Tennessee Titans: Jackie Battle

Titans surprise in speed ranking

August, 18, 2014
8/18/14
10:45
AM ET
Team speed isn’t a feature that screams out for the Tennessee Titans.

Yes, receiver Justin Hunter and quarterback Jake Locker are blazers. But beyond them, in their first season post-Chris Johnson, not many of their players shock you when they open up and run.

It turns out they may be faster than I thought.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland pieces together a way to measure team speed -- looking at primary skill-position players, using combine 40 times adjusted for age.

It’s inexact, but it’s as good as any approach we could assemble.

Much to Barnwell’s amazement, and mine, the Titans are the fastest team in the NFL by these measures.
The Titans are actually above-average at nine of the 10 positions in this lineup; only Bernard Pollard (4.73 age-adjusted 40-yard dash) is below-average at his respective spot, while the likes of Jake Locker (4.57) and Justin Hunter (4.46) are among the fastest players at their positions. Tennessee also has the fastest pair of cornerbacks in the league with Jason McCourty (4.40) and Coty Sensabaugh (4.37) booked to start.

In addition to those guys, Barnwell used Bishop Sankey, Jackie Battle, Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker and Michael Griffin.

Lack of quarterback speed drags down some of the top offenses and teams in the NFL. Denver (28), New Orleans (30) and New England (32) don’t fare well at all in this metric.

Speed may not matter as much as we tend to think. Philadelphia may be the most clever, modern offense in the NFL and the Eagles are 23rd here.

Tennessee will be more inventive on offense with Ken Whisenhunt calling the plays. Hopefully for the Titans, Hunter will run past people, Locker can hurt defenses when he takes off and speedy corners McCourty and Sensabaugh can help limit deep balls.

Speed can still kill. Since the Titans have it, they need to show how.

Titans Camp Report: Day 18

August, 12, 2014
8/12/14
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.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Monday's camp report detailed a horrific day of offensive practice.

How it unfolded warranted a separate post.

Each of the Tennessee Titans quarterbacks threw an interception, fulfilling what I like to call "The Pollard Prophecy." Safety Bernard Pollard frequently announces during the team's stretch that all the quarterbacks will be picked off.

There were at least three fumbles.

There were at least three bad snaps.

There were at least five drops.

Several members of the offense partially credited the defense for flying around. The defense did want to respond to playing so poorly on the opening drive of the Saturday night preseason opener versus the Packers. But I felt the offensive performance was far more self-inflicted.

"It was, it was," Pollard said. "But at the same time we dominated them too."

"We made a bunch of mental errors," fullback Jackie Battle said. "We just have to focus more on the small stuff. Don't get me wrong, the defense was flying around, I think they had one of their better days of training camp so far. It was just an all-around bad day for the offense."

The most recent example of something being very good or very bad often gets given too much weight. I am conscious of that even as I call it one of the worst offensive practices I can remember out of the Titans.

"I wouldn't say one of the worst, there's been way worse," said left tackle Michael Roos, the longest tenured player on the team who's heading into his 10th season with the Titans. "It was one of those bad days where things start off a little slow and then it snowballs."

The offense may have been dealing with tired legs left over from Friday night and the warm conditions. Those things contributed, certainly.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt is looking for a big bounce back and players are reflecting their coach's thinking.

"This is part of the process," Battle said. "Every day is not going to go perfect. This gives us an opportunity to see what we are made of, an opportunity to come back and bounce back tomorrow."

Tuesday is the last of the Titans' eight open training camp practices in Nashville.

But there isn't an official date for wrapping camp, as Whisenhunt isn't obligated to end it any time soon and can hold more padded practices if he keeps it going.

How the team practices the rest of the week and plays in New Orleans Friday can have a bearing on when the schedule changes and players can check out of the team hotel.
Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans…

One-time defensive captain Colin McCarthy is now in a fight for a roster spot, says John Glennon of The Tennessean. "Can Colin win the starting job?” said defensive coordinator Ray Horton. “Well, sure he can. And we are grading them by what they do right here."

Practice observations from Wednesday from Glennon.

Jackie Battle says he’s never going to be comfortable about having a roster spot in hand, says David Boclair of the Nashville Post.

A slideshow from Wednesday’s practice from Tennessean photographer George Walker.

Breaking down some categories of throws from Jake Locker, with Bill Ott of Music City Miracles.

The Titans' offensive line could be one of the NFL’s best in 2014, says Joe Fann of the team’s website.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans are moving away from having a one-back workhorse -- Chris Johnson was cut in the spring -- and will have a running game by committee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If you’re out there on a drive and you get four or five carries, I mean how much longer is it going to take you to get rhythm?” he said. “Certain guys are going to get reps on certain things. And so when they get into the game, there will be a rotation. I’ve done it before and never had a problem.”
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 2

July, 27, 2014
7/27/14
8:02
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • In one-on-ones with receivers against defensive backs, undrafted rookie wideout Julian Horton matched up against undrafted rookie corner Ri'Shard Anderson. Jake Locker's pass sailed further downfield than where Horton had broken to the sideline. As Anderson looked back after the ball went incomplete, Locker pointed to where he should have been. That’s not vocal, but it did illustrate the sort of ownership and willingness to be heard that Locker said he’s been more reluctant to show in the past.
  • There was a stiff wind that had a bearing on a lot of passes. Charlie Whitehurst looked most affected by it to me, particularly on some deep balls in one-on-ones where he chose to put a lot of air under passes. Even Zach Mettenberger, the strongest-armed quarterback on the team, threw some wobblers. Ken Whisenhunt said he was happy with the wind, because the Titans were sure to get something like it on a game day at some point. Long-time assistant equipment man Matt Thompson has always shown a big arm. He made one of the day’s best throws when Leon Washington needed a ball in the end zone to bring out as the team worked on return positioning. It was over 40 yards in the air, a rope with a nice arc and plenty of zip.
  • Whisenhunt said more cover-2 was as big a reason for the reduction in deep completions from Day 1 to Day 2 as the wind. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said no deep balls have been a theme since he joined the team and he was glad the offense hit them on the first day so he could say “this is what we’re talking about” to the defense.
  • There were some big mismatches where the matchups got out of sync. I guess the lesser player in Justin Hunter vs. Anderson and Rico Richardson vs. Coty Sensabaugh has a lot to learn from such a snap. But I liked when Tommie Campbell stepped on the field, replacing Khalid Wooten, for a snap against Justin Hunter. Campbell struggled against Marc Mariani on Saturday and had a tough time again, particularly in some snaps against Hunter.
  • Blidi Wreh-Wilson got the second day work as the second starting cornerback, after Sensabaugh had it on Saturday. Wreh-Wilson stuck with Hunter on a deep route early in seven-on-seven and Locker looked to want to go there, but ended up checking down.
  • Taylor Lewan got the bulk of the work as the starting left guard with Andy Levitre (appendix) out and Byron Stingily heading inside to deal with sickness.
  • Michael Preston worked higher in the receiver pecking order on Day 2, and Mariani was lower.
  • Whisenhunt said at the start that competitive positions wouldn’t see the same guy at the front of the line for multiple days. That bodes well for the status of Jackie Battle, who was the front-liner at fullback ahead of Collin Mooney again on Sunday.
  • Locker was running comfortably and without any hesitation. In one team period, he pulled it down after seeing nothing to his liking and ran up the middle, threw a completion along the right sideline to Nate Washington after rolling right and also rolled left and took off that direction. There was nothing to suggest his surgically repaired foot was any sort of issue.
  • Nate Washington returned to the receiver group jawing hard at cornerback Micah Pellerin, telling him not to do that and “if you’re beat, you’re beat.” Pellerin dropped a pick of Whitehurst on a throw Whitehurst didn’t seem to step into as strongly as he could have.
  • Second team defense: LE Al Woods, NT Antonio Johnson, RE Mike Martin, LOLB Shaun Phillips, ILB Zaviar Gooden, ILB Colin McCarthy, ROLB Akeem Ayers, LCB Tommie Campbell, S George Wilson, S Daimion Stafford, RCB Sensabaugh.
  • Washington, Dexter McCluster, Bishop Sankey and Mariani didn’t field balls, but each brought balls out of the end zone in a kickoff return period.
  • Kendall Wright made a nice sliding catch in traffic in front of Sensabaugh.
  • Stafford picked off a Tyler Wilson pass for tight end Jason Schepler.
  • Bernard Pollard was busting on Zach Mettenberger from the sideline as Mettenberger led the offense, shouting "Roll Tide." That's what someone said to Metenberger recently before sucker punching the former LSU player at a Nashville bar.
Titans fullback Collin Mooney will spend the summer scuffling to keep a job.

We don’t know how exactly Ken Whisenhunt will deploy a fullback and the Titans have running back Jackie Battle working as a fullback.

It may be an ideal scenario for Battle to be the guy. The Titans would have a fourth running back available and Battle is a good special-teams player. Tight ends can chip in with some fullback work, too. That sort of positional versatility for the fullback spot can be valuable considering no team uses very much of a two-back set.

But it won't be that easy to displace Mooney, who was rated very well by Pro Football Focus for his play in 2013. In just 105 snaps, he rated a plus-9.9. Michael Mountford of PFF picked Mooney as the Titans' secret superstar from 2013.

Mooney never played more than 15 snaps in a game, so no matter how well he played they didn’t value a fullback's contribution very much very often.

Mountford sees the potential for more room for Mooney under Whisenhunt, particularly because of the way Whisenhunt used fullbacks in Arizona.

It’s a position that will bear watching.
For his first three years in the NFL, Chris Johnson was one of the most underpaid backs in the NFL. He made about $7.7 million.

For the last three years, he's been more than fairly compensated -- collecting $34 million.

So to those who think life is unfair for Johnson right now, I'd say it's as easy to look at him as fortunate as well as unfortunate.

If Johnson was drafted years earlier, he would have been very well paid. But if he was in the 2014 draft, he would never line up for anything close to $41.7 million in his career.

His career has straddled a seismic shift in the economics for running backs.

ESPN.com's Ashley Fox runs through the harsh realities of that.

It's tough timing for CJ now. He'll likely get a reduced role and a contract with an annual value of $4 million or less. But at least he had six years of the old economics.

Going forward, here's a look at the Titans and running back money:

Titans' running back base-salary cash costs in 2014: Shonn Greene $2.3M, Dexter McCluster $1M, Jackie Battle $855k, draft pick $435k. Total $4.589M.

Titans' running back salary-cap costs in 2014: Greene $3.23M, McCluster $4M, Battle $570k, draft pick $435k + prorated piece of bonus. Total $8.235M + prorated bonus for the rookie.
Tuesday marks a week since free agency opened. Let's look at what has unfolded for the Tennessee Titans to this point.

Newcomers

RB Dexter McCluster (Kansas City) -- He looks to be more a running back than a receiver in their initial thinking. Catching passes out of the backfield will likely be his biggest role in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense.

DL Al Woods (Pittsburgh) -- The Titans have looked at a lot of versatile defensive linemen, and Woods is the one they’ve managed to add so far. He can play anywhere on a three-man line but provides a nice option in the middle.

LB Wesley Woodyard (Denver) -- He’ll bring quality leadership and is expected to fit comfortably as a 3-4 inside linebacker, a spot at which the Titans need to continue to upgrade their options.

QB Charlie Whitehurst -- A veteran quarterback who’s hardly played but was in Whisenhunt’s offense last year in San Diego. Will have more of a chance at playing time behind Jake Locker than he did behind Philip Rivers.

RT Michael Oher -- A big, durable, physical offensive lineman who’s in line to take over at right tackle. He’s been penalty prone and hasn’t progressed a ton in five years with the Ravens, but if he improves, he could be a big answer.

Visitors who remain unsigned

LB Akeem Jordan (Kansas City) -- Could be a good option as the short-area inside linebacker.

DT Pat Sims (Oakland) -- A run stopper who could likely contribute on run downs.

Re-signed

SS Bernard Pollard -- The outspoken thumper did a lot to help restore the Titans to relevance last season and fits very nicely with Michael Griffin in the middle of the Titans' secondary. Sounded fired up about the new regime.

DE Ropati Pitoitua -- A giant defensive end who did some good work in the 4-3 last season. He’s even better cast for the new hybrid front that will have a significant 3-4 element.

KR Leon Washington -- He settled the return game down substantially after he joined the team late in the season. McCluster could render Washington redundant, but starting out with multiple options for the return game is a good thing.

RB Jackie Battle -- The Titans are heading toward a committee of running backs. Battle should be the backup to the Shonn Greene piece of it plus a special teamer.

Signed away

CB Alterraun Verner (Tampa Bay) -- A very productive corner who was the Titans’ lone Pro Bowler in 2013. They never expected to get him back, and though his price wasn’t what his agent expected, he bolted to be part of the Cover-2 Lovie Smith will run.

Released

RT David Stewart -- Beat up and expensive after nine seasons, he sounded like he’s leaning strongly to retirement after he got the news from the only organization for which he’s played.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick -- Interception prone and too streaky, he still ranked as a serviceable veteran backup in a bleak landscape for them. Whitehurst takes his place and saved the Titans a $500,000 roster bonus.

Still out there

WR Kenny Britt -- Interest in a reclamation project is reportedly coming from St. Louis, New England and Washington.

G-C Chris Spencer -- He’s a player the Titans could use back to work behind Andy Levitre, Brian Schwenke and Chance Warmack.

DT Antonio Johnson -- Has 3-4 experience from Indianapolis but with Woods added Johnson hardly ranks as a priority at this point.

WR Damian Williams -- A smart and versatile receiver. He can be good as the fourth or fifth guy, but it's a loaded free-agent pool and draft class at receiver.

Also: C Kevin Matthews, OT Mike Otto, QB Rusty Smith, C Rob Turner, RS-WR Marc Mariani.

Titans now know No. 2 and No. 3 RBs

February, 25, 2014
2/25/14
8:31
AM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We know who the Titans' No. 2 running back is going to be in 2014. We know who’s in line to be the No. 3 back.

While the question lingers about the future of longtime lead back Chris Johnson because of his pricey contract, the Titans signed Shonn Greene a year ago. And per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, they have agreed to a one-year deal with Jackie Battle, who was the third back and a key special-teamer in 2013.

In the past three years, Battle said he didn’t get a deal until late, so he’s excited to know early on where he is going to be.

He carried the ball more than the team anticipated last season because Greene missed extended time after suffering a knee injury in the opener that required surgery.

Bigger news is to come at the position, of course.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We've awaited indications about the Tennessee Titans' interest level in some of their unrestricted free agents to-be.

Via Jim Wyatt we get the first signals about what Tennessee would like to do.

They are talking to Alterraun Verner, who may prove too expensive.

Per Wyatt:
The Titans also have talked with the agents for safety Bernard Pollard and defensive end Ropati Pitoitua, who are scheduled to become free agents.

Indications are the Titans have either talked with or plan to talk with the agents for running back Jackie Battle, wide receivers Damian Williams and Marc Mariani, return man Leon Washington and offensive lineman Chris Spencer as well.

“A lot of those guys have had a positive impact on our team, so we're going to try and keep as many of those guys as we can,” (Ruston) Webster said.

Now we don't know if they are hell-bent on re-signing some of those guys or if their contact is more on a check-in level.

Ranking the guys from that group, Pollard is most important and Pitoitua is probably second. I'd put Washington third, and Williams fourth.

Defensive tackle Antonio Johnson is also a player they will consider bringing back.

Not on Wyatt's list of guys coming free who the Titans will talk to, at least at this point: Receiver Kenny Britt (no surprise at all), interior offensive lineman Rob Turner, receiver Kevin Walter and offensive tackle Michael Otto.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 16

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
8:00
AM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An examination of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 20-16 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars:

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

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

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

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

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 15

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
11:41
AM ET
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.

Greene has to add to Titans' run game

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
6:32
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Anytime I’ve mentioned Shonn Greene as a potential boost for the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets fans who have noticed it have latched on.

The Titans are expecting a boost from Greene?

It’s true.

[+] EnlargeShonne Greene
Ronald C. Modra/Getty ImagesThe Titans are looking to Shonne Greene to help revitalize a stagnant run game.
The run game Titans coaches pledged would be the backbone of the offense ranks 18th in the NFL -- averaging 108.3 yards a game and 3.7 yards a carry. Feature back Chris Johnson is averaging 3.1 yards and has not broken off a run longer than 23 yards.

Enter Greene, who injured his right knee in the season opener in Pittsburgh, missed five games and was barely on the field against San Francisco.

When they signed Greene to a three-year, $10 million contract the Titans believed Johnson and Greene would be great as a one-two punch. Greene was expected to get the bulk of short-yardage and goal line work. Instead it’s been Johnson and third-stringer Jackie Battle.

Hopefully for the rushing offense, Greene’s running style proves more assertive than his personality. He’s been very ho-hum in conversations I’ve had with him about getting back and making an impact. That, of course, doesn’t have to mean a thing.

He didn’t sound real fired up about opportunities to run inside against St. Louis on Sunday.

“I don’t know about inside runs because they changed their defense up and pretty much have eight in the box every play,” he said. “We watch film and when they played Seattle they had eight in the box pretty much the whole game, so it’s going to be tough to get inside. But we’ve got a couple things for them, so hopefully those schemes will work.

That’s hardly in sync with the team’s preseason insistence that the Titans would impose their will and believed they would be able to run against virtually anyone virtually anytime.

I would think a majority of power backs would talk about thinking they can get yards up the gut no matter the defense.

Perhaps he’s just offering us a realistic view.

Greene said St. Louis’ determination to use eight in the box came after they watched the 49ers run for 219 yards.

It’s not as if the Rams then became an invincible run defense. Houston ran for 153 yards. Carolina ran for 102. They had a good game against Seattle, allowing only 44 yards on Monday night.

Coach Mike Munchak spoke encouragingly about what Greene can add.

“He looks good out here,” Munchak said. “There’s no reason he can’t do whatever. If he had to carry it 20 times, he should be able to do that now. We’ll just have to, again, hope that we can get in a situation where we run the ball 35 times so that he can get touches.

"That’s what we need him to do to help him get in shape because he hasn’t had any [carries] since preseason really. He looks good, and that’s exactly how we hoped he would. He’s running hard in practice. We had a good day today, so I’m looking forward to him getting some opportunities."

The excuses are about up for the Titans run game.

They’ve got Brian Schwenke in place as their starting center for a second game. They’ve got their full compliment of running backs. They’ve got an opponent that can give up yards.

If they don’t gain ground yards in St. Louis and next week against winless Jacksonville, I don’t know why we should expect they’ll ever get them. And I don’t know how they could justify staying the philosophical course.

SPONSORED HEADLINES