AFC South: Jordan Babineaux

The return of the Twitter mailbag

September, 7, 2013
9/07/13
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans made the right choice in going with Alterraun Verner over Tommie Campbell as their starting cornerback opposite Jason McCourty.

Campbell is bigger, stronger and faster, which prompted the Titans to over-tout him in training camp in 2012 and again this year.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray was a physically gifted cornerback, too, when he played for the Rams, Oilers and Buccaneers. Gray earned four Pro Bowl appearances from 1985-93.

A year ago, the Titans were looking for Campbell to either win an outside job as a starter or prove capable of taking over an outside job in the nickel package, allowing Verner to shift inside. After a camp full of hype about Campbell, the Titans then pulled an opening-day surprise with Ryan Mouton playing nickel.

[+] EnlargeTommie Campbell
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyTommie Campbell was not able to beat out Alterraun Verner as the starting cornerback.
Gray has talked about how important it is for a corner to be smart, and that is one of Verner's top qualities. At another point the coordinator spoke of how, given a raw player with great speed, he would be able to shape him into an effective player. Campbell fits in that category.

Today’s development is mostly about Campbell. He failed to seize a massive opportunity heading into his third year. The Titans wanted him to win the job and he couldn't navigate the road they paved for him.

But it’s an indictment of Gray and the defensive coaches, too. They’ve either overestimated Campbell, failed to develop him or both.

Here’s Mike Munchak’s positive spin when I asked about Gray’s failure to mold the Campbell clay into what he indicated he could:

“Well it’s not over yet, Tommie’s still here, Tommie’s still part of our team. I guess the timing for everyone is always different, how quickly they come on, how they can contribute, how quickly they can take over a position. It’s still a work in progress and like I said, give Vern some credit too for playing well and doing a good job. We still have both of them on our football team and this conversation can change quickly depending on what happens. He’s still in it, he’s still able to keep getting better, as far as who’s first, it’s going to be Vern.

Getting limited second team reps in practice and working on the scout team does not provide the same opportunity to get better that Campbell had through the summer, camp and the preseason.

Campbell was not in the Titans’ locker room during a lengthy period during which it was open to the media Monday. A team official said he didn’t know where Campbell was.

Free safety Michael Griffin said Campbell is still learning some of the nuances of playing cornerback in games.

“In practice, Tommie does a good job, he plays physical,” Griffin said. “When it comes to the games, I guess the hardest part is trying to understand what’s legal, what’s not legal. Because he gets away with a lot of things at practice. But I wouldn’t count Tommie out, you never know when his name may be called.”

Verner was gracious, saying he and Campbell are friends who were rooting for each other and wanted it to come down to who made more plays and not be about either of them failing.

I like Verner and think he’s a heady football player. His training camp body of work was better.

But the 2012 Titans gave up the most points in the NFL and the most points in franchise history. The team ranked 26th in pass defense.

And so the solution in the secondary was to sub out a subpar strong safety, Jordan Babineaux, with Bernard Pollard. Pollard is a better player, but he’s not an ace in coverage, though, he doesn’t care for people to say so.

Of the Titans first five defensive backs, four of them -- McCourty, Verner, Griffin and nickel back Coty Sensabaugh -- are the same as they were last year.

Perhaps that group matures and plays better and has a better pass rush in front of it.

But the Titans strategy with regard to the pass rush wasn’t to add a premier pass-rusher. It was to bring in run defenders to reduce the workload of the rushers already in place.

Derrick Morgan and Akeem Ayers will be the primary edge pass-rushers with Kamerion Wimbley getting work too. Those three, too, were part of the defense that let teams score an average of 29.4 points a game.

With Gregg Williams’ influence, they will surely blitz more.

My big lingering question is, "Did the Titans change enough on defense?"

The Pittsburgh game will begin to tell the story.

But the offense might want to aim to score 30.
In early March, I outlined a five-category plan for offseason moves for each team in the AFC South.

I considered finances, continuity, turnover, additions and the draft.

Today we’ve looked back to see how my plan and the team’s offseason lined up and how they didn’t.

Last up are the Titans. Here’s the original post.

What I got right:

Finances: “There are contracts here that need to be dealt with, but the team has about $18 million in cap room at the start and there's no need to make any moves right away. Guard Steve Hutchinson ($5.25 million base in 2013) and center Eugene Amano ($3.935 million) can't be on the roster at those salaries, and won’t be. Safety Jordan Babineaux ($1.6 million) could be in a similar situation. But the Titans have said they won’t make cap moves until replacement players arrive, and that’s sound thinking.”

Hutchinson, Amano and Babineaux all are gone. It took a while with Amano, but the Titans needed a knee issue to be resolved before they could let him go.

Continuity: “Keeping kicker Rob Bironas would be nice, but you can only spend so much on a kicker, considering how we’ve seen some kids come out of nowhere and do big things. [Since this was posted, The Tennessean reported the Titans struck a two-year deal with Bironas.] Tight end Jared Cook was enough of a problem that the Titans didn’t tag him, so they must move on from the headache. Center Fernando Velasco should be fine if he’s between better guards; the Titans should tender the restricted free agent so that he’s sure to remain. It’d be nice to keep Darius Reynaud, but if Marc Mariani returns healthy, Tennessee doesn’t need both returners.”

They let Cook walk for a giant contract with the Rams, tendered Velesaco, and kept Reynaud.

Turnover: Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks is probably not worth what he might draw on the market, so be ready to move on there. Will Witherspoon wasn’t a good enough backup for injury-prone Colin McCarthy at middle linebacker, and an upgrade is needed.

Marks wound up in Jacksonville, Witherspoon is unsigned and Moise Fokou was signed as they looked to upgrade linebacking depth.

What I got part right, part wrong:

Additions: “It’s time to be aggressive. Chase Buffalo’s durable guard, Andy Levitre, and lure him by telling him how much better he can get with the polish two Hall of Fame coaches can apply. The other big fish needs to be Michael Bennett, the Tampa Bay defensive end. He’s a big, ascending player who can play every down and would give the pass rush the boost it needs. Dustin Keller was hurt last year, but he played in every game in his first five seasons. He can be the reliable tight end working underneath for Jake Locker that Frank Wycheck was for Steve McNair. To replace Marks, roll the dice on Kansas City defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who should be affordable and might fare well in a second act with lower expectations.”

Levitre was their primary target. But the Titans went different directions at the other spots -- Ropati Pitoitua at end, Delanie Walker at tight end and Sammie Hill at defensive tackle.

Draft: If Alabama guard Chance Warmack is on the board at No. 10, he would complete the interior line rebuild. I want a corner who can provide another option outside, a safety to groom behind George Wilson and one of the big running backs in the middle rounds who can complement Chris Johnson.

Warmack was the pick at No. 10. The corner arrived in the form of third-rounder Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The additional safety and running back came in free agency, not the draft, with Bernard Pollard and Shonn Greene.
A review of the best member of the 2012 Tennessee Titans who’s still unsigned:

Will Witherspoon was a good guy in the Titans' locker room and there were Sundays when he was a good linebacker. But he was not as big a leader as the Titans may have expected when they signed him in 2010 and he was not as consistent a player as they needed him to be.

In three seasons in Tennessee he started 35 games. But in his final season he started only five and was much more of a role player.

It was his 11th season and the Titans needed to go younger and find more consistency in a veteran linebacker who could play more than one position.

Moise Fokou was signed as a free agent and could be that guy and Zaviar Gooden was drafted in the third round to back up Zach Brown on the weak side and perhaps take on a role in the nickel package.

Witherspoon said he wants to play 15 years. So far he hasn’t found a team that wants to give him No. 12.

Among others still unsigned: Guard Leroy Harris, safety Jordan Babineaux, cornerback Ryan Mouton and running back Javon Ringer.
The early volume out of the AFC South as free agency opened came from Tennessee, where the Titans reached a five-year, $39 million agreement in principle with Buffalo's Andy Levitre.

Once he passes a physical, he figured to solidify an interior offensive line that has become a major issue. He will take over left guard from the retired Steve Hutchinson. Better play from the interior, where the Titans likely will draft a second starting guard, should do a lot to help the play of quarterback Jake Locker and running back Chris Johnson.

The Titans also have agreed on a four-year deal with San Francisco tight end Delanie Walker, who will take over the spot of departing free agent Jared Cook.

Here is Scouts Inc. on Levitre:
"Levitre is a short, athletic interior offensive lineman who has played with great technique and intensity. He lacks great strength at the point of attack in the running game but understands leverage and can anchor well against more powerful bull rushers. He wins with intelligence, toughness, athleticism and effort. Levitre is the Bills' most consistent and durable offensive lineman, making all 64 starts in four seasons."

And Scouts Inc. on Walker:
"Walker is an excellent player who fills a lot of roles for the 49ers. He is used as an inline tight end as well as an H-back or lead fullback. He is a very good route-runner who is quick on his release and has the ability to drop his hips to get in and out of his breaks with foot quickness and a burst to separate. He is quick to read coverages and has become a solid third-down option, coming up with clutch receptions. He is not a powerful inline blocker but will show effort and some pop and power as a lead blocker."

Two others have also emerged as Titans targets: Lions defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill and Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola.

I don’t know what kind of chance the Titans have to land those two on top of the two they've already hooked. But that would make for a very solid four-pack of additions. They’ve already added safety George Wilson. Today they also subtracted two players, releasing safety Jordan Babineaux and guard Mitch Petrus.

I'm impressed with the Titans' speed out of the gate here. They need to make substantial additions to this roster and are off to a rousing start.
My plan for the Tennessee Titans as we approach the start of the 2013 NFL calendar year:

Finances: There are contracts here that need to be dealt with, but the team has about $18 million in cap room at the start and there's no need to make any moves right away. Guard Steve Hutchinson ($5.25 million base in 2013) and center Eugene Amano ($3.935 million) can't be on the roster at those salaries, and won’t be. Safety Jordan Babineaux ($1.6 million) could be in a similar situation. But the Titans have said they won’t make cap moves until replacement players arrive, and that’s sound thinking.

Continuity: Keeping kicker Rob Bironas would be nice, but you can only spend so much on a kicker, considering how we’ve seen some kids come out of nowhere and do big things. [Since this was posted, The Tennessean reported the Titans struck a two-year deal with Bironas.] Tight end Jared Cook was enough of a problem that the Titans didn’t tag him, so they must move on from the headache. Center Fernando Velasco should be fine if he’s between better guards; the Titans should tender the restricted free agent so that he’s sure to remain. It’d be nice to keep Darius Reynaud, but if Marc Mariani returns healthy, Tennessee doesn’t need both returners.

Turnover: Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks is probably not worth what he might draw on the market, so be ready to move on there. Will Witherspoon wasn’t a good enough backup for injury-prone Colin McCarthy at middle linebacker, and an upgrade is needed.

Additions: It’s time to be aggressive. Chase Buffalo’s durable guard, Andy Levitre, and lure him by telling him how much better he can get with the polish two Hall of Fame coaches can apply. The other big fish needs to be Michael Bennett, the Tampa Bay defensive end. He’s a big, ascending player who can play every down and would give the pass rush the boost it needs. Dustin Keller was hurt last year, but he played in every game in his first five seasons. He can be the reliable tight end working underneath for Jake Locker that Frank Wycheck was for Steve McNair. To replace Marks, roll the dice on Kansas City defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who should be affordable and might fare well in a second act with lower expectations.

Draft: If Alabama guard Chance Warmack is on the board at No. 10, he would complete the interior line rebuild. I want a corner who can provide another option outside, a safety to groom behind George Wilson and one of the big running backs in the middle rounds who can complement Chris Johnson.

How gap between Titans, Ravens grew

January, 28, 2013
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The Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens used to be bitter rivals, closely matched.

Then Tennessee collapsed in a playoff game after the 2000 season at what now is LP Field, losing 24-10 despite dominating the game in a lot of ways.

Since that fork in the road, the teams have gone in very different directions.

Writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean: “The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl, and they will play for a second championship on Sunday in New Orleans against the San Francisco 49ers. The Titans, meanwhile, haven’t won a playoff game in nine years and are coming off a 6-10 season.”

But that’s not the line of demarcation I’ll use.

The 2008 Titans were the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The sixth-seeded Ravens won in Miami to earn another playoff trip to Nashville. And Tennessee lost that divisional round game in a similar fashion to the game in 2000, even though the score was a lot closer, 13-10.

Since then:
  • The Titans are 29-35 (.453) with no playoff appearances.
  • The Ravens are 43-21 (.672) with a 6-3 playoff record.

That playoff meeting in Nashville was Joe Flacco’s second playoff game, and while he’s had his ups and downs, he’s now a Super Bowl quarterback.

Since then, the Titans have started Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker and, in an emergency situations, Rusty Smith.

Instability at quarterback is only part of the reasons the teams have been so different.

John Harbaugh has developed into a steady coach while Jeff Fisher’s tenure fizzled out and Mike Munchak hasn’t established any solid footing after two seasons.

Led by one of the NFL’s top general managers, Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have continued good roster building.

The Titans actually have more starters and contributors out of their last four drafts, but it’s partly because of previous failures -- think Young, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Chris Henry, Paul Williams -- that so much opportunity is available.

Baltimore’s gotten far more production out of outside veterans it’s brought in: Center Matt Birk, receiver Anquan Boldin (via trade), fullback Vonta Leach, safety Bernard Pollard, resurgent left tackle Bryant McKinnie, receiver/returner Jacoby Jones.

Compare that to Tennessee’s veteran additions: Receiver Nate Washington, linebacker Will Witherspoon, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, safety Jordan Babineaux, guard Steve Hutchinson, end Kamerion Wimbley, returner Darius Reynaud.

The Titans fired their offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, and didn’t see much change with Dowell Loggains promoted to replace Chris Palmer.

The Ravens fired their offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, and got a major boost from Jim Caldwell taking over for Cam Cameron.

It’s a copycat league, and the Ravens were already a model franchise in many ways.

The Titans are one of a long list of teams that need to look at how the Ravens work and borrow some ideas.

Quarterback is the key, but the gap between these two teams was a playoff field goal just four years ago. It’s a deep moat now.

Priority one: Tennessee Titans

January, 23, 2013
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Today we look at the biggest issues facing each team in the AFC South and give you an opportunity to assess priority one:

Pending free agents of note: Tight end Jared Cook, kicker Rob Bironas, return man Darius Reynaud, fullback Quinn Johnson, guard Leroy Harris, defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks.

Weaknesses: Defense. The Titans couldn’t stop good teams from moving the ball and scoring points. They need a better pass rush to hurry quarterbacks up and better safeties/ safety play to bolster the secondary. Jake Locker was inaccurate and inefficient in his first year as the quarterback, plus he got hurt.

Unsettled starting jobs: All three interior offensive line positions require attention. Steve Hutchinson could retire, but isn’t the answer at left guard if he doesn’t unless the other two spots get big upgrades. Fernando Velasco was the center after a camp injury to Eugene Amano, and Harris was the right guard until an injury ended his year. Strong safety is up in the air too, where Jordan Babineaux and Al Afalava don't cut it.

Depth issues: Critics will be quick to say the offensive line depth is a question, but the Titans needed starts from six backups, and no one can be 11 deep on the line. Upgrade starters and the backups may be fine. They aren’t deep enough at end or safety. They need a better option for if/when middle linebacker Colin McCarthy is hurt. I’m OK with the top three corners, but one injury and they’re in trouble.

Health concerns: Locker had postseason surgery on his left, non-throwing shoulder. On the offensive line, Hutchinson had right knee surgery after he was injured with four games left and right tackle David Stewart is coming off a broken leg. Returner Marc Mariani suffered a compound broken left leg, tibia and fibula, in the preseason. Kenny Britt was back from knee issues, but was determined to get to the bottom of swelling and soreness this offseason.

Unseen issue: Coach Mike Munchak fired four assistants (including offensive coordinator Chris Palmer during the season) and brought in three outsiders while moving some others around. Will we see improved play on special teams and from linebackers, tight ends, receivers and running backs?

RTC: Locker has shoulder repaired

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
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Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

If the Texans struggled with Aaron Hernandez, how are they going to stop Rob Gronkowski, too? John McClain of the Chronicle considers the question from Houston, while Tania Ganguli looks at it from New England.

Shayne Graham hasn’t missed a field goal shorter than 46 yards all season, says Dale Robertson of the Chronicle.

The Bears will travel to Houston to interview Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison on Friday, says McClain.

J.J. Watt paid tribute to Craig Biggio, who narrowly missed the baseball hall of fame.

Two looks at how the Texans don’t even give themselves a shot in the red zone. Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report picks up on something I wrote and expands on it.

Indianapolis Colts

His inner ear infection is resolved and Bruce Arians is set to interview Sunday with the Bears, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. Jim Irsay’s offered a sizable raise for Arians to stay.

A long and thorough list of things the Star’s Phillip B. Wilson will remember about the 2012 Colts.

If Arians leaves, who will replace him, asks Dunlevy. Andrew Luck will make someone a genius.

Jacksonville Jaguars

David Caldwell will be introduced as Jaguars general manager this afternoon. Perhaps by then a decision will have been made on the coaching staff, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Justin Blackmon and Bryan Anger are on PFW’s All-Rookie Team, says O’Halloran.

Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker had shoulder surgery Wednesday and if his recovery of his non-throwing shoulder goes well he’ll be throwing in June, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Jordan Babineaux hopes he is with the Titans for the second year of his two-year contract, says Wyatt.

Before Dave Gettleman was hired as GM of the Carolina Panthers, Titans vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson interviewed for the job, says Wyatt.

The AFC South in Pro Bowl fan voting

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
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Updated Pro Bowl voting results are in. Fan votes count one-third, with player votes and coach votes that come later also counting a third.

You can vote here until Monday night’s game between the Jets and Titans finishes up.

Here’s how AFC South players stand in the top five by position:

Quarterbacks
Running backs
Wide receivers
Fullbacks
Tight ends
Offensive tackles
Guards
Centers
Defensive ends
Defensive tackles
  • None
Outside linebackers
Inside linebackers
  • None
Cornerbacks
Strong safeties
Free safeties
Kickers
  • None
Punters
Kicker
  • None
Punters
  • None
Kick returners
  • None
Special teamer

Updated Pro Bowl voting numbers

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
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Updated Pro Bowl voting numbers are in. Fan votes count one-third with player votes and coach votes that come later also counting a third.

My biggest issues here: Titans safety Jordan Babineaux and Texans guard Antoine Caldwell have been demoted and still rank here. Meanwhile, Duane Brown is widely regarded as the best left tackle in the league to this point, and stands just fourth.

Pleasant surprise: Kareem Jackson, a Texans corner, getting some love, which he deserves.

AWOL: Paul Posluszny of the Jaguars is a top-five inside linebacker but nowhere to be found here.

You can vote here. Balloting will conclude on Monday, December 17 following the conclusion of Monday Night Football. The teams will be announced at 7:00 pm ET on Wednesday, Dec. 26.

Here’s how AFC South players stand in the top five by position:

Quarterbacks
Running backs
Wide receivers
Fullbacks
Tight ends
Offensive tackles
  • Duane Brown, Houston, fourth
Guards
  • Antoine Caldwell, Houston, third
  • Wade Smith, Houston, fourth
Centers
Defensive ends
Defensive tackles
  • None
Outside linebackers
Inside linebackers
  • None
Cornerbacks
Strong safeties
  • Jordan Babineaux, Tennessee, third
  • Glover Quin, Houston, fourth
Free safeties
Kickers
  • None
Punters
Reading the coverage ...

NFL rules have “grown into a convoluted mess, with no sense of what is reasonable or even needed. It's as though the NFL is trying to keep everyone -- the players, the fans, the coaches, even the officials -- in a constant state of guesswork.” Paul Newberry of AP makes a case for trimming the rulebook.

To which I say: I completely disagree with trimming the pass interference penalty to a 15-yard penalty. Defensive backs would be coached to interfere too often.

Houston Texans

The only playoff mystery for the Texans now is their seeding, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “The Texans don’t even want to think about this right now, but if they avoid an upset against the Titans and lose to the Patriots, they can still get home-field advantage by defeating Indianapolis twice and Minnesota. If the Texans lose to the Patriots, New England will earn the head-to-head tiebreaker if it becomes necessary to determine playoff seeding. But if the Texans win the rest of their games to finish 14-2, the Patriots would be 13-3 at best.”

To which I say: A loss at New England isn't a given. The defense could play better and the Texans might be able to hang in a shootout.

The defensive fixes need to include a better pass rush, says McClain.

A late look at Lance Zierlein’s reaction to the Texans’ win in Detroit. “I would take last year’s pass rush in a heartbeat over this year’s.”

Indianapolis Colts

We thought the Colts were crazy to dismiss talk of rebuilding before the season started, says Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. Robert Mathis asked the columnist if he was still using the word. “Heck, no, I'm not,” writes Kravitz.

Via text, Chuck Pagano urged T.Y. Hilton to “stretch and cut” as he returned punts, writes Phil Richards of the Star. He did just that and ignited the Colts with a 75-yard touchdown return.

Hilton is the first Colt in team history with a punt return and receiving touchdown in the same game, says Zak Keefer.

His teammates have taken to calling Jerrell Freeman “Baby Ray,” as in Ray Lewis, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Star.

Look at this story just to see the picture of Pagano responding to the crowd’s salute of him in Jim Irsay’s box on Sunday. Mike Chappell tells the story.

To which I say: I love the vantage point of this shot by Matt Kryger of The Star because it puts Pagano in the crowd and shows him right in the middle of the people who are embracing him.

The Colts' special season seems to defy logic, says Reggie Hayes of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.

Cheerleader Megan M. talks about getting her head shaved to honor Pagano.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars did enough things right against the Titans to end their seven-game losing streak, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. Mike Mularkey greeted each player with a chest bump as they arrived in the locker room. “Hopefully the spell is broken,” owner Shad Khan said.

Jacksonville gave up seven sacks, some to blitzers who were unblocked, says O’Halloran.

Cecil Shorts “has evolved into more than just the clear-cut Most Valuable Player so far in the Jaguars' underachieving 2012 season. He epitomizes what this franchise so desperately needs, but doesn't have yet in a big enough supply: a young player growing up and flourishing almost overnight.” Gene Frenette of the Times-Union on the Jaguars’ blossoming receiver.

To which I say: Shorts is the example. If you are making a list of young up-and-comers, who's No. 2 for the Jaguars? There is hardly an obvious choice.

Chad Henne wasn’t rattled by early struggles, says Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

Last week, Mularkey urged his team to dig three feet deeper, says Vito Stellino.

The offense needed a change, Blaine Gabbert has a chance to be the guy and Shorts has a chance to be better than good, says John Oehser of Jaguars.com.

More NFL teams are interested in advanced statistics, but teams are pretty guarded about their use, says Judy Battista of The New York Times. The Jaguars and Tony Khan talk about how they try to use such numbers.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans proved again they are not good enough to help themselves, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. “They repeatedly settled for field goals thanks to dropped passes, failures in the run game and the inability to make plays at crucial moments.”

Mike Munchak found the right word for what the Titans have achieved: mediocrity. David Climer of The Tennessean agrees.

Against a defense that’s been porous, the Titans didn’t even move into the red zone until the fourth quarter, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

To which I say: While the defense gave up too many plays, this loss is pinned on the offense for sure.

The Titans recorded seven sacks but still allowed the Jaguars enough big plays to win, says Glennon.

A replay ruling that didn't give Damian Williams a touchdown hurt the Titans, Jordan Babineaux got benched again and Rob Bironas felt he should have been perfect, says Wyatt.

Wrap-up: Jaguars 24, Titans 19

November, 25, 2012
11/25/12
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Thoughts on the Jaguars’ 24-19 win over the Titans at EverBank Field:

What it means: The Jaguars won for the first time since Sept. 23 at Indianapolis, with Chad Henne leading three touchdown drives while Jacksonville’s defense kept the Titans out of the end zone until there was only 4:52 left in the game. Tennessee came off its bye hoping to go on a run and fight for a playoff spot. Now, at 4-7, it’ll take a five-game winning streak just to finish over .500.

What I liked, Jaguars: They let the Titans pull within two points with just inside five minutes left. Then they went three-and-out. But they didn’t fall apart. After punting it back to Tennessee, they got the play of the game from Russell Allen and Dwight Lowery. Allen leaped to tip a Jake Locker pass intended for Jared Cook and Lowery went down to pick it off. The offense milked the clock to 29 seconds before Josh Scobee boosted the lead to 24-19 with a 41-yard field goal.

What I didn’t like, Titans: On a day when the defense could be rated as OK, the offense didn’t do as much as it needed to. Tennessee was overly reliant on Rob Bironas’ leg, and he hit four of five field goals, missing a 42-yarder wide left that could have made things a lot different. One touchdown against the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL is not winning football.

More involved: The Jaguars did good work getting tight end Marcedes Lewis more involved in the passing game with mixed results. On the Jaguars’ early touchdown drive, he pulled in a well-timed throw into a seam. But later he juggled and dropped a pass with Jordan Babineaux in coverage. Lewis finished with four catches for 56 yards. Meanwhile, receiver Cecil Shorts continued his breakthrough with another 100-yard game as he took four catches 105 yards, including a 59-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown where Babineaux took a bad angle.

Steady pressure: The Titans sacked Henne seven times, with nice extra pressure coming from linebackers Akeem Ayers, Zach Brown and safety Michael Griffin. Griffin’s fourth-quarter sack pushed the Jaguars out of field goal range. Little-used defensive tackle Karl Klug, who had seven sacks as a rookie last season, got his first sack to force a punt that got the Titans the ball back late.

Ouch: A year ago, the Titans lost to the 0-13 Colts. Now they lost to the 1-9 Jaguars.

What’s next: Jacksonville travels to Buffalo for a meeting with the Bills. The Titans host division-leading Houston at LP Field. The Texans won the first meeting 38-14 in Nashville on Sept. 30.

The AFC South in early Pro Bowl voting

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
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Fan voting for the Pro Bowl tends to be a joke in my eyes.

The evidence so far, from an AFC South perspective:
  • Houston's Duane Brown, who's been just dominating, is fourth among AFC tackles.
  • Houston's Antoine Caldwell, who’s no longer the starter at right tackle, is third among guards.
  • Tennessee's Jordan Babineaux , who recently hasn’t been part of the base defense, is second in strong safeties.

That’s all ridiculous.

Here’s where AFC South players stand in the Top 5 among vote getters so far.

Quarterback
Running back
Fullback
  • James Casey, Houston, second
  • Dwyane Allen, Indianapolis, third
Tight end
Wide receiver
Offensive tackle
  • Duane Brown, Houston, fourth
Guard
  • Antoine Caldwell, Houston, third
  • Wade Smith, Houston, fourth
Center
Defensive end
Defensive tackle
  • None
Outside linebacker
Inside linebacker
  • None
Cornerback
Strong safety
  • Jordan Babineaux, Tennessee, second
  • Glover Quin, Houston, fifth
Free safety
  • None
Kicker
  • None
Punter
Kick returner
  • None
Special-teamer

Fraying Titans overmatched by Bears

November, 4, 2012
11/04/12
9:06
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Mike MunchakAP Photo/Wade PayneMike Munchak and the Titans have a lot of work to do after Sunday's blowout loss to the Bears.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans coaches warned players all week about how Charles Tillman strips the ball, offering specifics of his techniques.

Then four Titans went out and got stripped by the Bears cornerback, including Kenny Britt on the game’s first play from scrimmage.

What does that say about the quality of players on Tennessee’s roster and their ability to absorb and execute a coaching message?

Not anything good.

Tennessee unraveled quickly and thoroughly en route to its 51-20 loss to the Bears on Sunday at LP Field. It would have been hard to play a worse first quarter had the Titans prepared a game plan for it. And some of their gaffes made it hard to see anything but an undisciplined, unprepared and ineffective cast of characters that isn’t the nucleus for a resurgence but a core lacking the sort of central DNA necessary to create a contender.

It also created more questions in my mind than I’ve ever had before about the job security of coach Mike Munchak and his staff.

“If a team underperforms, I’m the first guy you should look at for that, not anybody else, not assistant coaches, it starts with me,” Munchak said. “If we don’t finish the season the way it should, then what needs to happen will happen. ...

“We’ve got seven games to play. If we win all seven, all of a sudden this would be kind of a wasted argument.”

Yes, on the heels of this debacle, let’s dream of seven-game winning streaks.

But first, how about cleaning up things like illegal-formation penalties on consecutive first-quarter plays, where a receiver covered up the tight end?

“We had those plays in our hands days ago and had a meeting about it [Saturday] night and had a meeting about it [Sunday] morning,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “I don’t know what to say. That’s not good.”

Rookie receiver Kendall Wright said he thought he was responsible for at least one of the calls.

“It hurt the team a lot,” he said. “But what I did at practice all week, I thought I was on the ball. I screwed it up. It’s my fault all the way.”

He thought he was on the ball all week, but he was supposed to be off the ball and no one spotted it or corrected it until the officiating crew got a look on Sunday? Sorry, but that is some major evidence in a case against the people running things for this team right now.

“We just have to pay attention more and know the right things to do, know where to line up,” Chris Johnson said. “These coaches all week gave us the right formula and we had a good week of practice. It makes it even worse when you have a good week of practice and do everything right during the week, get to the game and mess up.”

The Titans were out of this game in a flash, trailing 28-2 at the end of an atrocious first quarter.

“We screwed up from the get-go,” guard Steve Hutchinson said.

[+] EnlargeCharles Tillman
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesChicago's Charles Tillman made an impact right from the start of Sunday's game.
The log for the first 15 minutes:
“That first quarter is horrible,” Wright said. “We can’t spot anybody 28 points and expect to come back and win.”

Jordan Babineaux was the one Titans player I talked to who didn’t offer an immediate defense of the coaches and the plan.

“You got any questions, you’ve got to ask the defensive coordinator,” he said, referring to Jerry Gray.

I asked about the blocked punt, where he was lined up as the personal protector, but where he didn’t offer protection, running to the right and cutting out of the backfield entirely. He said I’d need to ask the special-teams coach, Alan Lowry.

The Titans’ margin for error is obviously small against a good team. They didn’t have room for this brand of clunker.

“Sometimes what is said is that wasn’t us and we’ll just sweep it under the rug and get back to being us,” Hasselbeck said. “But those are good teams that built a cushion for themselves that are up front in their division and playoffs are probably on the way anyway. ... We can’t have a stinker. We can’t just lay an egg like that. So that’s what’s disappointing. It’s hard to say that just wasn’t us.”

“It’s a bad loss,” McCourty said. “When you go out and it’s as embarrassing as that is, it just sucks to be a part of it.”

Where do they go from here?

A year ago, they were 9-7, narrowly missing the playoffs. This year it looks like that record could earn a spot in the postseason field. There are a couple of teams every year that weren’t looking good at the halfway point and finish big.

Munchak will sell the Titans that they can be that team.

What degree of belief will he get back? What degree of belief does he deserve back?

Down 31-5 at the half, he challenged his team to go out and do something special, something unexpected.

That didn’t happen.

After it was over, he preached about how everyone is in this together, how they’ve got to stick together, that they can’t split.

Munchak may be able to glue players together and the roster may be composed of guys who will stay unified. The sad truth is such solidarity may ultimately not mean a thing when it comes to altering the Titans’ fortunes.

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