After going 13-3 in 2008, the Titans lost their first six games last year with veteran Kerry Collins helming the offense. The team's slow start opened the door for Vince Young, who had fallen out of favor, to get another opportunity to start. The Titans proceeded to win eight of their final 10 games, while improbably remaining in the playoff hunt. In the process, Young showed that he improved significantly as a passer, while continuing to show his dynamic offensive ability by rushing for 281 yards on 55 carries for a 5.1-yard average, with a pair of ground TDs.
The team's attack is driven by Chris Johnson. The Associated Press' Offensive Player of the Year established a new NFL record with 2,509 yards from scrimmage, becoming just the sixth player in league history to run for over 2,000 yards, with 2,006 to be exact. In doing so, he displayed that heʼs capable of being a workhorse back, racking up 358 carries. While Thereʼs no reason to expect a major regression, the team may attempt to ease his workload some, in the name of keeping him fresh and healthy for the long haul. In other news, Johnson isn't thrilled with his contract, a situation to monitor, though very unlikely to keep him off the field come Week 1.
Beyond Young and Johnson, look for several first- and second-year players tomake substantial contributions this coming season. Last year's first-round draft pick, Kenny Britt, is a breakout candidate at wideout. Jared Cook, another draft choice from last year, will back up tight end Bo Scaife, but is a great athlete who has shown signs of becoming an excellent pass catcher. With the departure of LenDale White, Javon Ringer has a chance to take over backup running back duties, assuming he holds off undrafted rookies LeGarrette Blount and Stafon Johnson. The Titans used their Third-round pick on Damian Williams, who played in a big-time college program (USC) and was very productive. He could see significant playing time as a rookie at a thin position.
Last year's defense was supported by several older veterans, such as Kyle Vanden Bosch and Keith Bulluck, both of whom are no longer with the team. That led the team to use two of its top three picks in April to bolster the front seven, including the selection of talented defensive end Derrick Morgan at No. 16 overall. Meanwhile, the defensive backfield continues to be a strength, led by Cortland Finnegan and Michael Griffin.
No team featuring a talent like Johnson can be counted out, but he'll need plenty of support for the Titans to thrive and that will have to start with a continued renaissance on the part of Young.
Round, Overall, Player
1. (16) Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech - High-motor pass rusher, who can also be stout against the run.
3. (77) Damian Williams, WR, USC - Polished pass catcher with big-play skills, who can also help in the return game.
3. (97) Rennie Curran, LB, Georgia - Undersized linebacker, but has good instincts and is very productive.
4. (104) Alterraun Verner, CB, UCLA - Ball-hawk with well-rounded skills to play in the nickel or dime.
5. (148) Robert Johnson, S, Utah - Big defensive back solidifies safety depth.
6. (176) Rusty Smith, QB, Florida Atlantic - Young, strong arm to develop for the future.
6. (207) Myron Rolle, S, Florida State - Rhodes scholar didn't play in 2009.
7. (222) Marc Mariani, WR, Montana - Athletic receiver who will likely help in special teams.
7. (241) David Howard, DT, Brown - Has raw ability to develop as a run stopper.
Jason Babin, DE (Eagles) - Has bounced around of late but adds DE depth.
Will Witherspoon, LB (Eagles) - Penciled in to start at outside linebacker, though there's still a chance the team could eventually bring back Keith Bulluck.
LenDale White, RB (FA) - Traded to the Seahawks during the draft,
but couldn't make it past Memorial Day with them.
Kevin Vickerson, DT (Seahawks) - Practically given away to Seattle along with White.
Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE (Lions) - Former mainstay's departure at least
partially offset by the drafting of Derrick Morgan.
VY Is Back
At this time last year, Vince Young was written off by many and was destined to back up veteran signal-caller Kerry Collins. However, when given command of an 0-6 team, he made the most of his opportunity and revived his career. His 10:7 TD:INT ratio was an indicator of his improved ability to avoid turnovers, and his surprising bounce back resulted in a Pro Bowl invitation as an injury replacement. It appears as though Young is a much more mature quarterback this time around, one who has realized that hard work and confidence are keys to retaining a starting job in the NFL. From No. 3 overall pick in 2006, to both on- and off-field issues
that threatened his future, Young seems to have come full circle and now hopes to build on his strong finish, working in tandem with uber-talented running back Chris Johnson.
Will Chris Johnson Continue to Roll?
Unless a major injury or something unexpected (such as a lingering holdout) occurs, Johnson will continue to have plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents as arguably the most electric running back in the NFL. The Titans traded LenDale White, leaving their backfield a little
thin and unproven behind Johnson, who averaged a spiffy 5.6 yards on his 358 carries last year. That sort of workload is something of a concern, but head coach Jeff Fisher has indicated a preference to manage his star backʼs carries better this year. Javon Ringer is the early favorite to
claim the backup role, but Alvin Pearman, LeGarrette Blount and Stafon Johnson are also currently in the mix. Neither of them, however, can match Johnsonʼs dynamic skills, and it will once again be difficult for the Titans to resist simply rolling with their hot hand.
Average Receiving Squad
At this point, the Titans don't have a clear-cut No. 1 receiver. Kenny Britt had a couple of excellent games as a rookie last season, and he has the upside to become a top-flight weapon, but consistency and conditioning have been concerns. Nate Washington dropped a handful of passes throughout the year and has yet to display reliable big-play capability. Justin Gage is a dependable pass catcher, but has never had more than 750 yards receiving in a season. He played just 12 games last year after suffering a serious spine injury in Week 9. Beyond the three receivers identified above, there wasn't much depth at the position, which prompted the team to draft the polished Damian Williams out of USC in the third round. The bottom line here is that the Titans will be a run-first team as long as Johnson is healthy and Vince Young is their QB, so weekly fantasy production from their receivers is going to be hard to count on.
Rising: Vince Young is back in the saddle, as dynamic as ever and now he protects the football.
Declining: Bo Scaife gets paid like a big-time tight end, but the top-shelf numbers haven't been there.
Sleeper: Jared Cook is a physically gifted tight end who should see much more playing time.
Supersleeper: Assuming he holds off the undrafted rookies, Javon Ringer would be the No. 1 running back if anything happens to Chris Johnson.
Cortland Finnegan, CB - Team’s best cornerback is coming off back-to-back five-pick campaigns.
Chris Hope, S - Sure-tackling safety also chipped in three interceptions and two sacks last season.
Stephen Tulloch, LB - Veteran on a young squad of linebackers.
Led the team with 120 tackles in 2009.
RotoWire Rank: 26