Friday, July 27, 2007

Up To Speed- Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans did things that NFL teams aren't supposed to be able to do last year. Things like winning a game despite getting five first downs the entire game, like they did in Week 15 against Jacksonville. Things like erasing a 21-0 fourth quarter deficit to win 24-21, as they did in Week 12 against the Giants. Things like going from being 2-7 to 8-7 during a truly improbable six game late season run.

They may not have been a great team, or even a good team, in fact, they were, in all aspects of the game except running the ball and special teams, a very bad team, but there's no denying that the Titans were one of the more exciting teams to watch in the 06 season.

Of course, the biggest reason for this was their quarterback, Vince Young. He may have posted a dismal 66.7 passer rating, but he ran for 552 yards and 7 TDs, and he won more games than any quarterback had a right to win with the supporting cast that he had. He was, simply put, a revelation. He was Michael Vick without the dogfighting and herpes.

Vince wasn't the only reason for the Titans winning jag though. Running back Travis Henry revived his career by rushing for 1211 yards, and the Titans excelled on special teams, ranking first in the league in average per punt return, thanks to Pacman Jones, who took 3 back for TDs.

Why, the Titans have made a big move just this week my friends. Well, kinda sorta big. They signed fading 34 year old wideout Eric Moulds, who had 557 yards and 1 TD for the Texans last year. So there's that.

You also may have heard something about Pacman Jones being involved in a few off-field incidents. I think ESPN may have mentioned this one or two times this offseason. Pacman is in the same doghouse (no pun intended....or is it?? Mooo Hoo Hoo..Ha Ha Ha) that Michael Vick is with the NFL in that he has been banned from training camp. Like Vick, Jones is facing felony charges, and probably won't play a down this year.

In anticipation of that, the Titans signed former Colts corner Nick Harper this offseason, and used their first round draft pick on hybrid corner/safety Michael Griffin, who was VY's teammate at Texas. Jones won't be missed that badly on defense, but the Titans will miss him a lot on special teams, where he was the next closest thing to the one man wrecking crew that Devin Hester was for the Bears last year.

The Pacman unpleasantness isn't even the biggest concern this team has heading into camp. Far more troubling is that they lost both their top 2 receivers and top rusher over the offseason. Drew Bennett took his team leading 737 yards to St. Louis, #2 wideout Bobby Wade is in Minnesota, and Travis Henry, who was equally as important as Young was to the team's success late last year, made a savvy jump to the running back Valhalla of Denver. The Titans plan on replacing Henry with a 3 headed monster of LenDale White, second round pick Chris Henry, and deposed former feature back Chris Brown. This doesn't seem likely to work, but then nobody anticipated Henry would run for 1200 yards last year either, so I'm taking a wait and see on this.

As for Bennett and Wade, well, they weren't really that good, and the Titans figure that any 2 NFL receivers they plug in can combine for just under 1200 yards like they did, and they are probably right. Still, the passing game was weak last year, and it'll be weak this year too, because nothing was done to upgrade it. The pass rush was also lame last year (29th in the league in sacks), and it will probably take more than a suspension-free season from DT Albert Haynesworth to fix that.

The Titans were a lot of fun last year, but they weren't as average as their 8-8 record would indicate. They have no passing game, and the defense is terrible, and now they have uncertainty in the areas they were good in last year (running the ball and special teams). Add all that up, and it's look like the Titans could be taking a giant step backward this year. Now you're up to speed on the Titans.

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