STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
There have been many changes to the Titans organization from last season. The Titans parted ways with the league’s longest tenured head coach, Jeff Fisher, and Mike Munchak has now taken over. Munchak has been with the organization for almost 30 years, first as a Hall of Fame offensive lineman drafted in 1982, finally coaching under Jeff Fisher and now being promoted to his first head coaching job at the age of 51. Last year’s top-two quarterbacks are now gone and in their place is the hopeful new rookie and number eight draft pick, Jake Locker, along with former Pro-Bowler Matt Hasselbeck, to start and mentor Locker. The defense has several new faces, especially in the front seven, including several rookie and second year players both on the defensive line and in the linebacker group who should eventually be solid players, but it may take a year or two. The Titans once again have an excellent and deep defensive backfield, enhanced with the signing of Jordan Babineaux.
Although he is once again holding out of training camp, Chris Johnson is still the best player on the Titans and had yet another very productive year in 2010. The offense will certainly continue to be centered around him and the running game, with the same solid offensive line coming back intact from last season. Look for him to be one of the most productive offensive players in the league.
The Titans have not made any changes to a weak receiving group. Kenny Britt has potential to be an excellent receiver if he can keep his head focused on football, but we do not see any other receiver on the team scaring defenses with their numbers. Jared Cook may be their second best pass catcher at the tight end position. He is a very good athlete who has the ability to become a Pro-Bowler. If Hasselbeck has another solid year in him, and Johnson can stay healthy for the entire year, they have a chance to put up some decent numbers and possibly compete for a playoff spot this season.
Round, Overall, Player
1. (8) Jake Locker, QB Washington
Four-year college starter with excellent arm and athleticism. Passing accuracy has been questioned.
2. (39) Akeem Ayers, LB UCLA
Play-making strongside linebacker who should battle for starting spot.
3. (77) Jurrell Casey, DL USC
Big run-stuffing lineman who can move his feet. Should contribute as part of a rotation.
4. (109) Colin McCarthy, LB Miami
Battled shoulder injuries but was very productive and could battle for starting position.
4. (130) Jamie Harper, RB Clemson
Big runner with good hands who could help spell Chris Johnson.
5. (142) Karl Klug, DL Iowa
Lightweight, but plays very physical and could be decent pass rusher.
6. (175) Byron Stingily, OT Louisville
Massive tackle with raw talent and skill to mold as a backup.
7. (212) Zach Clayton, DT Auburn
Has great work ethic and can play both run and pass.
7. (251) Tommie Campbell, DB California (PA)
Size and speed at the cornerback position, but will likely be buried in solid backfield.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB (Seattle)
Daniel Graham, TE (Denver)
Jordan Babineaux, S (Seattle)
Vince Young, QB (Philadelphia)
Bo Scaife, TE (Cincinnati)
Jason Babin, DE (Philadelphia)
Stephen Tulloch, LB (Detroit)
DOES HASSELBECK HAVE ANY SIZZLE LEFT?
The Titans signed Hasselbeck to a three-year contract this offseason to start at quarterback and help mentor first-round draft choice Jake Locker for at least a year. Although Hasselbeck will be 36 in September, he is coming off of two straight years where he started in 14 games and passed for over 3000 yards. It is safe to say Hasselbeck’s best years are likely behind him. Last season Hasselbeck had a completion percentage of just under 60 percent and threw for 3001 yards, but threw five more interceptions (17) than touchdown passes (12). The Titans hope he will bring consistent play and leadership in 2011. Even if he is able to stay healthy and start every game, 3500 passing yards and 20 touchdowns would exceed expectations.
HOW GOOD WILL Chris Johnson BE?
With the lockout then contract holdout, who knows what kind of “football shape” Johnson will be in for the start of the year. Johnson is the one player on the Titans who can score any time he touches the ball. Few running backs would have a disappointing year with 1,364 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, but it goes to show what is expected of Johnson. He ended with the lowest average yards per carry in his three-year career (4.3) in 2010. He is still widely considered one of the top three running backs in the league. The offense is certainly going to revolve around his running game. With the same solid offensive line coming back from last season, look for Johnson to put up slightly better numbers than he did last year.
DID NOT IMPROVE THEIR RECEIVING SQUAD
Nate Washington has been disappointing as a No. 1 receiver since signing his six-year deal two years ago. On most teams, 89 receptions and 12 touchdowns in two years are not top receiver numbers. Injuries and off-the-field issues have kept Kenny Britt from producing top flight receiving numbers. He showed great signs last year, leading the Titans with 775 receiving yards and nine touchdown receptions. He also had one of the biggest fantasy games of the year in Week 7 with 225 yards and three touchdowns. Justin Gage has been a steady receiver for eight years, but after a back injury in 2009, it appears he is on the down slope of his career. The emergence of Damien Williams as a reliable pass catcher could be a surprise this year. He could see playing time in three-receiver sets and get opportunities with other receivers taking most of the defensive attention.
Rising: Jared Cook
Athletic tight end who as starter could put up very good receiving numbers.
Declining: Matt Hasselbeck
Hopes to have solid year as “bridge” to Jake Locker, but Pro-Bowl days likely over.
Sleeper: Damien Williams
Solid route runner with good hands who could put up decent numbers as number three receiver.
Super Sleeper: Marc Mariani
Excellent return man who could see substantial playing time at receiver and put some numbers up under the radar with a serviceable quarterback.
Cortland Finnegan, CB
The Titans best defensive player. Just two interceptions, but recorded his first 100-tackle season in 2010.
Alterraun Verner, CB
The rookie led the team with 15 passes defended and was second with three picks.
Michael Griffin, S
Led the Titans with four interceptions and recorded a career-high 153 tackles in 2010.
TEAM DEFENSE RANK - 20