By Alan Zlotorzynski
After failing to get Peyton Manning to come and play last offseason, which third year HC Mike Munchak said openly hurt his team’s offseason and was a major reason it regressed to 6-10 in 2012, owner Bud Adams opened his checkbook to everyone this offseason and it could land the Titans back to the 9-7 form from 2011. However, this will depend on the progress of third year signal caller Jake Locker.
Inconsistency and injuries derailed the Titans offense in 2012. QB Jake Locker, who began the year as the team’s starting quarterback, hurt his shoulder in Week 4 and sat out the next five weeks. RB Chris Johnson followed up his worst year as a pro in 2011 with a measly 45 rushing yards over his first three games.
A look at the final stat lines in 2012 shows that Johnson ran for 1,243 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 4.5 YPA (his highest average since the 2009 season). In Week 4, Johnson rebounded with 141 yards on 25 carries vs. Houston. In all, the man who carried fantasy teams in 2009 had only five 100-yard games on the season. The Titans were 3-3 when Johnson received 20+ carries, and were 1-4 when he had 15 or less carries. While he improved as the season wore on, he was not consistent. Johnson turned in nine games with a sub-4.0 YPC and blamed the Titans offensive line but that will not be able to happen this season, as the group was totally revamped and could be a top-notch unit in 2013. Johnson should be around 1,200 yards this season but his TD’s (6) could take a hit with short yardage back Shonn Greene coming over from the Jets.
Last season Jake Locker (20 TD’s 15 INT’s) and Matt Hasselbeck ran an inept offense. This group averaged 20.6 points per game, which ranked 23rd in the league. The passing game ranked 29th in efficiency, according to Football Outsiders metrics, while the running game was 26th.
WR Kenny Britt, who tore his ACL and MCL in Week 3 of 2011, managed to play 14 games last season. Britt, like the rest of his unit was mostly ineffective, surpassing 50-plus receiving yards just four times. If you based the WR unit on talent potential alone, Britt and Kendall Wright, both former first-round picks, should be the starters. However, Britt’s bouts with immaturity and injuries now have him in the final year of his contract still trying to convince the Titans that he can fulfill his potential. Wright should improve in year two after leading the team with 64 catches a year ago.
The Titans defense crashed and burned last season. In 2011, the Titans gave up just 19.8 PPG, eighth best average in the league. One year later, Tennessee allowed 29.4 PPG, the worst in the NFL. Even if you took away the staggering number of touchdowns that can’t be blamed on the defense (four pick-sixes, a fumble, two blocked punts, and a kickoff return), Tennessee’s defense is still on the hook for 25.9 PPG, which would still have them in the bottom third of the league. They were sixth worst in total defense. However, their value was helped by 39 sacks and 19 interceptions. Rob Bironas dropped off to 117 fantasy points in 2012 down from 142 the year before. He only hit half (5-10)of his field goals from 40-49 yards after kicking nine out of 10 through the uprights from that distance the year before.
Their ease of schedule is not that great for fantasy value. Locker will stare down the third toughest QB schedule, while Chris Johnson faces just the 19th easiest RB slate. The WR’s will not have it any easier facing the second toughest schedule.