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Friday, November 16, 2012
Bye week report: Titans’ questions

By Paul Kuharsky

Lingering questions about the 4-6 Titans as they hit their Week 11 bye:

How much progress can Jake Locker make?

The second year quarterback lost a lot of time because of his shoulder injury, but returned last week and played pretty well in the Titans’ big win in Miami. He’s the big story the rest of the way if Tennessee is to make an improbable charge and challenge for a playoff spot. But even if the Titans don’t, he needs to show the Titans' offense can be the explosive unit the team expected. He’s got quality weapons, though they are not all reliable. What sort of connection can he develop with Jared Cook and Kenny Britt? Can he show improved accuracy? Does he show that he can consistently find ways to win even if his stat line isn’t all bright and shiny?

Will the coordinators regain their footing?

When owner Bud Adams said the final seven games would be about evaluating everyone, it was easy to see the biggest targets are the team’s coordinators. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has good talent to work with. He needs to get some consistent production out of Locker and the team’s weapons. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has less talent to work with, but uses a scheme that doesn’t typically seem to maximize the chances at production and success. Mike Munchak and his assistants are only under contract through 2013, so any staff changes will be complicated as he’d need to be able to offer job security in order to upgrade.

Does Chris Johnson continue to play well?

It took too long, but the Titans have adjusted and found ways to create space for Johnson, and the running back has been far more assertive and effective of late. He’s got $9 million of his 2013 $10 million salary set to become guaranteed in March. Continued good play can put the Titans in position to give him that, though once again we can see money as a major motivator for him, which is a concern. The way he’s running now affects the way defenses deploy their people against the Titans, and should create opportunity for Locker to find receivers winning one-on-one matchups down the field.