Tennessee Titans 2013 Season Preview

August 29, 2013 in Tennessee Titans

By Guest Writer Parks Smith:

 

2013 Finish: 6-10, 3rd in AFC South

Key Additions: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Shonn Greene, RB Jalen Parmele, WR Kevin Walter, TE Delanie Walker, OT Barry Richardson, G Andy Levitre, G Chris Spencer, C Rob Turner, DT Sammie Lee Hill, DT Ropati Pitoitua, ILB Moise Fokou, S Bernard Pollard, S George Wilson

2013 Draft: G Chance Warmack, WR Justin Hunter, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, OLB Zaviar Gooden, C/G Brian Schwenke, DE Lavar Edwards

Key Losses: QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Javon Ringer, RB Jamie Harper, TE Jared Cook, G Steve Hutchinson, G Deuce Lutui, G Leroy Harris, C Eugene Amano, DE/DT Jarius Wynn, DT Sen'Derrick Marks, DT Leger Douzable, OLB Gerald McRath, OLB Will Witherspoon, ILB Zac Diles, CB Ryan Mouton, S Jordan

2012 Season Recap:  Last year the keys were turned over to second year quarterback Jake Locker. Opposing defensive shutdown running back Chris Johnson, Locker threw more interceptions than touchdowns, and the Titans offense was woefully inept. While the offense was inept, the Titans defense gave up more points per game than anyone else a year ago. The Titans are looking for their first playoff appearance since 2008 and coach Mike Munchak’s seat might be getting a little hotter in the Music City.

 

Offense:

Courtesy of Icon SMI

Courtesy of Icon SMI

Quarterback: Jake Locker was touted as a raw, mobile quarterback with a rocket arm. Thus far Locker has been a project and he’ll need to succeed in his third year for the Titans to be successful. A lack of weapons cannot be an excuse in Nashville and the Titans are starting to realize that.  The pressure presented by veteran Matt Hasslebeck is gone, but former Bills starter Ryan Fitzpatrick will now be pushing Locker.

Running back/Fullback: Chris Johnson has not been able to recreate his 2,000 yard pace from 2009 but 1,243 yards a year ago is not bad. Johnson is still a premier home run threat in this league and now he’ll get some help from two running backs who have both started in the NFL in former Chief Jackie Battle and former Jet Shonn Greene. Having a deeper rotation will help to keep the soon to be 28 year old Johnson fresh throughout the season. Quinn Johnson is the lone fullback on the roster, but the Titans have other power backs who could pave the way for CJ2K.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: The Titans may have the league’s most underrated receiving corps. Kenny Britt has not lived up to his potential in the NFL and Kendall Wright is a developing talent who could eventually grow into one of the league’s best targets. Nate Washington is still solid and hanging around, while second round pick Justin Hunter will make the Titans even more dangerous this season. Jared Cook is gone, but bruiser Delani Walker will step in and become a valuable target for Locker.

Offensive Line: The Titans offensive line is certainly their strength. The Titans pried away Andy Levitre from Buffalo and then further solidified their interior with Chance Warmack a guard from Alabama, who some considered to be the top interior offensive line prospect in the NFL Draft. Rob Turner fills out the inside at center in a move that many thought would be filled by Fernando Velasco. Michael Roos and David Steward round out the offensive line and the tackles could become bookends in Tennessee if everything goes well.

Offensive Player to Watch: QB, Jake Locker

 

DEFENSE:

Defensive Line: Tennessee added serious beef up front with Sammie Lee Hill to play along former USC Trojan Jurrell Casey. On the outside Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan will look to pressure the quarterback.  All in the entire unit is fairly decent, but depth may be an issue as the Titans look to improve their putrid defense.

Linebackers: The linebacking corps is a young one for Tennessee. Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown will look to bring pressure from the outside, while Colin McCarthy will man the middle. The group is growing together and will need to continue to improve but depth is also an issue here with an hodge podge of veterans backing up the youngsters.

Secondary: The Titans added some solid upgrades in the secondary with safety George Wilson and the controversial Bernard Pollard to play along Michael Griffin. While the Titan has depth at safety and a strong starting presence, the cornerback position isn’t as deep and hasn’t improved that much. Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner are slated to start the year at corner.

Defensive Player to Watch: OLB Zach Brown

 

Special Teams: Rob Bironas has become a standard for kicking in this league and is expected to continue to be steady in 2013. Brett Kern is an average punter at best for the Titans. The Titans do have a pair of interesting and exciting kick returners in Marc Mariani and Darius Reynaud. Both have found success on various levels before and could carry that over into their performances in Nashville.

 

Overall: 5-11, Finish third in the AFC South

Titans fans should expect another long year in the Music City. The biggest lingering question is will be Munchak’s last and does that mean it will be Jake Locker’s last?  The Titans can find success in their offensive line and one of the league’s best running backs. But despite that, the Titans defensive will have to improve at a faster pace than the offense will need to.

 

 


  • jkross

    So what is it? 6-10 or 5-11? You reallly think we will be worse? or stay the same? Steve Shoup, have you even paid attention to the Titans this off season? The Titans have added 100 million in free agents, bolstering their weakest positions – middle of the OL and Safety. Plus the addition of Greg Williams should instill a better scheme and more intense defense. The Titans have a lot of young promising players on both sides of the ball, you say as much but don't translate it to any more wins. Did you see or hear about the Titans impressive 3rd preseason game where they dismantled the Falcons on offense and defense? (Ran all over them, Locker was 11-13 for 133 yds, 1 TD and a 135 passer rating, and the defense sacked Ryan 5 times) It caused Sportscenter and Foxsports1 to question and reevaluate the falcons as a SB contender. Have you seen the improvement of Locker in the preseason games? Or take into account his playing with an injury last year and a decimated OL yet he still had a higher completion percentage rate than golden boy Andrew Luck? (56% to 54%) Locker has been very effective on first downs in the last two preseason games, according to The Tennessean. Locker is 15 of 17 for 187 yards when throwing on first downs in games against the Falcons and Bengals. Do you know that the Titans SOS schedule is only .488, only .08 harder than last year. You don't think the Titans can win against the middle of the road teams? AZ, STL, SD, KC or beat the lowly Jags twice and the Jets & Raiders…even if the Titans lose one or two of those that would still put the Titans at 6-7 wins. Just as they may lose one or two games to similar level or below level talented teams they should also pull off an upset or two. There are always upsets in the NFL, last year the less talented Titans beat the Steelers. The Titans could beat a resting Texans squad in week 17. Indy barely beat the Titans twice last year and I don't expect the Titans to get swept again. So that puts their win total to anywhere between t 8-10 wins On paper and based off the Falcons game, Lockers development, and with the off-season free agent acquisitions, continued growth of young players, (Casey, Morgan, LB corps, Wright, Warmack to name a few) including an upgrade at coaching, they are better than 5-6 wins. I would say 8-10 wins is way more reasonable.

    • http://www.fanspeak.com/ Steveospeak

      Locker is just not a quarterback that you can bank on with his accuracy. Even a number of his completions in preseason have been off target. It will get tougher once the regular season begins. Locker is going to hold this team back unless he completely changes his game (which is hard to do). The defense should be improved, but just because they played well against the Falcons doesn't mean this team is ready to contend.

      The Titans are likely to get swept by both the Texans and Colts (and to suggest Locker was better than Luck last year is laughable). And yes the Titans upset the Steelers last year, but this year's game is in Pittsburgh and the Steelers aren't dealing with the injuries they dealt with last year.

      • jkross

        You are either purposefully misquoting me or simply misreading my statements on almost every counterpoint you made. I didn't say Locker was better than Luck…just that he had a higher completion percentage last year – which no one holds against Luck but uses as example A against Locker. People forget that Locker has only started 16 games or so (close to that, can't remember off the top of my head) and a large number of those were after a shoulder injury early last year and an injured and putrid OL. You cannot say that Locker cannot be banked on due to accuracy. His sample size is both small and skewed. Straight from Rotoworld concerning Locker the Falcons game and this preseason:

        "Locker started slow with a couple of errant passes and careless fumble on a scramble. Then, he caught fire. Locker led the Titans on three straight scoring drives of 45 yards or more in the second quarter, pushing the ball downfield with accuracy we hadn't seen this month. Through three preseason games, Locker is 30-of-44 (68.1%) for 307 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He's also rushed six times for 33 yards. Locker's running ability and big arm keep make him intriguing, but we want to see him operate smoothly in a regular season game before putting him on the QB2 radar."

        Yes he has had errant throws, all QBs do, but they have been less…and just as you said some of the inacurate throws were caught you failed to mention the half dozen or so throws that have been on the numbers/hands that have been dropped by Titans players.
        An improved supporting cast, OL, WR, TE and backfield, improved playcalling/coaching, more maturity and growth through experience and plus a healthy Locker will surprise the lemming like analysis of Locker.

        My mention of the domination of the Falcons was one of many points I made to the improvement of the Titans. You didnt address any of the others. The Titans also had injuries last year…lots of them…so that arguement really holds no water, as any given Sunday each team has injuries to important players/positions.
        My point was not that the Titans would beat the Steelers again this year, but that upsets in the NFL happen every week and to not think the Titans will have one or two is naive. The Colts are overrated and got lucky to win some of those games. Their defense and OL are awful. The Titans will win at least one game from them. And beating the Texans in week 17 is highly probable if they are resting their starters. Thanks for cherry picking on a couple issues I brought up and misquoting them. I look forward to the season when the critics will be silenced.

        • http://www.fanspeak.com/ Steveospeak

          Locker has had major accuracy issues going back to college. It wouldn't matter if he's played 1 game or 50 games this is a major concern area going forward. My problem was you were using completion percentage to judge accuracy, but that is a flawed metric, because it only accounts for whether a pass was caught or not. Just because a pass is caught doesn't mean it was an accurate throw, and of course the opposite is true as good throws can be dropped, or defensed by an excellent play by the defense. Luck showed better touch as a rookie than Locker has shown in either his college or pro career.

          It's funny you quote Rotoworld, which even said that they still don't believe he's on the radar for QB 2 (i.e. top 20-24) in the league. That is not exactly a ringing endorsement, and Rotoworld's own Evan Silva has routinely exposed the weaknesses of Jake Locker.

          I think the Titans have an improved offensive line, and if they give the ball to Chris Johnson more it should pay off. I don't know if I buy that they have improved their WR and TE positions. Britt is dealing with injuries and a big unknown. Wright is expected back week 1, but that situation is definitely up in the air. Kevin Walter is on PUP and Justin Hunter has been disappointing. As for TE Walker just came off PUP and he's a receiver downgrade from Cook (though a better blocker).

          The Titans defense was simply bad last season. Yes they had some injuries and yes they were working in young players, but those things can happen again. I think they will be better than last year, but this doesn't look to be a top half of the league unit.

          Yes upsets happen every week, but that can go both ways. Maybe the Titans beat the Rams on the road, but end up losing to the Cards at home. I'm not sure how you can point to the Colts being overrated. You want the Titans rated higher and capable of 8+ wins, based on their offseason additions, but the Colts which made more and possibly more significant additions should fall? That doesn't make sense. Not to mention the Colts were a younger team last year, relying on a rookie QB, RB, 2 TE's and a WR. All of those guys should be more improved (though Ballard may no longer be the starter due to Bradshaw). If the Texans do rest their starters, sure that could be a win for the Titans, but I don't think they will be resting their starters b/c that game will end up mattering for the Texans.

          • jkross

            There we go! More of a reasoning for the above 5-6 win prediction! (Not sure if you wrote the article or not but it seems you agree with it.) I can appreciate the explanation a lot more when it is well reasoned out. I simply disagree with some of your reasons and that's fine.
            I believe Lockers sample size is not big enough yet – and profootball focus agrees. (see link below) If you agree that the Titans youngsters can continue to progress and state the same for the Colts then why is that not a contributing factor to more wins? I think it will be a factor among all the other reasons I stated. I disagree on the WR/TE assessment. Washington, Britt, Wright are a great group of three – Britt and Wright will be just fine and don't count out Damian Williams and M. Preston who have both shined this off-season. Not sure if Kevin Walter would have made the team even if he was healthy with the talent we have at WR. And Justin Hunter has actually shown flashes and doesnt need to step up right away with all the other talent we have. Jared Cook is over rated, watching him each Sunday was exhausting, one great catch and then easy drops, taking plays off and not blocking. I look forward to the versatile Walker and his ability to help the run game.

            I definitely disagree that the Colts improved more in the off season. I am pretty positive that if the Titans wore green instead of two toned blue and were based out of New York they would be getting a lot more publicity and projected to have a better year based off all their off-season moves. It seems the smaller market hurts them and leads analysts to skim over them when it comes to in-depth analysis. The same cannot be said for Profootball Focus. In my opinion they give a much more accurate portrayal of the Titans and the possible outcome of their season. Link here: https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/08/28/32-teams-in-32-days-tennessee-titans-2/

            Their conclusion is something I totally agree with:
            "The Titans are getting almost no national media buzz this preseason, which is to be expected from a team coming off of a 6-10 season. This year’s squad has more talent than a six-win club, though. An elite quarterback would transform the Titans into Super Bowl contenders overnight and that’s the biggest takeaway here. All expectations begin and end with one Jake Locker. He may not have to put up gaudy stats, but he must be more efficient than he’s been so far in his career for the Titans to have a shot at the playoffs. I believe this is an 8-8 ball club that could tilt either way depending on the development over last season of the man under center." And from what I've seen so far, stats in previous comment, and with a natural progression through experience, better coaching/playcalling, better talent around him (OL,WRs) I believe he will step up and this team will win 8-10 games.

          • jkross

            I know its only the preseason but the Titans offense has looked good this preseason. Just shows the young players are developing well and that Tennessee has had a good off-season and ultimately a better outlook for the season – more than a 5-6 win season.
            Titans Raise Preseason Offensive Production.

            Team Quarterback Rating: 2012 — 69.2 | 2013 — 104.6 | Difference: +35.4

            Diagnosis: Titans quarterbacks have completed 80 of 120 passes (66.7 percent) for 912 yards and thrown eight touchdowns against two interceptions, delivering double-digit increases in passes completed and completion percentage and accounting for 280 more net passing yards, five more touchdowns and one less interception.
            The substantial gain in passer rating stems largely from the increase in the number of passing touchdowns thrown by Titans QBs this preseason. Jake Locker attempted 11 fewer passes and completed two more, driving his completion percentage from 51.7 to 67.3 percent and improved his QB rating from 71.3 to 93.7 this preseason with the benefit of a full offseason as Tennessee’s starter

            Outlook: A considerable effort was made this offseason to capitalize on Locker’s strengths, as well as take advantage of high-percentage underneath routes to tight ends and running backs. Tennessee believes there’s hidden yardage there that it left on the table in 2012.

            Time of Possession: 2012 — 27:45 | 2013—31:33 | Difference: +3:48
            Diagnosis: Some have said this is the most important statistical category in which the Titans can improve this season not only to help the offense but also the defense. Tennessee wants to be a more physical team that is capable of running the ball when it needs and wants to do so, then take advantage of play-action passes that create larger throwing windows.
            Outlook: The Titans added veteran running backs Shonn Greene during free agency and Jackie Battle before training camp to add different styles of backs to complement Chris Johnson’s speed and big-play threats. Johnson’s ability to make long runs and score on them is quite rare, but such explosiveness can reduce time with the football.
            In 2012, three of 51 Titans possessions (6.9 percent) in the preseason lasted 10 or more plays, but this preseason Tennessee had 11 of 41 possessions (26.8 percent) go 10 plays or more. Continuing to do so in the regular season will improve offensive rhythm and allow the defense to stay fresh to maximize its performance.

            Third-down percentage: 2012 — 14-for-52 (26.9 percent) | 2013 — 27-for-58 (46.6 percent) | Difference: +19.7 percent
            Diagnosis: Success on third down increases time of possession, so it’s not surprising to see such strong improvements overlap. The gains can be attributed to better results on first and second downs to avoid obvious passing situations created by third-and-longs. Reducing the distance needed to convert a pass on third down is also likely to help quarterback completion percentage and passer rating.
            Outlook: Continuing to move the chains on early downs opens the playbook for offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, and having third-and-short distances keeps faking the ball to running backs before throwing it a possibility. Tennessee also emphasizes the important role that running backs play in picking up the blitz, and Johnson, Greene and Battle have shown a willingness and ability to do that. Converting third downs early can be particularly helpful on the road because it reduces the fire in opposing fans and builds rhythm and confidence in offensive players while letting defensive players stay fresh.

  • jkross

    So what is it? 6-10 or 5-11? You reallly think the Titans will be worse? or stay the same? Steve Shoup/Parks Smith – have you even paid attention to the Titans this off season? The Titans have added 100 million in free agents, bolstering their weakest positions – middle of the OL and Safety. Plus the addition of Greg Williams should instill a better scheme and more intense defense. The Titans have a lot of young promising players on both sides of the ball, you say as much but don't translate it to any more wins. Did you see or hear about the Titans impressive 3rd preseason game where they dismantled the Falcons on offense and defense? (Ran all over them, Locker was 11-13 for 133 yds, 1 TD and a 135 passer rating, and the defense sacked Ryan 5 times) It caused Sportscenter and Foxsports1 to question and reevaluate the falcons as a SB contender. Have you seen the improvement of Locker in the preseason games? Locker has been very effective on first downs in the last two preseason games, according to The Tennessean. Locker is 15 of 17 for 187 yards when throwing on first downs in games against the Falcons and Bengals. Or take into account his playing with an injury last year and a decimated OL yet he still had a higher completion percentage rate than golden boy Andrew Luck? (56% to 54%) The running game has also looked awfully impressive, bulldozing down the field with holes opened by Levrite, Warmack and others and winning the time of possession battle unlike last year; which in turn helps the defense. Do you know that the Titans SOS schedule is .488, only .08 harder than last year. You don't think the Titans can win against the middle of the road teams? AZ, STL, SD, KC or beat the lowly Jags twice and the Jets & Raiders? Even if the Titans lose one or two of those that would still put the Titans at 6-7 wins. (If we're being optimistic they could go 8-0 against those teams.) Just as they may lose one or two games to similar level or below level talented teams they should also pull off an upset or two. There are always upsets in the NFL, last year the less talented Titans beat the Steelers. The Titans could beat a resting Texans squad in week 17. Indy barely beat the Titans twice last year and I don't expect the Titans to get swept again. So that puts their win total to anywhere between 8-10 wins. On paper and based off the Falcons game, Lockers development, and with the off-season free agent acquisitions, continued growth of young players, (Casey, Morgan, LB corps, Wright, Warmack to name a few) including an upgrade at coaching (With Williams and Loggains as OC), they are better than 5-6 wins. I would say 8-10 wins is way more reasonable.