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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Off-season Troubleshooting: Tennessee Titans

The Titans had a bit of an up and down year, looking strong early by beating the Steelers, Jets and Chargers to go 3-1, before falling away for the rest of the season. They finished 7-9 and second in their division, but for the third year in a row lost to one of the worst teams in the league when the Jaguars defeated them in week ten. Coach Mike Munchak has moved on since, but this is a side with potential, so what changes can we expect from the Titans this off-season? :



Offense:

It all starts with the quarterback. Jake Locker looked good early on, throwing well and protecting the ball while leading the team to some wins. The problem with Locker, once again, is his inability to stay on the field. He only played seven games this year, and eighteen in his two years as starter. Effectively, this left the offense in the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzmagic had his moments too, but despite some good touches and ground threat, he isn’t consistent enough to be considered a starting quarterback. The franchise have commited to Locker again as starter, but he will have to show more physical endurance to keep getting paid. The run game was ok, but considering the money invested in Chris Johnson and free-agent acquisition Shonn Greene, more return was required. Johnson seems to be a likely cut this off-season, as his salary of  eight million dollars can be put to better use elsewhere. The bright spark for the passing game came from young wide receiver Kendall Wright, who hauled in 94 receptions for just under 1100 yards. Tight end Delanie Walker, another free agent signing, was solid. He came up with 571 yards off of sixty passes, yet the lack of another serious receiving option was problematic. Kenny Britt failed badly on and off the field and is a goner this year, but will need to be replaced. That being said, money is tight in Tennessee, and they may also need to acquire a more accomplished back-up quarterback to cover for Locker, should he be struck down again.

Defense:

This was not a vintage year for Tennessee defense. They gave up a lot of points to a lot of teams, conceding thirty or more points in games against the Texans, Forty-Niners, Colts, Broncos and Cardinals. They gave up an average of 225 yards per game through the air, which in an area to target for improvement. Yet starting corner Alterraun Verner and safety Bernard Pollard are both out of contract, and likely to leave in free agency. Verner in particular is looking at making a lot of money on the open market, raking in five picks and defending a further 23 passes this season. Finding viable options in this area on the cheap will likely see the Titans take a few risks in free agency and needing to draft well. There is also a need for a strong middle linebacker, with Pollard and outside linebacker Zach Brown leading the tackle count, but with unimpressive figures. A dominant middle ‘backer would help to lead and steady this defense. Defensive end will also need to be addressed, with starter Ropati Pitoitua also coming to the end of his contract.

Players to target in free agency:

Mario Manningham, WR.
Joe Webb, WR.
Kevin Ogletree, WR.
Jeremy Mincey, DE.
C.J. Wilson, DE.
Jon Beason, MLB.
Wesley Woodyard, MLB.
Terrell Thomas, CB.
Will Blackmon, CB.
Nick Collins, FS.

By Andy Halligan

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