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I recently asked Titans fans what started they would most like to see replaced.
As you'd expect with a team that has a pretty solid starting 22, the answers were quite varied.
A lot of people would like to see a new starter in place of Nick Harper, Eugene Amano, Jevon Kearse, Craig Hentrich and Kevin Mawae.
A sampling of comments and mailbag entries, with some of my reaction interspersed:
MILANRULES2009: Nick Harper, please. Doesn't have to be by a pro bowler, but at least someone who could cover a guy like derrick mason.
avespucci: Nick Harper and Jevon Kearse. Both via draft. They produced for years, but both are in their 30s and production is slipping.
Titanfan109: Eugene Amano. I know he's young, but by far the weak spot on the line. His footwork and instincts on stunts are terrible. It puts a lot of pressure on Mawae.
Redding in Nashville: Lendale White, he doesn't get nearly enough credit for making the 07 offense as pathetic as it was. He averages 3 yards per carry behind one of the best lines in football and makes a living stealing CJ's TDs. Whichever O lineman (Amano I think) kept letting CJ get blown up in the backfield.
Unknown in Santa Fe: I would like to see Lendale White replaced. I think he is an above average back, but his attitude does not fit a Jeff Fisher team. I feel like we could possibly trade or draft a replacement for him.
Paul Kuharsky: White wasn't really the starter last year -- he started two games. But he got 200 carries to Chris Johnson's 251 and the Titans consider themselves a two-back team, so we'll give voice to White's detractors here. He is heading for free agency next year if it's not an uncapped season, and I'm not certain the Titans will look to retain him. A lot depends on this season -- does he drop the weight, show a good attitude, continue to maximize opportunity? They could draft yet another back to prepare to replace him.
dkill6464: LenDale deserves only 2 yard and goaline consideration. He is sloppy and lazy. Besides two miracle distance runs, which were against the two best defenses in the league in Kansas City and Detroit, he is a two hit back (the first defensive player then the ground). To be called such a 'power back' he goes down way too easily. It is like he gets motivated by special situations, ie chances to show off his terrible touchdown dance, but when a 1st and 10 shows up its a 2 yard gain and a smile on the face. Chris Henry, although split carries in college and hasn't played much in the pros since his draft, displays 10 fold effort and will increase explosiveness and speed. Watch Chris Henry in preseason, yes it is preseason and you cannot always gage the play correctly, but his rookie season I was so excited after watching him in preseason. He reminded me of Marion Barber, but alas he did not get any playing time. I look forward to seeing him play more. I am all for less LenDale Fatty White. Oh, nd to say he is cutting weight is blasphemy to 'The Biggest Loser' because that is the same thing that has been said about this kid since he left USC and while enrolled in college, yet he still looks the same.
PK: Wow. Anti-White is no surprise. Pro-Henry is a huge surprise. Is this a relative? Henry has shown very little and I expect Rafael Little or someone else to take his roster spot in training camp.
Gunter in parts unknown: I'd like to see Lendale White get replaced. Although you can't ignore his redzone productivity last season, I don't think he's been worth his weight a lot of times.. punn intended. I've heard a lot about this thing called weight loss and lendale's name put in the same sentence a few times this offseason, but I also hear it's his contract year, as well as a ton of other titans, and i see him as another albert with slightly higher, consistent production over his time in TN.. but I think he's looking to follow the money since he knows TN doesn't pay stars. But I'll hold my judgement entirely until I see him perform, but I'm looking forward to watching 3 players in this years preseason, Patrick Ramsey, Nate Washington, and Rafael Little.
PK: I disagree with several things you said. No way has White been more productive than Haynesworth. No way does he ranks as a star. Ask Kyle Vanden Bosch, Michael Roos and Cortland Finnegan if the Titans pay.
daniel ceniceros: regarding your titans starter replacemnt question....i think it has to be jacob ford replacing jevon kearse i mean ford is a nice fresh young de with speed of the edge just like kearse use to but im not comparing ford to kearse in his prime....also how about scaife over crumpler i mean c'mon scaife wasnt even on the pro bowl ballot last year thats a joke.. i think harper is a solid cb and a good tackler and good against the run unfortunately doesnt have the speed u need to have at cb
TitanFanWV: ...The player I'd like to see replaced would have to be either Nick Harper or Jevon Kearse. Harper not so much for lack of playing ability more along the lines of age. We need to get a new young corner to play opposite of Cortland.
Jevon just isn't the same as his early days in Tennessee. Hayes or Ford could work better as pass rushers like Odem and LaBoy used to do for Tennessee. They don't exactly have the ability to stop the run but they could add another element to our pass rush
ranmanpats: Why does everyone think Harper is the weak link on the secondary? Would you consider Michael Haynes or Hanford Dixon weak links? Sure Lester Hayes and Frank Minnifield had the 'numbers', but that was because no one wanted to throw @ Haynes or Dixon. Do you think Finnigan has the 'numbers' for the same reason? I think Harper has been invaluable to our defense.
So, who to replace? I would like to see Jevon Kearse replaced. This is not a condemnation of Kearse, but a desire to see Jacob Ford or William Hayes make that next step and force us to start them. This would also give us a rested Kearse who could reduce his snaps but have fresh legs when he is in.
PK: I agree with you on Harper
-- I think he takes way too much heat from fans. I think he's been a pretty good piece of the secondary. Teams are going to complete some passes, and a decent number of them will be to his side with quarterbacks avoiding Finnegan. The secondary isn't going to pitch shutouts.
Darren in TN: Saw your post on "Which Titans starter to replace". Here's mine: I would like to see Jevon Kearse get replaced by a young DE possibly obtained in the draft, or a guy like Jacob Ford, who's working hard. Many would probably pick Nick Harper, but really we don't have much depth beyond Finnegan, Griffin, Hope, and Harper in the secondary. We have great D-line depth, so get someone to replace Kearse. By the way, if Eric Berry ( SS, Tennessee ) comes out in 2010, Titans need to draft him to replace Hope. Haha.
PK: I can see the Titans using Ford more in rush situations, but that wouldn't take Kearse out on first down which is where you get to rank as a starter.
Cameron in Monterey, CA: I am probably one of the only people in the world that is going to say this, but I would like to see Collins replaced with VY. A lot of people are going to say i'm crazy, but the sooner they figure out if he's worth keeping or letting go, the younger all of our guys will be to move forward with said QB. Maybe this year isn't the best year to do it with so many people going into a contract year, but that is just my opinion.
Zach in Dana Point: I want to see the titans replace kerry collins. I know it won't happen because he just re-signed, but personally I would've love to have seen the Chris Simms thing work out. I mean granted collins did well last year he's just another year older, and he didn't do anything in the playoffs to reassure titans fans of anything but his inability to win a superbowl. I wish the titans let him walk and go pursue his country career. Thank you for everything he did last year, but he is just too old. I mean I'd rather even give Vince Young another chance then just rely on someone who has at most two years left in the tank.
PK: Two years is two years, and he's better than the alternatives. He wasn't great against the Ravens, but he was good enough to win. He threw a costly pick, but he wasn't losing fumbles deep in Baltimore territory, that was Alge Crumpler and White.
As for Young, you are hardly alone. He had a great deal of support in the response to this. Lots of people running on faith more than performance, it appears.
Unknown from Saint Louis: What starter should be replaced? S. Tullock. I know MLB doesn't play much in their scheme, but get a guy who can play the pass and run.
PK: Whoever the MLB is, a good share of Titans fans always want to debate him and a good share of those want him replaced. The context is important -- he's on the field for roughly half the snaps as the Titans move into nickel so frequently.
x21dre: Honestly, I vote for Amano, Tulloch (or the MLB flavor of the year), or Scaife. These are probably less toted choices because Tennessee's perennial holes (A young gun-slinger QB, A deep-threat WR, or a shut-down corner) are more obvious.
However, Tennessee does not have a pass-first offense or a defense that necessitates a shut-down corner. They are a run-first offense with a front-seven heavy defense.
Amano is the weak-link in that O-Line, his ability to play multiple positions is the biggest reason he's been kept around. He's too slow a guard to create outside holes for C.J. and giving C.J. one more hole a game and might result one more touchdown a game.
Tulloch will get exposed this year in Haynesworth's absence and is, I believe, the weakest link on the entire defensive unit. Personally, I would have loved to see Tennessee make a run at Jerod Mayo last draft... but I have to admit C.J. (who I feared was another Chris Henry) turned out to be a brilliant pick.
Finally, Bo Scaife is a stud... as a #2 tight-end. Next to Heath Miller, Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, and Todd Heap (other playoff AFC team's tight ends), he is a little out-classed. A stud TE would elevate the play of the entire offense. Imagine play-action passes where Gage or Washington only receive single coverage because the safety is having to look underneath for that pesky, but dangerous TE crossing route.
Good luck writing this article Paul, you'll probably get every starter named by the end.
PK: Not quite every starter, but almost.
sublog713: While Harper is the weak link in the secondary, he is still pretty good as long as he gets help over the top. Since we run a lot of cover 2 shell, it works out well.
I would have to say I would like to see Mawae replaced by Harris. I like what Mawae brings to the table, but I think Harris is a better run blocker at this point.
Crumpler really showed nothing last year, he was a big disappointment on the field. Not that we have any better options to replace him with, though.
And I would like to see Kerry Collins replaced by someone too, although that person is not on our roster at the moment.
Andy Baggett in Nashville, TN: Dear Paul Thanks for the awesome blog, and intriguing question. Although it pains me to say it, the Titan I would like to see replaced is Kevin Mawae. Mawae is a excellent player, his resourcefulness and knowledge has helped the the young offensive line during the lowest point of the franchise. I believe the year he signed with the titans they were coming off a 4-12 season. But Mawae has missed the end of the past two regular seasons as well as both playoff losses, to San Diego and Baltimore respectively, due to injury. I though Leroy did a excellent job, against a Ravens front that loves to move around and keep the O line guessing. I think that going with a younger player at that position would allow the titans a greater chance of getting that allusive playoff win.
Chris from Idaho: I am gonna go out on a limb for what starter for the Titans should be replaced. I think it's time for Mawae to call it a career. I remember him getting beat up by Jenkins(Jets) all day. I also remeber LeRoy Harris(backup) handling Casey Hampton. The only downside is losing Mawaes recgonition of defenses, but I beleive in Munchanck enough to be ok with that. Let's get Harris in the mix and get chemistry with Scott and Stewart going!
PK: I think Harris is good, probably ready and stronger. But Mawae's leadership is a big factor, and he's going to be in there.
Jon in Franklin, TN: Punter Craig Hentrich should be replaced. His production was down last year, and his age is only going up. He is also prone to back probl
ems, with increased age, can occur at any time. He has been a great asset, but now has a diminishing return. Offseason would give a new holder time to get comfortable with Bironas. Sorry Craig, thanks for the memories.
Ross in Brentwood: In response to replacing a Titans' starter... Harper is the easy choice yes, mainly because of his age (which is why I expect them to go CB early in the draft, and have several of them when done) and because the Titans' secondary is so strong that he is relatively the "weakest link". Honestly I would like to see Bo Scaife replaced. I know he's been one of the more "reliable" targets in recent years (which isn't saying much considering the Titans' pass catchers), but statistically he is average at best, with last season being his best so far. He's certainly no Antonio Gates, not even a Frank Wycheck. He's been solid, but I think they could do better, and I think he probably has a higher value of himself than the team and will want more money next offseason when he comes off the tag, and thus will be gone.