to the start of the offseason, but things did not go well for the first-round draft pick. Due to asthma and conditioning issues, Burks was a limited participant in the OTA sessions open to media, and he did not participate at all in the team’s minicamp. That’s valuable missed learning time for a rookie, especially one transitioning to the outside after playing primarily slot in college. Most scouting reports on Burks also indicated it might take him extra time to adjust to a more complicated route scheme in the NFL. My guess is that Burks starts slowly and improves as the year goes on, which could lead to a reception total closer to 45 or 50.

Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA Today Network

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Robert Woods

RECEPTIONS

Clay’s projection: 62 receptions

My take: Too low

Why: It’s entirely possible that Woods also takes some time to get going this season, considering he’s recovering from a torn ACL suffered last November. But I liked what I saw in Woods this offseason, as he was running, cutting and jumping with the left leg – seemingly ahead of schedule for recovery. I also think Tannehill will bond quickly with Woods, a nine-year veteran who averaged about 90 catches in his last three full seasons. Given some of the other questions at receiver, look for Tannehill to heavily utilize a hopefully healthy Woods – which should result in at least 70 catches.

All Titans at SI.com

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Nick Westbrook-Ikhine

RECEPTIONS

Clay’s projection: 46 receptions

My take: On the money

Why: Westbrook-Ikhine took a huge step forward in his second season, catching 38 passes (up from three as a rookie) for 476 yards and four touchdowns. His third-year jump won’t be that extreme, but there will be plenty of opportunities for Westbrook-Ikhine, who now has two years of experience playing with Tannehill. I hate to sound like a broken record, but, given some of the other questions at wide receiver, Westbrook-Ikhine almost has to be at least as good as he was last season. Clay’s projection is based on 16 games, so if Westbrook-Ikhine stays healthy all season, the reception number might even rise a bit.

Jenna Watson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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