AFC South: Shonn Greene

Titans Camp Report: Day 18

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
7:16
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:

  • The offense played a lot better than it did on Monday, with Jake Locker throwing three red-zone TD passes a day after he was shut out. There was still some sloppiness. Jackie Battle dropped two passes, and Taylor Thompson dropped one. Shonn Greene had a fumble, though he didn’t run the customary punishment lap which may have been because it was ruled to happen after the whistle (though there isn’t really a whistle).
  • In seven-on-seven work Charlie Whitehurst connected with Michael Preston on a deep ball over cornerback Ri'Shard Anderson. I’ve noted before that Whitehurst has put a lot of air under a lot of his deep stuff. This one was more of a line drive.
  • Kendall Wright continues to look amazing. It looks as if his confidence is as high as possible, and anything thrown near him is practically a sure thing. I hit him several times on Instagram.
  • Justin Hunter also had several good catches, beating Jason McCourty on a go route and going up easily over Tommie Campbell in the back right corner of the end zone in red zone 1-on-1s.
  • Bishop Sankey ran more authoritatively than he did a day earlier, when he fumbled a couple times. He had two live goal-line chances from the 2-yard line. The first was debatable -- I wasn’t sure he got in, he said he’s biased but admitted it needed a tape review. He was stuffed pretty quickly on a second snap.
  • Both sides were feisty. Bernard Pollard and Nate Washington had an extened back-and-forth hollering at each other, as did Daimion Stafford and Leon Washintgon. Washington told Stafford, “You can’t hit me” to which Stafford replied “You’re too little.” That exchange was repeated several times. Linebacker David Gilbert, back after a stretch out with a shoulder injury, flung tight end Chase Coffman to the ground to start a fight that spilled over. The Gilbert-Coffman dustup wasn’t anything beyond ordinary but leaked into a couple different shoving matches.
  • Right after that scrap, Anderson picked off Zach Mettenberger in the back right corner of the end zone. Anderson's been making some plays, but also gets beat. He seems like an all-or-nothing type at this point.
  • Derek Hagan caught a mid-range pass near the numbers on the right side in between a lot of defenders. I feel like he’s consistently good at finding that space on that play or ones similar to it.

Titans Camp Report: Day 17

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
7:21
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • It was a horrific day for the offense, which came out flat and had mistakes in every area you can think of. There were multiple drops, fumbles, interceptions and bad snaps. Ken Whisenhunt downplayed it as one bad day, and of course it was, but the degree of badness was alarming. Said receiver Derek Hagan, who dropped a pass near the end of practice “It was bad, we didn’t get anything going at all. It was a crazy day. Nobody was catching the ball, bad blocking, missed assignments. Just an overall bad day.”
  • Shonn Greene had a fumble that Zach Brown recovered. Bishop Sankey fumbled twice, the first recovered by Brandon Copeland and the second bounced back to Sankey.
  • Kendall Wright streaked across the middle to collect a Locker pass, beating Jason McCourty. Michael Preston made a nice catch over Coty Sensabaugh up the left side from Charlie Whitehurst. Taylor Thompson had a couple more nice plays.
  • Jake Locker made a bad throw for Nate Washington in the right side of the end zone in red zone work. Tommie Campbell may have pushed off, but he easily collected the bad throw.
  • Whitehurst threw a terrible pick as he looked for Marc Mariani to his right. The line drive throw was easily caught by Blidi Wreh-Wilson who was practically halfway between quarterback and his target. Perhaps the worst play of all on a terrible day.
  • Daimion Stafford had a nice breakup of a throw for Mariani, whose helmet popped off in the process. Ri'Shard Anderson broke up a Zach Mettenberger dart for Hagan. Wreh-Wilson had a too-easy breakup of a Locker pass for Dexter McCluster. The defense made some plays, for sure. But more of the offensive failures were self-inflicted.
  • Justin Hunter wore a jersey that said “J A G” across the back instead of “Hunter.” He said Whisenhunt and receivers coach Shawn Jefferson talked to him after he forgot to convert a route Saturday night. Hunter didn’t know they’d follow through with the jersey, but they did. He said he’ll continue to work to be more than “just a guy.”
  • Hunter made a nice play in the middle of the field, winning a contested ball from Locker by taking it away from safety Michael Griffin.
  • Among the targets with drops: Delanie Walker, Preston, Washington (who had a chance to recollect the ball on the sideline but bobbled it until his feet were out), Thompson, Hagan.
  • Guard Andy Levitre said he played one game at center for the Bills against Miami and was bad at it. Whisenhunt reminded a questioner that he’d said in the past he intended to work Levitre a little at center to prepare a contingency. Now with Chris Spencer (ankle) out, it was the right time. Levitre said he lost focus and snapped as if the quarterback was under center a couple times when he wound up rolling balls past Zach Mettenberger. Ultimately, they put starting center Brian Schwenke in with the third team to settle things down.
  • Kickoffs: Maikon Bonani put one 9 yards deep and another 4 yards deep into the end zone. With less hang time, Travis Coons put one kickoff 4 yards deep. Coons also punted some.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans are moving away from having a one-back workhorse -- Chris Johnson was cut in the spring -- and will have a running game by committee.

The committee will feature Bishop Sankey, their best all-around back; Shonn Greene, a short-yardage power back; and Dexter McCluster, a change-up pass-catcher. Fullback Jackie Battle can back up the Greene role, while return man Leon Washington can back up the McCluster role.

I figure, when things aren’t good, there is the potential for rumbling about backs being unable to get into a rhythm.

Running backs coach Sylvester Croom says that should not be a complaint.

“I don’t worry about it at all with this group, because the strength is the group,” he said. “They are great people. Each of them has a unique skill set that we need and I think that is really the trend in the National Football League.

"It’s going to be very difficult to find the guy who’s got the power of Shonn Greene, the blocking ability of a Jackie Battle, the change of direction and speed of Dexter McCluster, the veteran experience and hands and quickness of Leon Washington. You’re just not going to find that in one guy these days.”

“They’ll all contribute, and the great things about it is they are all fans of each other, and that’s going to be a big plus for us.”

Johnson used to suggest that when he couldn’t get going it was because he didn’t get enough touches.

Without talking about Johnson, or, I am confident, intending to take a shot at him, Croom said it doesn’t take many carries to show what you can do to get going.

“If you’re out there on a drive and you get four or five carries, I mean how much longer is it going to take you to get rhythm?” he said. “Certain guys are going to get reps on certain things. And so when they get into the game, there will be a rotation. I’ve done it before and never had a problem.”

Titans Camp Report: Day 12

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
1:41
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • Defensive linemen Mike Martin (hamstring) and Antonio Johnson (knee) remain out. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Martin could miss Saturday’s preseason opener against Green Bay and that Johnson has more of a chance to play.
  • Taylor Lewan's No. 77 jersey was missing his last name. He said he was not in trouble or anything. Fifteen minutes before practice he discovered his jersey was missing.
  • Cornerback Tommie Campbell has struggled throughout camp, but he had a much better day. He ran deep with receiver Nate Washington on one play and was close enough to cause an incompletion. He batted away another pass by Jake Locker for Washington in the end zone during red-zone work.
  • Tight end Craig Stevens does a lot of unnoticed dirty work as a blocker. He had some nice opportunities in the passing game and took advantage. He caught a throw in the red zone from Locker at the goalpost and had a leaping catch in the end zone.
  • I watched Locker closely in one red-zone period. He hit Washington, dropped a snap for a fumble that killed a play, hit Washington in the end zone, hit Stevens for that leaping touchdown and saw Campbell bat that pass away from Washington.
  • The Titans went live (with tackling) for a goal-line snap and running back Shonn Greene plowed forward and got into the end zone from the 2-yard line. On the next snap, not live, Bishop Sankey was going straight ahead, made a sharp cut right and slid around the one guy with a chance of keeping him out of the end zone. Very nice.
  • We saw some kickoffs. Maikon Bonani put one through the end zone and had another high one come down halfway into the end zone. Travis Coons took one and hit a liner that landed at the goal line and looked like a long squib kick.
  • All 2-minute drive work ended with field goals: Bonani hit from 40, Coons hit from 49 (with a low liner), Bonani hit from 48.
  • Whisenhunt missed Ri'Shard Anderson swinging his helmet at a member of the Falcons during a scrap Monday. The coach said if he had seen it, Anderson would have been pulled.
  • The Titans practice at 2:50 local time Thursday. It is closed to the public.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Shonn Greene is on a plan with the Titans -- four practice days followed by a day off.

Greene
The day off, however, features intense conditioning work that is also helping him gain strength back in his right knee, which he injured in the 2013 opener at Pittsburgh. He had surgery after that, and again after the season. He didn’t participate in any offseason practices.

Saturday night at LP Field he made a big impression on coach Ken Whisenhunt and running backs coach Sylvester Croom.

“I thought he moved better than any time since the injury in Pittsburgh last year,” Croom said. “He was never back to 100 percent, he just gutted it out and finished the season. But Saturday night he showed some quickness and change of direction that we haven’t seen from him since the Pittsburgh game.

“He’s not 100 percent yet, he’s not in playing shape but we don’t expect him to be after all the time he missed.”

Green scoffed at the idea that the work he does on the side on the non-practice days is about anything more than conditioning. Whisenhunt said early in camp the team wanted him to drop five or 10 more pounds.

“I think on (Saturday) I saw lot more of what I thought Shonn was than I’d seen earlier,” Whisenhunt said. “So I think it’s going in the right direction. So we’re staying with that protocol. The biggest thing is strength, getting strength back in that quad, so that helps protect the knee and we’re working on that.”
Greene
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans running back Shonn Greene's been at the head of the running back line, and said he's working to knock the rust off after he missed all of the offseason following a cleanup knee surgery.

I think he's looked like what you'd expect him to look like. He's the team's biggest and most physical back, and if he's healthy he should be able to get a tough yard when the Titans need it, running behind a line that's been revamped over the past couple years.

There is a segment of the fan base that wants the team to go a different direction. But in the second season of a three-year deal, I can't see the team giving up on him after just one season. And there is no quality alternative for that role -- the power back who should be a short-yardage resource. (Undrafted rookie Antonio Andrews hasn't had a chance to show much to this point, and I think he's more likely to be a practice squad guy if he impresses.)

It's disappointing that coach Ken Whisenhunt said Greene still needs to trim down.

"I am pleased with where he is at this point," Whisenhunt said on Monday, per John Glennon of The Tennessean. "To have not gotten anything in the spring physically ... he's gotten some reps now and been in there, and that's been important. I'm happy with that. I'm not happy with his weight. He needs to lose some weight. But (him) getting the reps has been good."

Glennon said Whisenhunt is talking about five or 10 pounds. Hopefully the weight melts away quickly.

How much Greene is carrying does not need to be the primary conversation revolving around him for very long.

Camp preview: Tennessee Titans

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:00
AM ET
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NFL Nation's Paul Kuharsky examines the three biggest issues facing the Tennessee Titans heading into training camp.

Jake Locker: It’s now or never for the Titans’ quarterback, at least in Tennessee. The fourth-year quarterback started last season well, then he got hurt, didn’t shine when he came back and ultimately suffered another season-ending injury. Now he’s got his third offensive coordinator in Jason Michael and a new playcaller and head coach in Ken Whisenhunt.

The Titans would love to see him blossom into the player they thought he could be when they tabbed him eighth overall in 2011. But they began to line up a contingency plan for beyond 2014 when they drafted LSU's Zach Mettenberger in the sixth round.

The team declined to execute Locker’s option for 2015, and he’ll be a free agent after this season. He needs to prove himself worthy of a new contract or the Titans will be prepared to go a different direction next season -- or maybe even sooner.

Things are set up for him to succeed with an upgraded coaching staff, a running game that should be better with a committee instead of Chris Johnson’s deteriorating vision, a reshaped defense and what should be a far easier schedule. But plenty of league insiders and outside critics have little faith Locker can be an effective long-term starter on a winning team.

The new 3-4 defense: Defensive coordinator Ray Horton will bring people from different spots and has some rushers who can play as deeper outside linebackers or line up in a three-point stance as if they are defensive ends. We don’t know if they added enough, but out of Kamerion Wimbley, Shaun Phillips, converted end Derrick Morgan and Akeem Ayers, there could be ample edge rush.

The team’s best defensive player, DT Jurrell Casey, will now be playing a lot on a three-man line. But the Titans promise his duties will not change much and say he actually will get more one-on-ones -- because offenses won’t be able to help on him before getting to a linebacker who will be at the line of scrimmage a lot sooner.

Horton quickly won the respect of the team based on his fine résumé and calm but purposeful no-nonsense demeanor. He said small guys who can hit and big guys who can run will have a major say in whether the Titans are successful.

Houston and Indianapolis made the playoffs in their first seasons following recent transitions to a 3-4. The Titans know the scheme change doesn’t buy them patience.

Whisenhunt’s weapons: The Titans signed pint-size Dexter McCluster to be a weapon in Whisenhunt’s offense. McCluster played receiver and running back in Kansas City, but the Titans will look to him as part of the backfield committee, where he figures to catch a lot of passes coming out of the backfield.

Bishop Sankey was the first running back taken in the draft and should be a more direct, decisive back than Johnson, though he certainly doesn’t bring CJ’s speed. Shonn Greene will have short-yardage chances. Are those three enough to take heat off the passing game?

The Titans are counting on a big jump from blazing outside receiver Justin Hunter. Kendall Wright was the best player on offense. And while Nate Washington is aging, he has been dependable and productive. Along with tight end Delanie Walker there are options for Whisenhunt to be inventive with, but we don’t know what will work.
A guy has to be rated to be overrated, which makes sorting through overrated guys a very subjective and dangerous exercise.

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports rates Tennessee Titans tackle Michael Oher as the most overrated member of the team.

SportsNation

Who is the most overrated Tennessee Titan?

  •  
    23%
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    32%
  •  
    11%
  •  
    9%
  •  
    25%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,272)

The case for Oher: Some scouts and evaluators feel his game was best when he was a rookie in Baltimore and gradually faded, and the Titans went and handed him a four-year, $20 million contract. They do have an out after one year and $6 million.

So who else is a candidate?

Running back Shonn Greene was 2013’s Oher, a debatable signing that got more money than he seemed to be worth: $10 million for three years. He can be good in short-yardage situations, but as the running back market was starting to fade the Titans jumped out and gave a limited guy a lot. His knee injury limited him in his first season.

Defensive tackle Sammie Hill wasn’t as big an impact guy as the Titans had to be expecting when they signed him in 2013 to a three-year deal worth over $11 million. He was an element of the team's push to get bigger and stop the run better. He's not working as a nose tackle in the new 3-4.

Outside linebacker Akeem Ayers has dealt with some injuries in his first three years. The old coaching staff never had a great feel for how to use the 2011 second-round pick. He should be better suited to the 3-4, but he’s going to have to rush better and play better in space when he’s asked to.

Free safety Michael Griffin was better in 2013 than he had been the few years before. I often say he needs to be surrounded by talent to be good, and he asks me who is that not the case for? But a guy with his contract -- he’s in year three of a five-year, $35 million deal -- should be a guy making others better, not needing others to help make him better.
On a team with plenty of question marks, perhaps only quarterback Jake Locker ranks as a bigger name than running back Shonn Greene.

The Titans were hard hit with criticism a year ago for giving the lumbering Greene a three-year, $10 million deal with $4.5 million guaranteed. Some of it was from me.

[+] EnlargeShonn Greene
Mark Zaleski/AP PhotoThe Titans are counting on RB Shonn Greene to contribute from the backfield in 2014.
They viewed Greene as a great complementary back to Chris Johnson, with CJ as the home-run hitter and Greene a capable short-yardage guy. And they knew they were probably a year away from parting with Johnson.

Even a year ago, Greene’s new deal ranked as a big contract for a running back lacking any super-special quality. And given the free-agent market for running backs in 2014, it looks even worse now.

Greene hurt a knee in the opener, missed five games, was never himself and contributed very little in his first season with the team. He’s had offseason surgery on the same knee and is out until camp.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said this week Greene should be in good position come camp, ready to put the injury behind him and take his share of reps to contribute.

If that’s the case, he’ll get more touches in some games over others, depending on matchups and game plans.

Bishop Sankey and Dexter McCluster figure prominently -- probably more prominently -- in the backfield.

Greene can be a valuable piece if he’s able to extend drives with short-yardage conversions while helping save the other two guys from the punishment that comes with those sorts of runs up the gut.

This offensive line should be better at blocking for the needed yard and he’s got a good history of getting it when the Jets were very good at helping create the space. (The Titans had no faith in their ability to do so last year. Remember the end of the Arizona game and the opportunity to convert for 2 points from the 1-yard line to win it? They didn't even consider trying.)

Key conversions that extend key drives may not make him worth the contract, but they will have great value.

If he doesn’t get them, Greene’s deal will almost certainly rank at the bottom of the list for the ones general manager Ruston Webster and his front office have negotiated for free agents who’ve come to Nashville.
Shonn Greene wasn’t a very effective running back for the Tennessee Titans in his first year with the team.

Greene
His three-year, $10 million free-agent contract had been a surprise. Then he hurt his knee in the season opener at Pittsburgh, missed five games and never really got going.

Per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, the knee swelled and became problematic again after the recent voluntary minicamp, and Green has had another scope.

Greene will be out until camp.

Second-round draft pick Bishop Sankey, out of Washington, will also miss organized team activities because NFL rules don't allow a player to participate if his school is still in session.

That means Jackie Battle, Leon Washington and undrafted rookie Antonio Andrew from Western Kentucky will get plenty of chances during 10 OTAs. Tulane’s Orleans Darkwa, who is from Nashville, will get a tryout look at the team’s upcoming rookie minicamp.

Greene remains a curious signing -- his work with the Jets didn’t demand the sort of contract the Titans gave him.

But he’s in a new offense and has two years to prove he's worth it. I don’t know the details of what’s wrong with Greene's knee. But generally speaking, two knee scopes don't equate to death.

Final Exam: MJD may be gone

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
6:15
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Each day this week I'll provide an answer to a key question facing the Jaguars in the offseason.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In mid-December I wrote that the Jaguars should re-sign running back Maurice Jones-Drew because he'd be a valuable asset in the locker room during the rebuild under general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley. I still believe that.

For that to happen, though, Jones-Drew will have to swallow some pride. He will have to accept less money and a shorter contract than he wants. For that reason, I believe Jones-Drew has played his last game in teal and black.

Jones-Drew is after the kind of money that Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush and Shonn Greene got when they signed free-agent contracts in 2013. Jackson signed a three-year deal worth $12 million ($4 million guaranteed) with Atlanta, Bush got a four-year deal worth $16 million ($4 million signing bonus) from Detroit, and Green received a three-year deal worth $10 million ($5 million guaranteed) from Tennessee.

In each case, the teams overpaid for backs past the mid-point of their careers. The Falcons signed Jackson, who turned 30 just before the 2013 season, because they felt they were a player or two away from making a Super Bowl run. Atlanta won just four games. Bush, who will turn 30 in March, did produce on the field but he also was signed with a Super Bowl run in mind and it obviously didn't help, either, because the Lions missed the playoffs. The Titans' signing of Greene, who turns 29 in August, was insurance in case Chris Johnson floundered. None of those signings worked out.

Jones-Drew will be 29 in March, but he's got significant wear-and-tear on his body: 2,233 touches (rushes, receptions, kick and punt returns) in eight seasons, and that includes the 2012 season in which he played just six games. Despite being 5-foot-7 and 210 pounds, Jones-Drew is a physical, between-the-tackles runner and has taken quite a pounding in his career.

He's also coming off back-to-back seasons in which he's battled injuries. He missed 10 games with a Lisfranc injury in 2012 and was hobbled by hamstring, ankle and knee issues in 2013.

In watching him this past season, he clearly did not look similar to the player who led the NFL in rushing in 2011. He wasn't as explosive through the hole and wasn't able to get to the edge and turn the corner as well as he has in the past. Jones-Drew said he was robbed of a full offseason of conditioning last summer because he was still recovering from the Lisfranc surgery but will be able to fully train this year.

That may be the case, but GMs will see the film from 2013 and wonder if he's capable of being a No. 1 back. Plus, the free-agent market is saturated with quality backs that are better (and younger) options than Jones-Drew: Knowshon Moreno, LeGarrette Blount, Ben Tate, Darren McFadden, and Anthony Dixon, to name a few.

Jones-Drew will draw interest, but he's going to have to deal with the fact that most teams aren't going to be willing to sign him to a three- or four-year deal, not when that means he'll be 32 or 33 years old when the contract expires. The offers won't be as lucrative as he'd like.

The Jaguars want Jones-Drew back but on their terms, which likely is a two-year deal with incentives that could be worth up to $5 million per year. Jones-Drew said it's about the money, and the Jaguars, despite having roughly $54 million in cap space in 2014, aren't going to be willing to go higher. Jones-Drew tried a hardline approach with the Jaguars once, holding out all of training camp in 2012 and most of the preseason in an effort to get a new contract, and it didn't work.

He'll likely get the same result again this spring and take the money somewhere else.

The case for and (more) against Munchak

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
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Mike MunchakJim Brown/USA TODAY SportsMike Munchak has a .091 winning percentage versus teams finishing the season with winning records.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Monday the Titans begin the process of deciding what to do with Mike Munchak, who’s under contract for one more year as head coach.

Let’s set aside all the predictions and expectations.

We know very little about how team president and CEO Tommy Smith will operate in his new role and how he will balance his family’s long-term relationship with Munchak against the results he’s produced as a head coach. We don’t know if Munchak has the backing of general manager Ruston Webster going forward.

We do know what goes into the case for him and the case against him. So let’s examine those and then delve into things I consider significant issues where I don’t see a clear counterargument in his favor:

For: The Titans are on the verge. They’ve lost six one-possession games this season. Make the jump in just half of those and they could be a 10-win playoff team.

Against: They are unable to finish games, and there is no reason to expect they find it all of a sudden under the same leadership.

For: The division is bad and there is room to get better in a hurry against rebuilding Houston and Jacksonville.

Against: The Titans are 3-8 in the division in the past two seasons and 1-4 this year heading into the finale against Houston. Tennessee lost to the Texans and Jaguars this year when it should be sweeping those teams when they are having down years. That’s the path to actually competing for the division.

For: This roster has stood firmly with Munchak. There has been no dissension. They haven’t quit on him and have been playing hard to the end. His message is working. They work hard to execute what is asked of them.

Against: Having a roster of guys committed to following a coach who’s not doing a good job is nice, but if he’s not doing a good job it doesn’t matter as much. What is asked of them isn’t right often enough. This team’s in-game adjustment to what opponents do is typically poor.

For: Smith has pledged another big offseason, and the Titans will create a spring and summer buzz much like last year’s, when they spent over $100 million on free agents and had the 10th pick in the draft.

Against: The fan base is angry and/or apathetic. The tickets are bought, in part because so many people are financially committed with PSLs. But that hasn’t meant they have showed up. A new coach and staff will also have a free-agent class and draft and that will do a lot more to get Nashville interested.

For: Though they were overmatched, the Titans stood toe-to-toe for a good while with some of the NFL’s best -- Seattle and Denver. They lost twice to the AFC South champion Colts by a combined 11 points.

Against: Munchak is 2-20 -- not a misprint -- against teams that finish the season with a winning record. Whether they are close to the caliber of those teams or not, that is a .091 winning percentage against winning teams. How can Smith endorse that?

For: They could be one player away, and we’ve seen them make a big addition and a big jump before.

Against: The odds of landing Jevon Kearse are small, and the 1998 Tennessee Oilers had more pieces in place than the 2013 Titans do.

For: They’ll move away from Chris Johnson and by doing so they’ll be in line to have the run game they expected this year. This offensive line needed time to jell. In 2014, Shonn Greene and a mid-round draft pick will be more effective.

[+] EnlargeChris Johnson
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsMike Munchak wanted the Titans to be a run-first team but inconsistency in the run game plagued Tennessee all season.
Against: Three years in and a Hall of Fame offensive lineman as a head coach with a Hall of Fame offensive line coach still haven’t produced a team that can run consistently. How can they possibly say, “We need more time” and get it? How did lines with injuries in Seattle and Miami manage to play well enough to win? They have to replace David Stewart at right tackle, right? Another change positions them for more excuses about needing time to jell.

For: The Titans didn’t have their starting quarterback for nine games this year. Who wins without their starting quarterback? Injuries to Greene and center Brian Schwenke also hurt.

Against: It would be a good argument if Jake Locker was a proven NFL franchise quarterback. He is not and they sold Ryan Fitzpatrick as a top-flight alternative. We know Locker has potential and is injury prone. Pinning hopes on that for 2014 seems dangerous. The Greene and Schwenke injuries should not be regarded as hugely impactful and are on par with the sort of thing every team in the league deals with.

For: He doesn’t care about the peripheral stuff; he’s not going to play the game. He just wants to coach and do things the right way.

Against: Tough for him. A head coach is a CEO and the responsibilities require more. You have to be a PR guy and a marketer. He doesn’t embrace that stuff and it hurts the franchise. You can’t play the “I just want to coach” card until you’ve proven you can win.

A few other things don’t fit as neatly in a for-and-against format and mostly qualify as arguments against his return.

I think it’s very difficult to make a case for him based on his work in the division, his record against winning teams and his inability to explain what’s wrong.

Warped thinking: Munchak endorsed a foolish onside kick approach with an unconventional, tee-less spinner that kicker Rob Bironas clearly did not like. Worse, the coach judged his team to be 1-for-3 with it rather than 0-for-3 because San Francisco bobbled the kick before recovering it. Note to Munchak: Such a kick is judged a success if, and only if, you recover it. We know it’s very difficult to do. We also know it’s ridiculous to deem one a success when the other team comes out with the ball. Lo and behold, the Titans recover a conventional, high-bounce onside kick during a furious comeback against Arizona.

Straying from his philosophy: Over and over Munchak spoke of how the 2013 Titans would be able to get the tough yard on the ground. These Titans were going to throw it when they wanted to, not when they had to. But given a chance to win the Arizona game with 10 seconds left with a two-point conversion play from the 1-yard line after a penalty, he chose overtime. The team he promised shouldn’t have even considered kicking the extra point. In sharing more about his logic a day later, he said the team hadn’t run it in an hour as it played hurry-up to overcome a big deficit. Shouldn’t a team built around the offensive line and backs be able to run for a yard whether they’d been running it or not?

Salesmanship: He’s a better salesman than he is a head coach. In memorializing Bud Adams when he died, he spoke about how he used to walk the hallways of the team’s facility on a Saturday before the game with Adams and Adams’ friends, looking at the pictures of the team’s history and telling stories. It showed me that Munchak was shrewd in how he dealt with the owner, playing right into what the owner liked and taking Adams right where Adams liked to go. It endeared him to his boss and did a lot to make him the choice when the team and Jeff Fisher parted ways. I expect he will do well selling Smith on the plan going forward. But the team gets better by adjusting the plan, not by selling the plan better to a new person at the top of the organization. Old-time Oilers memories should mean nothing now.

Lame duck: His résumé certainly doesn’t warrant an extension. That means he and his staff would be working as lame ducks in 2014. Lame-duck scenarios aren’t typically healthy. They make it hard to attract players and assistants. They make it easy for a team to tune out if and when things don’t go well.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 16

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An examination of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 20-16 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars:

Munchak
Injury talk: A year ago the Titans suffered a slew of injuries on the offensive line, and it was often difficult for them to field a functional group. That’s a bad scenario, suffering multiple serious injuries at the same position. Otherwise, you’re like most other teams. Mike Munchak continues to talk as if the Week 1 knee injury to running back Shonn Greene was season-altering. It’s great that Greene is feeling good and making a contribution, but losing him for a stretch and then not having him at 100 percent shouldn’t have had such a big bearing on this team. Losing quarterback Jake Locker was big, of course. But otherwise the Titans have had a pretty healthy season. Yes, Brian Schwenke’s ankle injury has lessened the rookie center’s game. But the idea that the line hasn’t had sufficient time to jell because of dings is way overstated. Injured/altered lines in Seattle and Miami have functioned well enough, no? There are banged-up guys on the rosters of all the teams the Titans are playing, too. Munchak looks primed to oversell injuries as part of the reason his team hasn’t lived up to his promise of not disappointing fans this season. Tommy Smith and Ruston Webster shouldn’t put too much stock into that. And Munchak shouldn’t expect perfect health if he’s coach in 2014.

Reinforcement: Here’s hoping a successful game against a bad team doesn’t do much to prompt ownership to buy in to antiquated thinking where the Titans continue to want to be predominantly a run team. There is a place for the running game and dangerous backs. But Tennessee has overemphasized it with limited success, and running against a bunch of Jaguars backups shouldn’t fuel the continued dedication to the approach in a passing, quarterback league. The Titans need to focus on quarterback above all else, not further commit to the desire to throw it when they want to as opposed to when they need to.

Shuffling backers: In the two previous games, the Titans gave a large share of the weakside linebacker work to rookie Zaviar Gooden. Sunday he was inactive. Munchak said the team decided to sacrifice a linebacker for an extra receiver as they thought the heat would have a bearing on the wideouts. They also wanted to see Colin McCarthy play the weak side. That’s fine. But it looks like they are having trouble making up their minds about who their best guys are. And that’s a significant problem in Week 16.

Confusing use: I’m a giant believer in maximizing threatening weapons. Jackie Battle is the Titans’ third running back for a reason, and he’s not at all threatening as a pass-catcher. Maybe give him some snaps in passing situations to lessen the pass-protecting responsibilities of Chris Johnson, who’s pretty good at picking up rushers. He’s playing too much, and against the Jaguars, he was splitting out wide in empty formations. I didn’t get to talk to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains after this game, but I certainly will ask him soon what makes Battle in a receiver position a good idea.

Near end, big moment for Chris Johnson

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Cost versus production is an equation that's up for constant debate when it comes to Titans running back Chris Johnson.

He's getting paid $10 million this season for 3.8 yards a carry. A guy known as CJ2K after running for 2,006 yards in 2009 needs 53 in the season finale against Houston at LP Field to finish 2013 with just half that total.

Johnson
A breakaway back has a long run of 30 yards and hardly ever breaks a tackle. Due $8 million next season, he could be heading into his last game with Tennessee.

But Sunday at a key moment against a bad run defense, he flashed back to far better days.

With 3:01 remaining in the game and the Titans looking to hold on to their 4-point lead, the Titans faced third-and-4 from their 23 yard-line. Out of shotgun, Ryan Fitzpatrick handed off to Johnson, who chugged and spun angling to the right side of the middle of the field for a 4-yard gain.

The first down put the Titans in position to run an additional 2:08 off the clock and force Jacksonville to burn its final two timeouts, one on a failed challenge of the spot of Johnson's run.

If it wasn't Johnson's best run of the year, it was his second best. His 7-yard touchdown run in Nashville against the Colts on Nov. 14 also featured him taking on a defender and powering through.

Tennessee had run well against the Jaguars, who fielded an injury-weakened defensive front. Shonn Greene has 19 carries for 91 yards and Johnson had 22 for 90 in the first game that really showed what they can do as a tandem.

Receivers including Nate Washington, who had a 117-yard day, were feeling so good about the ground game, they encouraged offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to call a run on the third-and-4.

“It was going to the left and we checked it to go toward the tight end to set up better angles for the offensive linemen,” left tackle Michael Roos said. “He made a great read and just put his head down and got the yards.”

The defense chipped in with three big plays near the end too. Jason McCourty made an excellent tackle of Ace Sanders to keep him short of a first down, and Ropati Pitoitua and Bernard Pollard stopped Maurice Jones-Drew on the subsequent fourth-and-1 try.

Later, safety George Wilson pulled in a one-handed pick of a Chad Henne attempt for Marcedes Lewis to clinch the game.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said the solid defense down the stretch came from everyone doing his job and “no confusion.”

It was a good list of big plays late in a game for a team that's made a habit out of failing to finish.

Whatever happens with Johnson, I bet he'll remember that third-down play and the confidence the coaches showed in calling it.

“It was pretty good,” he said. “I think that was a good run third-and-4 and everybody knew it was coming. A guy came flying and I broke the tackle, I dove, fighting and scratching just to get the first down.

“It feels good that they made that call, it felt good that they gave me the ball and put the trust in me to get the first down.”

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 15

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
11:41
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A review of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 37-34 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals:

[+] EnlargeKendall Wright
Jim Brown/USA TODAY SportsAgainst Arizona in Week 15, Titans receiver Kendall Wright has 12 receptions for 150 yards, his second 100-plus game this season.
Overcomplicated: Even minus Justin Hunter and Damian Williams, scratched for violating team rules, the Titans have a pretty good group of threatening pass catchers. I understand an occasional pass to someone like fullback Quinn Johnson may keep a defense honest, but the Titans can't spare snaps for such things. Johnson dropped the one pass thrown to him. Running back Jackie Battle was on the field in some passing situations and may have some pass protection skills, but I don't understand him playing 14 snaps on offense when Shonn Greene played only 12.

Hearing from Smith: We know very little about new Titans president and CEO Tommy Smith, but Sunday before the game he had his first meeting with the press. He was reasonable on every level, appearing a little nervous but providing a good deal of insight into the way he will operate. He's got no intention to sell the team, wants to have smart people in place and let them do their jobs, feels the fans' pain and sounds determined to get things on track. Fans and followers of the franchise should be encouraged by the glimpse of Smith he shared Sunday.

The stars shined: The Titans do not have as much talent as they believe, but the best guy on each side of the ball excelled Sunday. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey led the Titans with nine tackles and recorded 1.5 sacks, boosting his season total to 10.5. On offense, receiver Kendall Wright keyed the late comeback with several big catches. He was targeted on 34 percent of Ryan Fitzpatrick's 58 passes, catching 12 for 150 yards. Wright's receptions included gains of 26, 23, 20 and 20 yards. He's a really good player who stands to be a foundational piece of this team no matter who's making decisions and calling plays going forward.

Home-field disadvantage: The Titans lost their fifth straight at LP Field and are now 2-5 in Nashville this season. Under Mike Munchak, the team is 11-12 at home. Safety Bernard Pollard has preached about the idea of establishing a clear home-field advantage. After this loss, he said even if guys didn't really feel some sort of edge when playing in Nashville, they should "fake" like they do. No one in the league worries about a trip to Music City these days. It's a far cry from what the Titans had on the East Bank of the Cumberland River in the building's early years.

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