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Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Titans' weakness: The passing game

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson

 
  Kenny Felt/Icon SMI
  Kerry Collins was solid in 2008 but is unlikely to improve or boost the passing game at this point.

We will examine each AFC South team's "weak spot" based on its 2008 performance. The Tennessee Titans' passing game was the weakest aspect of their game last season.

While I expect halfback Chris Johnson's role in the passing game to be enhanced this season -- making him even more dangerous overall-- I still see the Titans' passing attack as the team's biggest question mark.

Tennessee allowed veteran receivers Brandon Jones and Justin McCareins to depart. But the Titans drafted Rutgers star Kenny Britt in the first round and signed Steelers free agent Nate Washington. They also drafted an interesting prospect in South Carolina tight end Jared Cook. Consider how deep the Titans are at tight end: Cook, Bo Scaife and even veteran Alge Crumpler have excellent receiving skills. It would not be a surprise at all if Scaife were to lead the Titans in receptions again in 2009.

The peripheral options, namely Scaife and Johnson, are very strong, but it is the wideouts that I still have concerns about. But I concede that the weaponry should be more potent than it was last year.

Kerry Collins put together an impressive 2008 season and has progressed into a fine game manager. He also has a big arm and is a solid deep-ball passer, but he doesn't have a quick release and doesn't excel at making things happen when the play doesn't go to script. Collins is not the type of quarterback who enhances the production of the receivers around him. Collins completed just under 59 percent of his passes and managed only 12 touchdown tosses in 2008.

Tennessee scores points on the ground and I doubt whether Collins really has turned the corner in his 15th NFL season. Remember, this is a quarterback with a lifetime passer rating of 73.8 and who has thrown only seven more touchdowns than interceptions over his long career.

Scouts Inc.: Weaknesses
• AFC: South | East
• NFC: North | South

Washington is a big-play weapon who can get downfield, but he remains very inconsistent with his route running and drops too many catchable passes. Still, his deep abilities could be very useful considering Collins' arm strength and the excellent protection that the Titans' offensive line provides.

Wide receiver Justin Gage caught only 34 passes last year, but six of them were for touchdowns and his 19.1 yards per reception average is quite impressive. This is a player whose stock is climbing, and his size in the red zone and in other one-on-one situations is particularly appealing.

As "weak links" go, the Titans' passing game -- and the wide receivers more specifically -- is not horrible. The overall group of pass catchers should be improved from a year ago. So calling this a major weakness is a stretch on my part, but the proof will come on the field if advancements actually are a reality. But I do have my doubts.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.