AFC South: Kenny Britt


When the Titans drafted Kenny Britt 30th overall out of Rutgers in 2009, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was in love with the receiver’s physicality.

The ability to get off a jam at the line of scrimmage is difficult in the NFL, and if you can do that, Dinger said, a lot of things open up to an offense.

Now Britt will have a chance to do that for the guy Heimerdinger was coordinator for, Jeff Fisher. Britt struck a one-year deal with the St. Louis Rams.

At his peak, Britt did great work beating press coverage and beating people down field. He beat Arizona when he leaped and pulled in a last-play 10-yard touchdown in the 11th game of his career. He had a brilliant game his second season with seven catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns against Philadelphia.

Britt
Britt
He opened his third year with big back-to-back games for 136 yards and two touchdowns at Jacksonville and 135 more and a touchdown against Baltimore.

But a week later, he tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee against Denver. In 26 games over two seasons after his return in 2012, he went for 143 yards once and his second biggest receiving total was 67 yards.

Last year, after a solid camp where he looked poised to break out as he headed toward free agency, he wound up in the doghouse of Mike Munchak and Dowell Loggains over early drops and penalties.

Munchak and Loggains were fired after the season. Ken Whisenhunt hired John McNulty as his quarterbacks coach. McNulty coached Britt at Rutgers, but even with a likely ally on the Titans staff, Tennessee showed zero interesting in bringing Britt back.

He caused the team a lot of headaches with a bunch of off-the-field stuff. While he claimed to be an innocent victim, often targeted by police, he was simply around trouble too much.

He was unhappy with a coaching staff that was unhappy with him, and while he didn’t cause a stir, he didn’t set a great example either. Playing great or getting benched, he was typically laughing and seemed to be having fun.

While that’s probably preferable to moping, it didn’t cast him in a good light to much of the Titans fan base when it was paired with Sunday struggles.

I don’t know that Titans brass particularly cared about that part of his demeanor.

The Titans have spent two of their last four highest drat picks on receivers, with Kendall Wright in the first round in 2012 and Justin Hunter in the second round in 2013.

The arrival of those guys made it pretty clear Britt wasn’t a long-term Titan.

His poor final season absolutely ensured it.
Keith BulluckRich Gabrielson/Icon SMIKeith Bulluck was a mainstay at linebacker for the Tennessee Titans.
In April 2000, coming off a Super Bowl season, the Tennessee Titans had a solid roster and were drafting 30th.

With Randall Godfrey, Eddie Robinson and Greg Favors on the roster, the Titans weren’t in need of immediate help at linebacker.

The Titans drafted Syracuse linebacker Keith Bulluck anyway.

And for two years, he was mostly a special-teams player, starting just four games while the team stuck with experienced guys in front of him.

For the seven seasons after that, Bulluck was a permanent fixture at right outside linebacker, and after 10 seasons with the Titans he ranked as the best linebacker the franchise has had since it came to Nashville.

For the Titans, Bulluck is the ultimate model of drafting the best player available.

But best player available is largely a fantasyland idea. If the best player available when a team goes on the clock is a guy who plays a position where said team just signed its star to a long term-deal, guess what? It’s drafting someone else or looking to trade back.

Best player available typically means best player available at a position of reasonable need.

Let’s look at the Titans' last 10 first-round picks and the level of need the team had at their positions.

2013 – Guard Chance Warmack (10th)

The Titans were coming off a year with major injuries on their offensive line, and interior line help was priority one.

2012 – Wide receiver Kendall Wright (20th)

Nate Washington and Damian Williams finished the 2011 season as the starters, with Kenny Britt gone after three games with a torn ACL. The other Titans receivers, Lavelle Hawkins and Marc Mariani, were bit players at best. Wright was a bit of a surprise, but receiver certainly qualified as a position where there was room for a weapon out of the slot.

2011 – Quarterback Jake Locker (eighth)

The Titans parted ways with Vince Young and moved on from Kerry Collins to Matt Hasselbeck. With a new coaching staff in place, the team needed a young quarterback to build around.

2010 – Defensive end Derrick Morgan (16th)

The team’s top pass-rusher, Kyle Vanden Bosch, had moved on to Detroit as a free agent. And the contract clocks were ticking on Jason Jones and William Hayes.

2009 – Wide receiver Kenny Britt (30th)

The team’s 2008 receiving corps was Brandon Jones, Justin McCareins, Justin Gage, Lavelle Hawkins, Chris Davis and Paul Williams. There was not a dynamic guy in the bunch. Jones had moved on to San Francisco as a free agent and McCareins wasn’t going to be back.

2008 – Running back Chris Johnson (24th)

The Titans were ready to move on from Chris Brown, who signed as a free agent with the Houston Texans. The Titans needed someone to go with LenDale White in the backfield.

2007 – Safety Michael Griffin (19th)

The Titans were, mercifully, done with Lamont Thompson, whose game has devolved. Despite the need for a free safety, the Titans put on an extensive charade where they pretended Griffin would be a cornerback. He started 10 games at free safety as a rookie.

2006 – Quarterback Vince Young (third)

The Titans were ready to move on from an aging Steve McNair and Billy Volek had lost stock. It was time for the Titans to try to find their next quarterback, and the top guys – Young, Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart -- were all highly regarded.

2005 – Cornerback Pacman Jones (sixth)

Samari Rolle and Andre Dyson were the starters in 2004. But Rolle was gone after the season as part of an unavoidable salary-cap purge and Dyson went to Seattle as a free agent. Tennessee had a big need at cornerback when it drafted Jones.

2004 – Traded out of first round

The Titans picked tight end Ben Troupe in the second round, 40th overall. Frank Wycheck retired after the 2003 season, Erron Kinney’s knees were a problem and Shad Meier had established he was going to be a bust.

If all those guys rated as the best player available on the Titans' board, then one of two things happened:

  • The stars regularly aligned where the guy they rated as the best guy and a significant need corresponded.
  • Their boards were heavily weighted toward need.

Best player available is a rare thing, like Bulluck was a rare player.

Best player available at a position of need is usually what it really means.
Drops are surely subjective. You and I might look at a play and you’d say Phil should have caught it and I’d say he couldn’t have.

ESPN tracks drops and applies a strong benefit of the doubt standard. A drop has to be something quite obvious.

Pro Football Focus breaks down targets into catchable balls, and judges drops more harshly.

Both ESPN and PFF then compute drop rates -- ESPN simply by dividing drops by targets, PRR by dividing drops by catchable balls.

Britt
Britt
By any standard, Kenny Britt had a terrible 2013. ESPN says he dropped four passes, PFF counted seven.

Britt is a free agent, and the Tennessee Titans have no interest in bringing him back. He’s drawn a decent amount of interest and will be a reclamation project somewhere.

Another Titans receiver, Damian Williams, is on the market and looks unlikely to return unless his price drops.

No coach or player is going to say anything more than none is an acceptable drop total. But everyone drops some. Let’s sample three top guys at random just for some context on their ESPN drop rates from 2013: Detroit’s Calvin Johnson was at 5.2, Andre Johnson at 3.4 and Larry Fitzgerald 0.7.

I was spurred to look at the Titans’ drops as PFF has put out stories recently on receiver drops, running back drops and tight end drops.

Here’s how last year’s top pass catchers fared for Tennessee.

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Free-agency primer: Titans

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: CB Alterraun Verner, DE Ropati Pitoitua, KR Leon Washington, WR Damian Williams, DT Antonio Johnson, WR Kenny Britt.

Where they stand: The Titans re-signed outspoken, thumping strong safety Bernard Pollard, one of their most important free agents, with a two-year deal. He has spoken glowingly about the direction the team will head under coach Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator Ray Horton. "We're going to be 11 dogs without leashes running around biting people," Pollard told a Nashville radio station 3HL. They also re-signed third-string running back Jackie Battle, who’s a staple special-teamer. It’s hard to know how other people project into the new systems that come along with a new coaching regime. The Titans have indicated to everyone on that list, beside Britt, that they are interested. But will the interest translate into new contracts?

What to expect: The Titans will wind up with a couple of their own guys back, though they are not desperate to keep anyone on the list. Verner is very likely to hit the market and find a team that puts a higher price tag on him than the Titans will. I believe Pitoitua can be a valuable piece of the new hybrid front, particularly in the run-stopping effort. Washington can bring a secure feeling to the return game. Williams is a smart and versatile fourth wide receiver, but there is a giant pool of free-agent wideouts and a quality draft class, so he'll need to settle for minimal money if he wants to stay and they want to have him. The team won't spend $100 million in free agency, as it did last year, but will make several key additions.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner is allowing room for sentiment on Sunday.

As he takes the field for the Tennessee Titans against the Houston Texans, it will creep into his head that it could be the last time.

Verner has a great feel for the game and a knack for being around the ball and breaking things up.

“Definitely that thought has occurred to me, but it’s not overriding where I am letting that emotionally distress me or get me away from the game,” Verner said. "It’s definitely crossed my mind that this could be [it]. Could be.”

[+] EnlargeTennessee Titans' Alterraun Verner
AP Photo/Patric SchneiderThe price tag looks to be high for defensive backs Alterraun Verner, No. 20, and Bernard Pollard, both free agents at season's end.
He’s timed things up well. After such a solid season, his price may be at an all-time high. I’m sure the Titans would like to keep him. But they’ve spent two recent offseasons trying to give his job away to Tommie Campbell and clearly see Verner's speed as a deficiency in an otherwise solid game.

Future: They should certainly try to keep him. But at this stage, there is no reason for him not to wait for free agency and check out the market. And I’ll bet a team that thinks it’s a corner away will offer him something bigger than the Titans will.

A look at other guys for whom Sunday could be The Last Time.

Running back Chris Johnson

We’ve written frequently about the cost-versus-production equation for Johnson, most recently here. St. Louis fifth-round pick Zac Stacy has a few more yards and a slightly bigger yards per carry average this season. Stacy made $581,500 in 2013. CJ made $10 million.

Future: It’s not working, as Johnson hasn’t been the playmaker he sold himself as when he got the big contract after three years. He won’t take less money – or sufficient responsibility, for that matter. They should move on.

Right tackle David Stewart

He broke his leg late in the 2012 season and has never returned to form, with all sorts of nagging injuries slowing him down this year. He’s questionable for this game with a shoulder injury. He’s been a tough, physical presence for the team for a long time. But he’s due $6.4 million in 2014.

Future: The Titans cannot pay him that much next year.

Strong safety Bernard Pollard

He’s delivered on what the Titans asked when they signed him for one year, providing attitude and toughness to go with solid play. They’ve used him smartly and if he’s not back they will have a hole that will be difficult to fill in both production and leadership.

Future: They should try to keep him, but it’s unclear what the market will offer. Surely there will be a multi-year deal to be had. Will the Titans offer one?

Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley

He’s not been a fit for the Titans, who grabbed him in 2011 after their failed pursuit of Peyton Manning. When they focused solely on him meant Mario Williams went to Buffalo. Even if there's a new staff and it wants to run a 3-4 that’s more suited to Wimbley, he’s not worth $6 million in 2014.

Future: It’s long been presumed he will be cut.

Wide receiver Damian Williams

He got benched for the Arizona game because of a violation of team rules, but such a slip was totally uncharacteristic. He’s a bright guy who can play every receiver spot. He’s ideal as a fourth with potential to be a solid third.

Future: They should re-sign him.

Wide receiver Kenny Britt

The last year of his initial contract has been a disaster during which he lost confidence and was unable to catch the ball consistently. He’ll likely be inactive again Sunday. In a new setting, perhaps he can recover. But he’ll get a minimum contract or something close to it, when a big season would have set him up as a free-agent prize.

Future: It’s elsewhere.

Quarterback Rusty Smith

He’s been the team’s developmental quarterback for four years, and he could never work his way to a place where the team wanted him to be the No. 2. He ended up in that spot only because of injury.

Future: If he’s not a No. 2 by now, it’s time to move on. Tyler Wilson was a late signing, and should take over the Smith spot as the developmental quarterback.

Defensive end Ropati Pitoitua

Started very strong but hasn’t been as good down the stretch. He gives the Titans good size in their run-down front and would benefit from better linebacker play.

Future: Worth keeping at the right price and contract length.

Defensive tackle Antonio Johnson

He’s a workmanlike run-down defender who’s a good piece as a role player.

Future: Shouldn’t be hard to keep.

Also with expiring contracts: Returner Leon Washington, returner Marc Mariani, running back Jackie Battle, wide receiver Kevin Walter, offensive tackle Mike Otto, interior offensive linemen Rob Turner and Chris Spencer.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter are very much the future of the Titans at wide receiver.

Sunday in a win at Jacksonville, Nate Washington showed he’s very much part of the present. He pulled in six catches for 117 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

He’s the team’s third leading receiver with 56 receptions, and second in receiving yards with 880.

[+] EnlargeNate Washington
Jim Brown/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Nate Washington is second on the Titans with 880 receiving yards.
When the head of the team’s new ownership group, Tommy Smith, listed some young players he considers the Titans’ core, he also mentioned Washington and his leadership.

Washington has been an important influence on Wright and Hunter.

“It’s brothers, man,” Washington said of the receivers room. "It’s a room that I think the organization has been working to put together for a long time. I think they can really sit down right now with our room and be satisfied with all the hard work they’ve put in.”

Washington would certainly like to see things kept intact next season, though Kenny Britt is heading for free agency and certainly won’t be back. He’s hardly contributed this season. Damian Williams is also in line to be a free agent, and he’s a versatile piece I believe the team should try hard to keep.

Whether the Titans make a coaching change or not, there is potential they could choose to move away from Washington, who is 30. Heading into the final year of his deal, he’s due $4.8 million in 2014. It would be the final year of a six-year deal, and it’s pretty rare for a player to play out a long second deal with high cap numbers.

If they came to him and said they wanted to keep him at a reduced price, he wouldn’t be upset, but he wouldn’t negotiate either, he said.

“All I can do is play football,” he said. “If I’m in Tennessee next year, I will be very gracious. I love Tennessee, I love the people, I love the organization. If I’m here next year it’d be awesome. But I understand it’s a business ..."

If they wanted to reduce his salary?

“It’s time to move on, man,” he said. “If that’s the way they have to approach it, I understand.”

I agree with Washington that the receivers room is one of the best things the Titans have going for them. He has a big salary scheduled, but the team is not in line to be cap-strapped. If they are going to overpay someone, why not him? Yes, you want to get rid of a guy a year too early rather than a year too late, but I wouldn’t mess with a position where things seem to be in good order.

Replacement receivers hardly practiced

December, 15, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans were without receivers Justin Hunter and Damian Williams Sunday because of a violation of team rules.

I credit Mike Munchak for making them inactive. He could have kept it quiet and played Hunter, who would have helped the team as the coach fights for his job.

Tennessee lost, 37-34, to Arizona in overtime.

Without Hunter and Williams, the Titans turned to Kenny Britt and Michael Preston as their receivers behind Kendall Wright and Nate Washington.

Britt caught three of six passes thrown his way, for 29 yards. He let a late touchdown pass go through his hands. Preston caught three of five passes targeting him for 27 yards and the Titans' two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Britt said he had not played a snap of offense all week in practice. Wright said that was the case for Preston too, but Preston corrected him and said his offensive snaps were "sparse" -- five to 10.

It was a solid combined performance from two guys who were not in the plan. But things would have likely been better with the guys who were in the plan.

"They broke some team rules," Munchak said. "The consequence was that they didn't suit up today."

A couple of us caught up to Williams as he left the locker room.

"It definitely lets the team down and I definitely am ashamed that I let my team down," he said.

He left open the idea that things we're so cut and dried, however.

I asked if it was more complicated than people might guess.

"Possibly," he said. "[But] the situation is that we violated team rules and that's it."

Rapid Reaction: Tennessee Titans

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Rapid reaction from the Tennessee Titans' 37-34 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals at LP Field:

What it means: The Titans sprang to life, rallying from a 34-17 deficit with 6:13 remaining, pulling even with 10 second left and forcing overtime. But Ryan Fitzpatrick threw his second interception to Antoine Cason on the first drive of overtime, and the Cardinals moved to a 41-yard Jay Feely field goal that won it. The Titans lost for the eighth time in their past 10 games, falling to 5-9 and guaranteeing a losing season.

Stock watch: Receiver Michael Preston, stuck on the practice squad for most of the season, caught two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Fitzpatrick late in the fourth quarter as the Titans got it to 34-34. Preston had room to shine because Justin Hunter and Damian Williams were inactive for violating team rules. Kenny Britt dropped what would have been a touchdown before Preston caught his first one.

Evening out: It wasn’t long ago that Bernard Pollard was called for a bad penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver and Shonn Greene was flagged for unsportsmanlike contact for apparent taunting. The Titans were later told they were bad calls. This time it was the Cardinals who drew the penalties, and they may hear the same about a Rashad Johnson hit on Britt and a taunting call against Daryl Washington. The Titans felt like they lost in part because of those calls against them. They didn’t really use them in their favor as a springboard to win this one. A roughing call against Calais Campbell at the start of the Titans’ second-to-last drive helped produce a 24-yard Rob Bironas field goal that spurred the comeback.

What’s next: The Titans travel to Jacksonville looking to avenge a 29-27 loss on Nov. 10 to the previously winless Jaguars at LP Field.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 12

November, 25, 2013
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- A review of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 23-19 win over the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum:

Third down: Third down was key on both sides of the ball. The offense and defense were productive when it came time to stay on, or get off, the field. The offense converted 10 of 18 chances (7 of 9 in the second half). The conversions included two third-and-11s, two third-and-10s, three third-and-7s and a third-and-6. Defensively, the Titans allowed just three conversions by Oakland in 10 chances.

[+] EnlargeRyan Fitzpatrick
AP Photo/Beck DiefenbachRyan Fitzpatrick completed 30 passes for 320 yards against Oakland.
Perfect execution: Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick deserve credit for the way they engineered the final drive. They had 6:10 to use and they used 6:00 of it as the Titans moved 80 yards in 14 plays. If they didn’t score a touchdown to win it, leaving Oakland virtually no time, they were going to be in close field goal range to at least force overtime. They converted three third downs along the way. They didn’t even need to use their third timeout.

Clean up: Ten penalties for 100 yards were just killer, and I’ve noted in the past the Titans’ inability to account for the way a game is being officiated. Once you’re called for a couple of holds, shouldn’t coaches be telling guys how it’s being called and making them more conscious of it? Six holding penalties, four against the offensive line, demand better explanation than the Titans offered. First-and-20 is no way to live. One nice thing here: They committed just one defensive penalty. I know safety Michael Griffin was going low and tight end Mychal Rivera was going down at the same time. There was an element of bad luck, but it was still a hit against a defenseless receiver that isn’t allowed.

Contributing nothing: Kenny Britt had two balls thrown his way, and dropped both. He had to dive for the second, but it went right though his hands. I figured the Titans would eventually need Britt again and get something from him. But it’s probably past time to give up and start deactivating him. Michael Preston is on the practice squad and if Damian Williams needs another week to get healthy, the Titans probably should find a way to get Preston on the roster to be the fourth receiver. They can’t have a receiver on the field who offers little to no chance of making a catch when the ball comes in his direction.

Locker Room Buzz: Tennessee Titans

November, 10, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Observed in the locker room after the Tennessee Titans' 29-27 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field:

Locker
Tick, tick: The extra time Mike Munchak took getting to his postgame interview didn’t give him time to come up with any answers, but it did buy some of his players time to make a getaway before another, bigger wave of tough questions arrived. Typically the locker room doors open as the coach heads into his news conference. Munchak took quite a bit longer than that after a loss he couldn’t explain. Kenny Britt, a receiver the Titans are going to need if Damian Williams misses time with a quad injury, was out of the locker room as quickly as anyone.

Bad sign: Jake Locker is awaiting further tests, but his right foot injury had him on crutches in the second half and after the game. He said he was praying it’s not a season-ending injury, which means there is potential it might be. I’m often uncomfortable with the injury-prone label. But Munchak said he can’t imagine Locker’s ready to play in four days, which will mean in two seasons the quarterback has suffered three injuries that will have cost him at least a start. It’s hard for a young team structured to grow around a quarterback to do so when he’s in and out.

Truly miserable: A lot of the team was out of the room when tight end Delanie Walker was still in a towel sitting in front of his locker. How long guys lament a terrible day in the locker room isn’t the surest sign of how much they care. But it’s hard to make a case that he’s not near the top of the list in terms of how upset he was over a result that dropped his team to below .500 again. Stay tuned for some of what he said.

Old friends: Former Colts GM Bill Polian, now of ESPN, and Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell chatted at halftime in the Titans' press box. Caldwell came up as part of Polian’s Indianapolis staff. Check out my Instagram for a picture.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 9

November, 4, 2013
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A review of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 28-21 win over the St. Louis Rams:

His role now: Kenny Britt is a run blocker and a decoy. He can be effective in the first role; defenses surely welcome him on to the field in the second. He was targeted only once by Jake Locker on Sunday, and while Cortland Finnegan's interception was the result of a bad throw more than anything Britt did, you can’t help but think the percentages of something good happening when Britt is the target are low. Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Damian Williams are all more threatening. Nate Washington was a go-to guy for Locker before his injury and has caught only three passes in two games since Locker’s return. The Titans should be focused on getting Washington going again well ahead of being concerned about Britt.

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Kenny Britt
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesCortland Finnegan will likely have to restructure his contract in order to return to the Rams in 2014.
Ayers as a factor: They’ve tried a bunch of different things with Akeem Ayers since drafting him in the second round out of UCLA in 2011. He’s still not an impact guy. In St. Louis, he didn’t come off the field, playing his usual strongside linebacker spot in base and as the Mike in the nickel. In such situations, his forte should be as a run stopper, but the Rams ran for 160 yards and 5.0 yards per attempt. On Sunday, they abandoned the idea of him as a situational end. It’s impressive that the defense has been what it has been through eight games with no consistent presence from Ayers.

Um, about that missed call: I’ve been critical of the Titans bemoaning the officials a bit too frequently, as if the NFL has some rationale for picking on them. But I liked Washington’s approach when talking about Jake Locker’s second interception in St. Louis. Washington didn’t get to where Locker was throwing because he was held up by former teammate Cortland Finnegan. The play drew no flag and was an easy interception for safety Rodney McLeod. “Cortland did a great job of holding me, flat out,” Washington said. “Rookie back judge [Dale Shaw], it’s his first year. So I’m not going to go toO far with it, I don’t want to get fined. But at the same time, let’s just say Cortland did a good job of being Cortland.” Nice work by Washington knowing Shaw’s résumé.

Um, about that one snap: Jurrell Casey is one of the Titans' best defenders and the defensive tackle has a team-high six sacks. He’s a problem-causer. No need to outsmart yourself and drop him into coverage on an athletic, speedy tight end like Jared Cook. It made for an easy 17-yard completion to Cook and didn’t make a lot of sense. I believe future teams on the schedule would love to see Casey moving backward instead of forward.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 7

October, 21, 2013
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A review of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday:

[+] EnlargeKenny Britt
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsTitans wide receiver Kenny Britt and 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown exchange words during the second half of their Week 7 game on Sunday.
The biggest cause for hope: It's not as much in the Titans’ locker room as it is on their schedule. They just lost to teams with the fifth-, second- and eighth-ranked defenses. There is no debating how tough a stretch it was, and they faced the first two with their backup quarterback. Their next three games come against teams currently ranked 21st, 27th and 17th. The Titans have to show us it’s been about their opponents, and not their insufficiencies, by moving the ball far more effectively when they return to action.

Woe is them: Maybe officials blew the unnecessary roughness call against Akeem Ayers that undid a Bernard Pollard interception and set up an early 49ers touchdown. But the Titans can’t point to it as the root of their undoing; I don’t believe they were going to win that game even without that call. Later, when he was involved in a scrap, Pollard said the play was blown dead, after which someone was tackling him. “If we were to do that, we wonder what it would have been like,” he said. The men in black and white aren't targeting the Titans. What would their incentive be to do so?

What to do with Kenny Britt: The struggling receiver played 19 snaps, 32 percent of the team’s offensive plays. He let cornerback Tarell Brown get in his head late in the game, shoving him after drawing a pass interference call then committing an unnecessary roughness call when he tangled with Brown on the next play. Losing his cool that way does nothing to help him climb out of the deep hole he’s in. Tight end Delanie Walker called Britt out on it.

Re-evaluation time: I don’t get the sense that there is anyone on defense whose heart isn't in it, and the only guy on the team currently who’s got an issue about being in the way is Britt. But Pollard sent a message as the Titans head into their week off. “This is a week where guys need to re-evaluate themselves,” Pollard said. “This is for anybody: If you don’t want to help us, get out of our way. Talk to Ruston [Webster]. Go talk to the head coach. Get out of our way.” What’s in the way is the production on offense, and the inability to establish and maintain a run game. If they can’t solve that, their troubles will continue.

Rapid Reaction: Tennessee Titans

October, 13, 2013
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SEATTLE -- A few thoughts on the Tennessee Titans20-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

What it means: The Titans can go on the road to a tough environment and hang with a good team. But they couldn’t pull out a win despite plenty of opportunity. Their best opportunity might have been on a Marshawn Lynch fourth-quarter fumble. Zach Brown was in position to scoop and score, and the ball slid off his hands back to quarterback Russell Wilson. The Titans have lost two in a row to fall to 3-3.

Stock watch: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions and could have easily given away a third. He and the Titans never got into any sustained offensive rhythm. Fitzpatrick fumbled and recovered a snap and had a ball slip out of his hand later. The Titans were fortunate in that they recovered both.

Personnel question: On a crucial third-and-1 from near midfield with the score tied at 10, the Titans gave the ball to Darius Reynaud, who gained nothing. Chris Johnson had just been hurt, Jackie Battle was out of the game with a neck injury and Shonn Greene, still recovering from knee surgery, was inactive. Running Reynaud isn’t a viable option, no matter how much confidence the Titans have in their run game. On fourth down, they took a delay and then punted.

Invisible: Kenny Britt didn’t get on the field until late in the fourth quarter. He caught a 7-yard pass for a first down and returned to the bench. Applause to the Titans for doing what was needed. Still, without him, they dropped a couple passes that hurt.

What’s next: The Titans face another NFC West foe as the San Francisco 49ers visit LP Field.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Richard ShermanUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesBackup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to face a stifling Seattle secondary and the league's best corner in Richard Sherman.
Sunday's game between the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks is a matchup between two winning teams coming off losses, and both are missing key players on offense.

Quarterback Jake Locker is out for the Titans. Both starting tackles -- Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini -- are out for Seattle. Tight end Zach Miller could also sit.

The Seahawks have a 10-game home winning streak on the line, hoping to rebound after their first defeat of the season, 34-28 to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Titans hope to get a stagnant running game going and find some consistency with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Paul, it looked like Fitzpatrick had a rough first outing for the Titans subbing for an injured Locker. Do you think Fitzpatrick will improve, and how difficult will it be for Tennessee to have success on offense while Locker is out?

Kuharsky: Fitzpatrick is certainly capable of playing better than he did in the loss to Kansas City, when he had three very bad quarters and one good one. I'm not sure what the Titans can do to help him if they are unable to run the ball. If they can bring some balance with Chris Johnson (and maybe Shonn Greene, who's still trying to get back after knee surgery), it could be a lot less difficult. Fitzpatrick hardly has Locker's excellent speed, but he scrambled around pretty well against the Chiefs. With Locker in the first four games, the Titans didn't turn the ball over and overcame their deficiencies running the ball. Without him, they need Fitzpatrick to imitate the mistake-free youngster. But Fitzpatrick is more of a gunslinger than Locker and is streakier, and that's probably too much to ask.

Terry, the Titans pledged to be a great running team. It hasn't really panned out that way. Last time Johnson was in Seattle, he had a 2,000-yard season. What's the run defense going to be like?

Blount: It's been all but impossible to run up the middle on the Seahawks. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is as strong a run stopper as there is the NFL, and it takes two blockers to handle 325-pound Red Bryant. If that fails, it's tough to get past middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. But Wagner probably won't play Sunday because of a high ankle sprain. Nevertheless, it's difficult to establish a running game on the Seahawks. Seattle is an aggressive outside pass-rushing team, so occasionally a back can get yardage outside, but not often.

Paul, Locker told us on the conference call Wednesday what a disappointment it is that he won't get to play this weekend in front of family, friends and University of Washington alumni who love him for all he did to help turn around the Huskies football program. He is a beloved guy here and a huge hero in this community. How is he viewed in Nashville?

Kuharsky: Nothing close to that yet. People who have given him a chance know he's an eminently likable guy, a hard worker and a well-respected leader, but plenty of fans called talk radio over the offseason talking about why Fitzpatrick would be a better choice or how it should at least be a camp competition. Even after Week 2's overtime loss in Houston, when he overthrew a wide-open Kenny Britt on a crucial third-and-1 late in the game, there were calls for change. (It's a throw he's got to make.) The game-winning drive against San Diego showed people what he can do. Locker also had a fantastic two-plus quarters against the Jets, which seems to have done a lot to win more people over. In playing style and development arc, I think he is a lot like Steve McNair so far. If that holds true, impatient fans will wind up happy.

Terry, home field is viewed as such a giant advantage for the Seahawks. Can you give us a tangible feel for just how loud and crazy the atmosphere is there?

Blount: In the San Francisco game, where the outdoor stadium decibel record was set at 131.9, it was so loud that it was difficult at times to even hear people talk in the enclosed press box. I know every team believes its stadium is one of the loudest, and I've been to most of them, but trust me, there is nothing like CenturyLink Field. It's deafening.

Paul, cornerback Alterraun Verner is off to an outstanding start this season with four interceptions and 11 passes defensed. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman is viewed by some as the best corner in the NFL, but is Verner the most underrated?

Kuharsky: He could have had another two picks last week on balls he didn't manage to haul in. Verner has been really good. The team wasn't sure what it had in him. The Titans knew they got a good football player out of UCLA three years ago. But as they revamped this offseason, with Gregg Williams joining the coaching staff and the Titans determined to get more aggressive, they figured a big increase in press-man coverage would move them away from Verner's strengths. They wanted Tommie Campbell, a faster and bigger guy to win the job. (Some wrote about how Campbell has some of what makes Sherman so good.) But Campbell didn't catch on and bombed in training camp, and Verner proved to be better. If Coty Sensabaugh hasn't recovered from his concussion for Sunday, Verner will start in base and move into the slot in nickel, with Campbell replacing him outside.

The Titans rush pretty well, and Verner is getting his hands on balls all over the field. Who has had the best success slowing Russell Wilson and how?

Blount: Even though Seattle came back and won the game, the Texans had the most success because of their talented defensive front and all-everything defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Both Houston and Indianapolis took advantage of Seattle missing starters on the offensive line and teed off on Wilson on third down. Nevertheless, Wilson is the best I've ever seen making the most of a bad situation and finding the opening the defense gives him. Anticipating when Wilson will roll out and cutting off his running lanes is the key, but it is far easier said than done.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- What should the Titans do with Kenny Britt?

He had a game off while he was hurt and the hope was it would help him refocus. But he was back to his dropping ways on Sunday and hurt the Titans in their loss to Kansas City.

I understand why it’s too extreme and not beneficial in the long term just to bury him.

But the team already reduced his work. He played far less against the Chiefs than he’s played in several games earlier this season -- just 35 of 69 snaps.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said after the game the team would reassess everything concerning Britt.

[+] EnlargeKenny Britt
AP Photo/Wade PayneLackluster play has led to a steep drop in playing time for Titans receiver Kenny Britt.
On Monday, Mike Munchak fielded questions about what that means.

“The only way someone can get out of a funk is to play,” Munchak said. “You can’t decide he’s never going to play again because he’s dropped some balls. It’s hard, it’s a double-edged sword. He’s dropped some balls. Does that mean he’s not going to get any opportunities the rest of the year? Where do you draw the line at, ‘OK, you’re not going to get a chance to catch any more footballs.’ That’s a tough little deal there."

“We still feel he’s a very good football player," Munchak said. "We still feel his attitude is very positive about trying to do the right thing. We know he wants to contribute. All those things are correct, so that’s why he continues to get an opportunity to play -- maybe not as much as he has when he was a starter at the beginning of the season -- but, he still had an opportunity yesterday to make a play or two. We have to look at that as a team, obviously. When you’re 3-2 and not scoring the points you want on offense, [you need to figure] out a way to do that.

“We’ll take all that under advisement as we go forward. No decisions have been made, and when the time comes, we’ll decide what’s best.”

I don’t think they are going to cut Britt loose, despite angry fans calling for his head. They can drop him to sixth out of six receivers, but they aren't finding a better guy on the street for that role.

Munchak said he watched Britt have another good week of practice last week. Munchak doesn't offer up the "good week of practice line nearly as often as his old boss, Jeff Fisher, did. But, as was typically the case with Fisher, I can’t remember Munchak ever saying someone had a bad week of practice. So we can't give the good week claim much import.

Until they get Britt in the stress of a game, they don’t know how he’s going to respond. And they can’t be the team they aspire to be if they are throwing the ball, even a little, to a guy they have that question about. They have enough other stuff to worry about.

Munchak said the franchise has an obligation to play the best guys.

When Britt is on the field, even as part of a rotation, they are failing to do so.

They can’t solve it on Sunday if they don’t come up with something new leading up to Sunday. Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson is getting good results out of others, but doesn’t appear to be getting through to Britt. To the degree Loggains and Munchak have tried, they haven't, either.

Meanwhile Britt looks like he’s “stabbing” at the ball, a good word chosen by former Titans quarterback Neil O’Donnell on Nashville radio.

“I don’t know if he’s pressing so hard because he wants to make a play that the easiest catches are becoming hard catches,” Munchak said. “I don’t know, it’s hard to explain exactly why. Obviously, his position is to catch footballs, and he’s having so much trouble in the games. He had some good opportunities. I mean, he didn’t play nearly as much as he normally does in games, but he still had opportunities to help us in this game. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to do that.”

It’s on Britt, first and foremost.

But Munchak can’t just say it’s hard to explain what’s up with the receiver. His job is to figure out what’s going on and help correct it. Through five weeks of the season, that appears to rate as a fail right along with Britt's performance.

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