NFL Nation: Kendall Wright

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Prevailing wisdom on Titans receiver Kendall Wright is that he’ll be used more creatively by coach Ken Whisenhunt. Wright will be used outside more, not just in the slot, and he’ll get sent deep more and be used near the goal line more.

Wright
But the wisdom also says he’s unlikely to match the 94 catches (for 1,077 yards) he grabbed in 2013, even as he grows his 11.5-yard average.

I am here to say we should throw the idea of accepting fewer catches in the name of spreading things out right out the window.

Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey is the Titans' other best player. In a camp setting, it’s a lot harder for a lineman to stand out than a receiver.

Wright is the Titans' best player right now, by a good margin.

He’s caught everything thrown to him, by whichever quarterback, over whichever defender, against whatever coverage.

I like the Titans' overall weaponry. Justin Hunter, Nate Washington, Delanie Walker, Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey offer a nice serving plate of solid options in addition to Wright.

But Wright is 1A, very much at the top of the list, his name absolutely in capital letters.

Make them bold, too.

Titans Camp Report: Day 18

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
7:16
PM ET
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
PM ET
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. -- Every team in every training camp talks optimistically. Every team with a new coaching staff talks about how things are different for the better.

The Tennessee Titans are lowly regarded by plenty of fans and media nationally. But they have a lot going on that they feel those people have not paid attention to.

With Ken Whisenhunt and his staff at the helm, new schemes on both sides of the ball, a schedule that doesn’t include some of the powers they faced a year ago and a division with two other rebuilding franchises, they might have a chance to surprise.

."You say each and every year, 'Feels different, feels different, feels different,'" safety Michael Griffin said. "Just, you can see every day, people out there talking, we always have guys picking people up. Each and every day there is competition. There are little side bets here and there -- who’s going to win this period and things of that nature. The whole time we’re all trying to get each other better.

"Again, it just feels so much different in this locker room, and everybody has the same goals in mind, and that’s a positive around here."

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeKen Whisenhunt
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsNew coach Ken Whisenhunt brings a solid résumé and a strong coaching staff to the Titans.
1. Whisenhunt isn’t Vince Lombardi or Don Shula, but the Titans' new coach is a significant upgrade from Mike Munchak, who was unsteady in his first three years as an NFL head coach. Whisenhunt had success in the role during his six seasons in Arizona, and he is a well-regarded offensive mind who will do more with what the Titans have than his predecessors.

Whisenhunt had the connections and the interviewing skills to hire a staff that appears to be filled with strong teachers, including a few quality holdovers. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is turning the Titans into a less predictable 3-4 and comfortably works his way into different sections of practice when position work is unfolding. I've watched these coaches teach and I've seen them connect with players.

Whisenhunt may field a complex offense that's hard to defend, but he's good at keeping things simple. I don't see any changes in how the Titans function that aren't for the better at this point.

2. The Titans don’t have players the fans are going to pick to captain their fantasy squads, but Tennessee should have a good array of quality weapons on offense. Kendall Wright topped 1,000 yards in his second season, and now the team’s best receiver will be sent on a wider variety of routes, not just inside slot stuff. He's been excellent so far in camp. Justin Hunter is doing better getting his legs under him and is catching the ball more comfortably. He got behind Atlanta's defense a few times in the recent joint practice and should be a constant deep threat. Nate Washington is showing he remains a versatile, productive guy.

Beyond the receivers, tight end Delanie Walker and running backs Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey will be good pass-catching options. When the Falcons gave the Titans a lot of room underneath, Jake Locker hit McCluster with a pass over the middle, and he had a ton of space to take. The Titans have invested a great deal in their offensive line over the past two seasons. They have one more tackle than they need after signing Michael Oher and drafting Taylor Lewan. There should be better protection for the quarterback and better holes for the running backs.

3. The 4-3 defense in recent years lacked a star pass-rusher on the edge who an offense had to fear every snap. The Titans still don’t seem to have that guy. They have to find him, but even if he doesn’t emerge from this group, the overall production out of the pass rush should be better. Who is rushing and who is dropping into coverage? In the 4-3, opponents pretty much knew. In this 3-4, it won’t be nearly as clear on a regular basis. Jurrell Casey, who notched 10.5 sacks as a tackle last season, will work as an end now. He's worked on speed rushes off the edge as well as his bread-and-butter quick power stuff in camp.

Sure, some good quarterbacks can diagnose who is rushing and who isn’t, no matter the front. But outside of Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck (twice), the Titans don’t face any A-list quarterbacks coming off big 2013 seasons this time around. They don’t see Seattle and San Francisco this season either.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. Locker is a really likable guy who works hard, says the right things and desperately wants to prove he is the long-term answer for the Titans at quarterback. But in two seasons as the starter, he's missed 14 games while dealing with shoulder, hip, knee and foot injuries. He's practiced pretty well, but there are plays splashed in that can be killers on a Sunday afternoon.

Getting 16 games out of him is hardly a certainty for the Titans. Even if they do and he fits well with what Whisenhunt is asking him to do, he has not been accurate or poised enough when he has played. He sometimes tries to do too much and isn’t poised under pressure. Though he moves well and is very fast, putting him on the move puts him at more risk of another injury. Behind him are more question marks. Charlie Whitehurst has had no real success in just 13 games in eight seasons and often fails to step into his throws. Rookie Zach Mettenberger has a great arm but slipped to the sixth round for several reasons and is rotating with Tyler Wilson as the third-team QB. (Update: Wilson was released Wednesday.)

2. The offensive weaponry looks good, but for those five pass-catchers to give the Titans the nice smorgasbord of options, they need to stay healthy. Also, guys like Hunter (second year), Sankey (a rookie) and McCluster (first year with the Titans and Whisenhunt) need to show that their potential and practice play translate into NFL Sundays in a Tennessee uniform. Wright was the best player on offense last season and should grow more. Can the others become known quantities?

Who is the star of the defense? DT-turned-DE Casey is a strong, quick rusher who was healthy and productive in 2013. He is going to land a big-money contract -- either soon from Tennessee or on the market next spring. There are some nice pieces around him, but the Titans need veterans to have their best seasons and youngsters to emerge, all simultaneously. In Georgia, no defender stood out and regularly gave the Falcons more than they could handle.

3. Forty-seven percent of the current 90-man roster has been in the league for two years or less. Youth is generally good, but it needs to be quality youth and it needs to be surrounded by quality veterans. The Titans lack experience in a lot of spots. There aren't kids in camp who weren't high picks but have forced their way up the depth chart to this point.

Maybe it’s a great mix of players and a good share of the inexperienced people can blossom together. But with new coaches and new schemes, it could be asking a lot for all that to happen in the first season.

OBSERVATION DECK
    [+] EnlargeJake Locker
    Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsJake Locker needs a healthy season if he hopes to become the long-term answer at QB for the Titans.

  • Locker said he feels more comfortable speaking up and being vocal, and he has shown himself to be more confident in how he carries himself. After one throw that looked to be too long for an undrafted rookie, Locker pointed to tell Julian Horton where he should have gone. He still has bad moments in practice, but the preseason has not started, and he is progressing.
  • The Titans have moved running back Jackie Battle to fullback, where he can offer some needed versatility. He appears to have a sizable lead on incumbent Collin Mooney, who has had, at most, a handful of first-team snaps.
  • Among long-shot late additions, veteran receiver Derek Hagan has been consistently good and Brian Robiskie is also gaining notice. He's competing for the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots with Marc Mariani and Michael Preston. Maybe they'll keep six.
  • Sankey is learning quickly how to be a pro, and he has shown a bit of everything the Titans said they expected when they made him the first running back selected in the draft. His first day in pads he looked like an experienced NFL-caliber pass protector. He has good vision and makes good decisions on when to go and when to cut. He also catches the ball well, can run inside and outside.
  • Weakside outside linebacker Shaun Phillips has not worked at all with the first team when Kamerion Wimbley has been practicing.
  • Tommie Campbell was politely mentioned with Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson as a contender for the starting right cornerback spot that opened when Alterraun Verner signed with Tampa Bay. But it’s a two-man competition, and Campbell has struggled horribly.

Titans Camp Report: Day 10

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
7:17
PM ET
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • The Titans got no one injured Monday in a joint practice with the Falcons at their facility, always the best development to come out of a preseason practice. Defensive linemen Antonio Johnson and Mike Martin and tight end Dorin Dickerson came in with injuries and didn’t practice.
  • The first fight turned out to be the only big fight. It came as the Titans and Falcons worked on punt returns and Coty Sensabaugh swiped a helmet off Robert McClain and a lot of players from both teams came onto the scene to get involved. It may have settled itself down, but Tommie Campbell came flying in to shove two Falcons, Bernard Pollard got involved and Ri’Shard Anderson came in with helmet in hand and swung it into Atlanta’s Ricardo Allen “We got it over and out of the way and moved on,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We thought it might come, it came early and we settled down.” Whisenhunt doesn’t fine players for practice fights, but Anderson should be fined for a foolhardy and dangerous move.
  • Later, Falcons center Joe Hawley got tossed by officials for his role in a smaller scrap with Michael Griffin.
  • Whisenhunt was audibly upset when Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora hit Jake Locker’s arm on a pass. “He grabbed his arm, he hit his hand,” Whisenhunt said. “Osi apologized. He knows he can’t do that.”
  • Marqueston Huff looked like he’s got the potential to be a quality gunner on punt returns. I saw him quickly burst between Kimario McFadden and Jordan Mabin to get en route in a hurry.
  • On a very early snap in one-on-ones matching Titans defensive backs against Falcons receivers, Jason McCourty was right with Roddy White on a quick throw from Matt Ryan, got an arm in and watched the ball pop loose. Another pass for White with McCourty on him was overthrown. McCourty was very solid in that period. The rest of the defensive backs were not as good. Griffin drew two flags for contact. (Khalid Wooten made a nice play and had a near pick of a Jeff Matthews pass for Tramaine Thompson. I think Wooten is steadily improving though he's not playing against the high-caliber guys.)
  • In one-on-ones, the Titans' offense connected on a big play early as Justin Hunter ran away from corner Robert McClain, collecting a throw from Charlie Whitehurst. Hunter caught another deep one from Zach Mettenberger.
  • Locker didn’t throw deep much, as the Falcons seemed to be offering open stuff underneath far more often. Some plays worked great against it. Locker hit Kendall Wright out of the slot and Wright ran away from Josh Wilson for what would have been a touchdown. On another play, Dexter McCluster worked into open space in the short middle and had a ton of space from there. Whitehurst found room for some shots. One of them connected up the right side with Derek Hagan over corner Javier Arenas and safety Sean Baker.
  • In many practices Locker still seems to have one moment that could be deadly. He held the ball and shuffled left as the pocket began to collapse and threw for Delanie Walker. But Desmond Trufant got to it and dropped what should have been a pick. “For any quarterback, there is always at least one you wish you could have back,” he said when I asked him about that specific play.
  • Both of the Titans' kickers attempted field goals against the Falcons field goal defense from 33, 36, 39, 42 and 46 yards. Travis Coons made them all, Maikon Bonani missed his attempt from 46 wide right.
  • Andy Levitre took three snaps in each team period before rookie Taylor Lewan replaced him. Levitre had his appendix removed on July 24. He still didn’t participate in the high contact one-on-one pass-rush drills.
  • In one team period, the offense worked exclusively in “penny,” its three-cornerback, one-safety package.
  • Falcons receiver Harry Douglas made a catch over Sensabaugh after the Falcons had the Titans jumping around before the snap. Derrick Morgan started with his hand down at left end, stood up and backed out, then returned to his initial position while multiple defenders shouted out multiple signals and waved each other around in what appeared to be confusion.
  • Akeem Ayers made a couple plays, including batting down a pass from Sean Renfree. In one-on-ones he made a great spin move against tackle Lamar Holmes that got him to the quarterback. But in a seven-on-seven period, T.J. Yates threw to running back Devonta Freeman and Ayers had no chance against him in space.
  • Avery Williamson impressively ran step for step with running back Josh Vaughan on a deep route and the pass glanced on the rookie linebacker’s helmet.
  • Moise Fokou worked as high in the linebacker rotation as I can remember, pairing with Zaviar Gooden as the inside tandem with the second team at least some.
  • On a snap where DaQuan Jones and Al Woods were the two defensive linemen, neither put a hand on the ground. The Titans played that one with everyone starting off standing up.
  • On one snap of nickel where nose tackle Sammie Hill came off the field, the standing up, off-the-line outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley actually lined up inside of right end Jurrell Casey.
  • There were a bunch of penalty flags on both sides. The most popular offense was illegal contact by defensive backs. The second biggest was offside. More to come on that
  • It’s always amazing to see how many guys know each other when two rosters of 90 and their coaching staffs combine. Titans linebacker Zach Brown saw Yates and exclaimed, “T.J, what’s up buddy?” Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter chatted with Hagan. Falcons owner Arthur Blank got off his cart to hug Titans tight ends coach Mike Mularkey, who used to be Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. A lot of it was pre-practice, a lot was during the kicking period when non-special teamers had time to chat. I watched Chris Spencer and Griffin talk with Devin Hester as Pollard shouted to the Titans, “Y'all be careful with making friends right now.”
  • Find pictures at pkuharsky on Instagram.
  • The Titans are off Tuesday, then have an open practice at 9:20 a.m. CT Wednesday.

Camp preview: Tennessee Titans

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

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.
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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MVP replacements: Tennessee Titans 

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
12:00
PM ET
Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

The Tennessee Titans have two players who qualify as MVPs on a team that is thin on star power: Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and wide receiver Kendall Wright.

Tennessee has a reasonably good stable of defensive tackles beyond Casey, with Sammie Lee Hill, Antonio Johnson and Mike Martin. But none of them are equal forces against the run and the pass, and none of them are capable of posting 10.5 sacks the way Casey did in 2013.

Wright
Johnson is a free agent, and guys on the defensive line will likely have altered roles in a new scheme to be installed by new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. They have enough other defensive needs -- edge pass-rusher, play-making linebacker -- that finding depth behind Casey can’t be a priority.

His rookie contract runs through 2014, and re-signing him will be a major priority as the team looks to the future.

Wright caught 94 passes in his second season for 1,079 yards, and his position coach, Shawn Jefferson, said the receiver can revolutionize the slot receiver position. Wright has improved consistently since the Titans drafted him in the first round in 2012 out of Baylor.

He had to play a bit more outside last season because Kenny Britt bombed.

Wright and deep threat Justin Hunter, a second-round choice in 2013, are one of the best things the Titans have going for them.

Wright might be the most distinctive player on the Tennessee roster, so if the Titans lost him they’d likely have to alter their scheme to make up for it rather than finding a similar player to fill in or replace him.

The Titans have spent two of their last four highest picks on Wright and Hunter. Odds are receiver isn’t a draft priority for them this time. The offense needs a right tackle and maybe, most importantly, a quarterback.

All-AFC South: Tennessee Titans

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
10:00
AM ET
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans account for seven of 23 spots on offense and defense in ESPN.com’s All-AFC South Team for 2013.

The team was pieced together by a vote of the four writers who cover the division. That’s Mike Wells on the Indianapolis Colts, Tania Ganguli on the Houston Texans, Mike DiRocco on the Jacksonville Jaguars and me on the Titans.

Receiver Kendall Wright, running back Chris Johnson and right guard Chance Warmack are on the All-AFC South offense.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty and strong safety Bernard Pollard are on the 12-man defense; the extra spot helped us meld 4-3 and 3-4 defenses.

I didn’t vote for Warmack, as I thought he was too inconsistent. I would have preferred we left a guard slot, or even both guard slots, blank. Offensive line play in the division was generally poor.

I don’t like having two running backs on the team. No one uses enough fullback to warrant one here, but that doesn't mean we should have a second tailback. I pushed for three wide receivers instead, but was overruled by the editor overseeing the project and putting together the balloting.

Receiver T.Y. Hilton of the Colts is a huge omission here, and he’d be on my team ahead of Ben Tate or Johnson. If not three-wide we should have gone two-tight. But even with one tight end, I voted Delanie Walker ahead of Coby Fleener.

All-AFC South: Indianapolis Colts

January, 2, 2014
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NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Indianapolis Colts didn’t have a problem against teams in the AFC South this season. They went a perfect 6-0, and four of those victories were by eight points or more.

You wouldn’t have known that the Colts won the division just by looking at ESPN.com's All-AFC South team, because they had only six players on it. The Houston Texans had the most players named to the team with eight. The Texans opened the season with the talent to possibly make the Super Bowl, but their season turned into a disaster, as they lost their final 14 games.

Tennessee Titans receiver Kendall Wright edged out Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton to be the second receiver named to the team behind Houston’s Andre Johnson. Wright had more catches than Hilton, but the Colts receiver had more yards -- barely -- and more touchdowns than Wright.

An argument could be made that the Colts deserve more than six players on the team, but they’ll gladly take their current situation -- the playoffs -- over Houston’s.

Pro Bowl selections: Tennessee Titans

December, 27, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner is the team’s first Pro Bowl selection since 2010.

As of now, he’s going alone.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey has had a Pro Bowl season too. He ranks as second alternate at his position and has a chance to be part of the game if someone ahead of him is injured or plays in the Super Bowl.

He lost out to Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens, Dontari Poe of the Kansas City Chiefs, Justin Smith of the San Francisco 49ers, Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions and Kyle Williams of the Buffalo Bills.

The cornerbacks in addition to Verner are Brandon Flowers of the Chiefs, Brent Grimes of the Miami Dolphins, Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns, Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals, Darrelle Revis of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and Aqib Talib of the New England Patriots.

The Titans passed out quotes from Verner, who has just one game left in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

“It is a huge honor,” Verner said. “It is something that everybody in my family, we used to watch the game and admire the people that make it. So to know that I am going to be a part of it and that only a special group of people make this game is very exciting. It is a good cap-off to the season and I am excited to be able to represent the Titans.”

Verner said coach Mike Munchak and general manager Ruston Webster called him this afternoon with the news. The teams will be drafted by Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice instead of playing AFC versus NFC.

“I would like to say “thank you” to the fans and to Titans Nation that voted for me and tried to help me out,” Verner said. “I want to thank the coaches for allowing me to contribute the way I was able to contribute. Again to my teammates as well. This is not an individual sport at all. This wasn’t an ‘I’ award or an ‘I’ honor, I didn’t make this happen, everyone had a hand in it. I am appreciative, overwhelmed and very excited.”

Receiver Kendall Wright has been the Titans best offensive player. But he lost out to a group of qualified guys with bigger numbers. Of the eight, seven ranked higher in at least two of three categories -- catches, yards and touchdowns -- than Wright.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.
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.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When Ryan Fitzpatrick got hit by a blitzer, he threw short for Michael Preston in overtime. The resulting interception by Antoine Cason set up the Arizona Cardinals' win over the Tennessee Titans.

Preston said on "The Wake Up Zone" in Nashville this week that his deep route didn’t come with an adjustment for a blitz.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains confirmed that Thursday.

Not only did Preston not have a sight adjustment for that situation, no receiver has one for any situation.

“We don’t sight, we don’t hot,” Loggains said.

That means Fitzpatrick or whoever is at quarterback is expected to make a protection adjustment to deal with the blitz and know who the best person in the progression is to turn to under pressure.

“That way you eliminate some of the gray area of, ‘Is that guy coming, is that guy not coming?’ Loggains said. “That way the receiver can go run his routes instead of staring at the safety and playing slow. …

“Instead of hot routes, we’ll put built-ins where Ryan has to recognize a coverage and go to Kendall [Wright] on an escape or Delanie [Walker] on a shallow cross instead of saying this receiver or tight end has to change his route after the snap and see the same thing the quarterback sees.”

Sounds smart to me.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 15

December, 16, 2013
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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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