Jun 132013
 

Mike Munchak and Jake Locker10. Tennessee Titans
Head Coach: Mike Munchak
2012 Record: 6-10
2012 Offense: 330 points scored, 23rd in points, 26th in yards (22nd passing, 21st rushing)
2012 Defense: 471 points allowed, 32nd in points, 27th in yards (26th passing, 24th rushing)

Key Additions
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Shonn Greene, G Andy Levitre, TE Delanie Walker, WR Kevin Walter, WR Roberto Wallace, LB Moise Fokou, S Bernard Pollard, G Chance Warmack, WR Justin Hunter, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson

Key Losses
RB Javon Ringer, TE Jared Cook, QB Matt Hasselbeck, G Steve Hutchinson, DL Sen’Derrick Marks, DL Dave Ball, LB Will Witherspoon, LB Zac Diles, DB Ryan Mouton, S Jordan Babineaux

Why 2013 will be better
Chris Johnson remains one of the best backs in the league, and adding Shonn Greene makes the Titan’s running game even more dangerous. Adding Levitre and Warmack immediately improves the offensive line and will give both Johnson and Greene better running lanes. Jake Locker had a so-so first year as a starter, but could be poised for a breakout year if he and new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains get their heads together on the Titans’ variation of a read option offense. Locker is athletic and mobile, but injuries are a legitimate concern. His backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick, was a short-lived wonder in Buffalo who dried up as soon as he got paid. Will getting cut and becoming a backup fuel him if Locker should go down? Titans’ fans are hoping they won’t have to find out. On defense, the linebacker corps features Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers, two young players with complementary skill sets who promise to disrupt opposing offenses. Fouku joins the group inside along with Colin McCarthy, and as a group the Titans are capable of defending both the pass and the run with better proficiency than they did last season.

Why 2013 will be worse
Kenny Britt is the anchor of the Titans’ receiving corps, which is problematic for Tennessee given Britt’s proclivity for off-field mischief and his failure to put together a full season in four years as a pro. Nate Washington is a reliable target, but the team may be forced to find out early whether or not Justin Hunter was worth trading up for. Kendall Wright had a strong rookie campaign, and Delanie Walker is a serviceable receiving tight end, but the Titans’ receivers don’t give the appearance of a group that will scare teams. Still, the group doesn’t have to dominate to help the Titans win games; they simply need to complement what promises to be a run heavy offense. They have potential, but it is a generally unproven group. If the Titans are going to have a more successful 2013, it will be because there is significant improvement in the defense, and this will have to begin up front, where Derrick Martin and Kamerion Wimbley return as reliable defensive line bookends. The biggest improvement here is the addition of Sammie Lee Hill to Jurrell Casey and Mike Martin inside, but I’m not sure it’s enough; the Titans have depth on the line, but lack big playmakers. The secondary is also problematic, where Jason McCourty landed a big contract despite not being a solid #1 corner. He is good in zone but struggles in man coverage. The next two nickel spots are an open competition, but the Titans will continue to be susceptible to passing attacks like the ones they will face from Indianapolis, Houston, San Francisco, and Denver. At safety, Tennessee landed the physical Pollard, but Michael Griffin has decent range, but was mistake prone in 2012. He has to rebound in order to help the Titans avoid being a porous pass defense. The kicking game may also be an issue if Rob Bironas continues the decline he experienced in 2012.

Outlook
The Titans look to be improved from 2012, but only marginally. The biggest improvement seems to be in the offensive line, which should aid the Titans in pounding the ball, and keeping the defense off the field after a season in which the Titans gave up the most points in the league. Given that the Titans play the Jaguars twice and get to play the AFC West, it’s conceivable that the Titans will break even at 8-8 this season… somewhere between five and eight wins appears to be their range. But the team is still a year or two away from being a legitimate contender.

Apr 262013
 

Meat And PotatoesWell that was quite an interesting first round. One quarterback, one running back, and a whole lot of trench players were taken in last night’s first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.Offensive and defensive linemen were the top targets (nine each), followed by cornerbacks (four), wide receivers (3) and safeties (3). Two linebackers and a tight end were also taken in last night’s action.

Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel came off the board at #1 (Chiefs) and #2 (Jaguars) respectively as predicted, and then the Dolphins threw a monkey wrench in, swapping with Oakland to move up to snag defensive end Dion Jordan. The next trade came at #8, where the Rams moved up to grab wide receiver Tavon Austin to replace Danny Amendola. Oakland used the #12 pick to select the player they were prepared to grab at #3, cornerback DJ Hayden.

The first (and only) quarterback went off the board when Buffalo selected Florida State’s EJ Manuel at #16. The Bills’ smokescreen for the past several weeks was very effective, as just about every quarterback other than Manuel had been associated with the Bills. The 49ers shot up the board to #18 to grab safety Eric Reid to fill out their secondary, and then the Cowboys pulled a bit of a head scratcher at #31 with their decision to take Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, who is widely seen as a late second or early third round pick.

Atlanta swapped with St. Louis to take cornerback Desmond Trufant, a needed addition for the Falcons. The other trade of the first round came when Minnesota, who had already selected defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes jumped into New England’s 29th spot to pick up wide receiver Cordarrelle Petterson of Tennessee. New England, who was prepared to selected a player, opted for the value of grabbing Minnesota’s second, third, fourth, and seventh round picks.

Finally, former Patriots’ offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi was present to announce the Patriots’ move, and this was accompanied by a moving tribute to the first responders and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. They also revealed a “Boston Strong” Patriots’ jersey that promises to become a future piece of wardrobe in the Ghost Rat household.

All in all, it was a solid “meat and potatoes” round for teams trying to protect the quarterback, pressure the quarterback, and defend the pass. I thought the Jets’ selection of cornerback Dee Milliner with the 9th pick was a bit dicey, particularly with DJ Hayden, Desmond Trufant, and Xavier Rhodes still available. Milliner is a great talent, but having two bad shoulders seems to be a cause of some concern. Cleveland’s landing of defensive end Barkevious Mongo at #6 was a sold selection, and seemingly safer than the Eagles’ taking defensive end Ziggy Ansah at #5, even if Ansah’s potential upside is greater. The Steelers got their man in linebacker Jarvis Jones at #17, while the Giants made absolutely the right selection at #19 in picking up tackle Justin Pugh. Bears’ fans were not thrilled with the teams’ selection of guard Kyle Long at #20, but Long promises to be a long-term starter for Chicago, who desperately need help on the offensive line.

Here are the first round picks… the ones I got right are in bold face:

1. Kansas City Chiefs – T Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – T Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
3. Miami Dolphins (trade) – DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
4. Philadelphia Eagles – T Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
5. Detroit Lions – DE Ziggy Ansah, BYU
6. Cleveland Browns – DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
7. Arizona Cardinals – G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
8. St. Louis Rams (trade) – WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia (right team, wrong spot = half credit)
9. New York Jets – CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
10. Tennessee Titans – G Chance Warmack, Alabama
11. San Diego Chargers – T DJ Fluker, Alabama
12. Oakland Raiders (trade) – CB DJ Hayden, Houston
13. New York Jets – DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
14. Carolina Panthers – DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
15. New Orleans Saints – S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
16. Buffalo Bills (trade) – QB EJ Manuel, Florida State
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
18. San Francisco 49ers (trade) – S Eric Reid, LSU
19. New York Giants – T Justin Pugh, Syracuse
20. Chicago Bears – G Kyle Long, Oregon
21. Cincinnati Bengals – TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
22. Atlanta Falcons (trade) – CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
23. Minnesota Vikings – DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
24. Indianapolis Colts – DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
25. Minnesota Vikings – CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
26. Green Bay Packers – DE Datone Jones, UCLA
27. Houston Texans – WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
28. Denver Broncos – DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
29. Minnesota Vikings (trade) – WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
30. St. Louis Rams (trade) – LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
31. Dallas Cowboys (trade) – C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
32. Baltimore Ravens – S Matt Elam, Florida