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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Now that the Tennessee Titans have promoted tight ends coach Arthur Smith to be their offensive coordinator, adding playmakers for quarterback Marcus Mariota is the next priority.

It has been the ongoing narrative over the past couple of offseasons for the Titans, who picked up the fifth-year option on Mariota and have only the 2019 season remaining to decide whether they will sign him to a long-term extension.

Teams such as the Bears, Eagles, and Rams made it their mission to surround their young quarterbacks with weapons. Each of those teams added top receivers among other moves. The Bears signed former Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson. The Eagles added Alshon Jeffery via free agency, and the Rams traded for Brandin Cooks.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson traded up to the No. 5 pick in the 2017 draft to select receiver Corey Davis and used a third-round pick in that draft on wideout Taywan Taylor.

Davis made great strides in his second season, posting 65 receptions for 891 yards and four touchdowns. He also began to dictate coverage, demanding the attention of the opposing team’s top cornerback. One of Davis’ best games came against first-team All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore in the Titans’ 34-10 win against the Patriots, when the second-year receiver had seven receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown.

Davis made his biggest improvement in 2018 with route running. It became more detailed and made it easier for Mariota to trust him on timing throws, as they connected on several plays when Mariota would throw to a spot before Davis made his cut, knowing Davis would get there on time.

The supporting cast around Davis still has room for improvement. Taylor showed signs of promise as he caught deep passes from Mariota in wins against the Jets and Redskins. A foot injury kept Taylor from being a consistent threat, and he needs to make more of an impact next season.

Taylor finished second among Titans receivers with 37 receptions for 466 yards. If it wasn’t for a nagging ankle injury, third-year wideout Tajae Sharpe would have finished ahead of Taylor. Sharpe established himself as a reliable slot receiver before injuring his ankle in Week 9 against the Cowboys.

Even though he isn’t one of those smaller, shifty, quick slot receivers, Sharpe is the best option in the slot on the Titans’ roster and one of Mariota’s favorite targets on third down.

“He’s got great body language in and out of his routes. When you have a guy that does that and creates separation, it makes it easy for you on third down to look to him, and find ways for him to get the ball,” Mariota said of Sharpe.

Added former offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur: “Marcus knows that Tajae is going to be in the right spot at the right time. He’s a good route runner and has good hands. [Mariota] has a comfort level with him.”

The back end of Tennessee’s receiver group features kick returner Darius Jennings and undrafted free agent Cameron Batson. There is room for the group to get better.

The 2019 Senior Bowl offers some pass-catching options for Tennessee to consider in the draft. Here are a few names to watch:

Deebo Samuel — South Carolina

Samuel was a dynamic player as both a kick returner and wideout. He can play the slot or line up on the outside and will generate plenty of yards after the catch.

Anthony Johnson — Buffalo

Johnson is another yards-after-the-catch specialist, but he can make contested catches like a power forward collecting a rebound. How well he levels up to the competition during the Senior Bowl could really strengthen Johnson’s case coming from a small school.

Hunter Renfrow — Clemson

Consistency is the one word that comes up when watching Renfrow. He’s not a big or fast wideout, but Renfrow is a quick and reliable pass-catcher who can cause opposing defenses nightmares when running choice routes from the slot. His most significant impact would be on third downs when his team needs a completion to move the chains.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Outside linebacker Justin Houston has played for some strong pass-rushing teams since joining the Kansas City Chiefs. He usually contributes to the effort in a big way, never more so than in 2014, when he had 22 sacks.

Houston said recently that he wasn’t sure how this year’s team compared.

“That’s a tough one,” Houston said. “I’ve been on a lot of great units.”

The Chiefs sacked Tom Brady twice in the teams’ regular-season matchup. Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports
Houston was certain of one thing, though.

“The best is yet to come,” he said.

Houston has good reason to feel that way. The pass rush has helped carry the Chiefs to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs tied for the NFL regular-season lead with 52 sacks. Lineman Chris Jones led the way with 15.5, followed by linebacker Dee Ford with 13. Houston had nine despite missing four games with an injury.

For much of the season, the pass rush was about all the Chiefs could consistently rely on from their defense. Their rushing defense was woeful and their pass coverage spotty.

The most obvious example of the pass rush winning a game for them came in December against the Baltimore Ravens. With the game tied 24-24 late in the fourth quarter, Houston sacked Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, forced him to fumble and then recovered with the Chiefs in field goal range.

The Chiefs missed the kick, sending the game to overtime. But after taking a 27-24 lead, the Chiefs in effect closed it out with another Houston sack that pushed the Ravens into late-down and long-distance situations.

The rest of the defense has come around. The Chiefs allowed just one late touchdown and a defensive TD in their 31-13 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round, after giving up just a field goal in the final regular-season game against the Oakland Raiders.

The pass rush is still the basis of everything the Chiefs accomplish on defense. They sacked Andrew Luck three times on Saturday. Impressive, considering the Colts allowed a league-low 18 sacks this season.

“We don’t care who we are going against,” Jones said. “We can go up against brick walls and we will find a way to beat them.”

It’s not just about sacks. The Chiefs, for instance, deflected four passes against the Colts, three by Jones and one by Houston.

“[When] you start affecting [the quarterback's] spot, [when] he can’t get to his second or third read … [when] he can’t step up … there are a lot of things that affect the quarterback,” outside linebackers coach Mike Smith said.

“The ball comes out quick these days, especially against us. It’s almost record time every time we play. They’re adding chips, keeping guys in. It affects an [opposing] offense. They’ve got to prepare every week for what we have.”

Ford said, “Obviously, you want a sack but you’re not going to get a sack every play. You can’t rush with the mentality that ‘I want a sack every play’ because you could be hurting the defense. Getting pressure on the quarterback means disrupting the timing of his throws [when] he can’t step through on certain throws. That takes certain types of rushes and it takes you knowing how to do that every play.

“If the ball is going to come out quick, all we can do is disrupt that throw. That can lead to us getting off the field.’’

Getting off the field without allowing points is the goal on every defensive drive, the sooner the better because field position can be affected.

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That’s where a strong rush comes in. The Chiefs generated a strong pass rush without blitzing a lot. They blitzed on about 12 percent of their plays in the regular season, which was the 10th-lowest rate in the league.

That approach could be helpful Sunday. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has historically had trouble facing defenses that can rush the passer successfully without blitzing.

The Chiefs blitzed even less against the Colts, on just five of the 53 snaps they defended.

“Everybody will tell you if you can do it with four people, that’s an even bigger advantage,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “Obviously it gives you more people to cover with and you can do more things schematically.”

The Chiefs had a strip sack against the Colts when Ford knocked the ball away from Luck. The Chiefs recovered. In their 43-40 regular-season loss to the Patriots, the Chiefs sacked Brady twice, but Brady threw for more than 300 yards. On Sunday, in what could be another high-scoring game, disrupting Brady and getting the ball back to Patrick Mahomes and the offense will be paramount.

“A pass rush can get you off the field,” said Sutton, whose defense gave up 500 total yards to the Patriots in the Week 6 matchup. “Even when you’re not playing dominant defense and giving up a lot of yards, the key part is always getting the ball back or getting off the field. One or the other. The other thing we’ve done a great job of is stripping the ball. It’s not just sacks but the ability to take the ball away. That’s a challenging thing for an offense to deal with. Not only do you have to deal with pressure but also the possibility of losing the ball.”