Thursday, January 2, 2014
Tennessee Titans season wrap-up
By Paul Kuharsky
Arrow indicates direction team is trending.
Final Power Ranking: 22
Preseason Power Ranking: 16
Biggest surprise: A team that revamped its interior offensive line and added a free-agent back in Shonn Greene to supplement Chris Johnson pledged a dedication to the run game. But the identity never developed and the Titans finished 14th in the NFL in rushing and didn't have a running back who averaged even 4 yards per carry. Greene got hurt and missed time and threw things off, but that shouldn't have undone the offense. There were too many times when the team needed a tough yard against a good team and declined to do what it said it would: run for it, even against a defense that knew what was coming.
• NFC season wrap-ups: N | S | E | W
• AFC season wrap-ups: N | S | E | W
Biggest disappointment: This team did well to stock the roster at receiver, so the combination of pretty good health and pretty good depth meant the free fall of Kenny Britt didn't hurt as much as it could have. But coming out of camp, he looked poised to have a giant year in the final season of his rookie contract. Instead, per ESPN Stats & Information, he dropped 15.2 percent of the 33 passes thrown toward him. That's the highest drop rate in the league for a wide receiver targeted more than 14 times. He said there was a double standard by the team regarding his drops. Maybe it was more like a quadruple standard, considering his drop rate was nearly four times that of Kendall Wright and Damian Williams.
Biggest need: This team overrated its ability to rush the passer. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey was a force, with 10.5 sacks in 15 games from the inside. But the outside guys were insufficient. They'll talk all day about how close Derrick Morgan gets on a regular basis, but he got only six sacks. The project with strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers moving forward to rush the passer as an end in situations was a failure. He got one sack. The Titans need to sign or draft an edge rusher who can be a difference-maker.
Team MVP: Casey. While there is a good case for Wright, the receiver who was a consistent threat, it's Casey by a nose. He produced 10.5 sacks from a position where double-digit sacks are a rarity. They were especially big considering the lack of help from other rushers. Casey has a swagger and an attitude that the team doesn't have enough of, and he established himself as a lynchpin who needs to be a long-term piece of this defense. His contract runs through 2014, but the Titans should talk extension with him this summer.
GRADING THE TENNESSEE TITANS
Jake Locker showed some promise, but then got hurt -- twice. We could see what they envision with him. Ryan Fitzpatrick was streaky with more bad than good.
Shonn Greene was supposed to supplement Chris Johnson but got hurt early and was low impact. Johnson's good moments were too few, and his 3.9-yard average was not worth $10 million.
Kendall Wright was really, really good with 94 catches for 1,079 yards, but they didn't feature him in the red zone enough. Nate Washington was solid again and Justin Hunter showed what he can be. Kenny Britt's disappearance was a puzzler.
Delanie Walker was an A, and an upgrade over departed, expensive free agent Jared Cook. Craig Stevens was made too one dimensional. A good blocker, he wasn't a difference-maker in the patchy run game. Taylor Thompson is making no progress.
A big disappointment after the Titans added five new guys, including three starters, to the group. Andy Levitre wasn't what was advertised following offseason knee surgery and Brian Schwenke dealt with multiple injuries.
Casey was outstanding and some guys played well in spurts around him. The outside pass rush was insufficient and the run defense, supposed to be bolstered, still ranked just 20th against the run, up only four spots.
Started well, then dropped off and made very few splash plays against quality offenses. I don't know that Akeem Ayers, Moise Fokou or Zach Brown should be in line as an unquestioned starter for 2014.
Easily the best unit on the team. Michael Griffin played his best in some time, because he was surrounded by better talent. Bernard Pollard was as advertised. Alterraun Verner broke out in a big way and earned the team's lone Pro Bowl berth.
Recovered once Leon Washington fell in their lap, but it wasn't enough to overcome the early disaster of Darius Reynaud's terrible decision-making, Devon Wylie's big blunder and two dropped punt snaps by Brett Kern. Not a good year at all.
In-game adjustments were generally poor. It seemed like if the initial plan didn't work, this team didn't do well to recover. Untimely penalties were an issue, and while players are on the hook for what they do, coaches are on the hook to get them to stop.