Here we go again, back to the proving grounds. Time for teams of all shapes and sizes to assert their will and show the World their true value, sometimes it is simply earning your entry fee back, sometimes it is all about getting back to the Super Bowl, fantasy or otherwise. In the case of the Tennessee Titans we are talking about both. This is a team that fired big flash like an old-timey guns, thanks to some tremendous individual performances, but in the end simply unfurled a "Bang" sign leaving its fans sad [Crowd: Awwwwwwwww]. This year the Titans have a lot to prove and wish them good luck and Godspeed as I break down their possible fantasy draft picks at the impact positions, season schedule, and analysis of the Titans coaching style coming into the 2010 season.
Tennessee Titans 2010 Fantasy Football Draft Targets
After the bye week in week 7 of the 2009 season, the Titans' Vince Young was finally able to step up and step in to the starting QB role that many thought he would have two or three years prior. Young is still unproven, even after five years in the league, and will need to make significant strides in a run first offense to prove that he is a top tier NFL QB. As it stands right now, Young is a solid backup for any team (only one 300+ yd game in 2009), a decent alternative if your primary starter has a bye week, or you need to plug a temporary hole, mainly because he is still a threat to generate points with his legs as well as with his arm.
Running Back (RB)
The one man fantasy assassin that is Chris Johnson is in the midst of a contract dispute at the moment, which may stall his preparation going into the 2010 season, but regardless, he led the league in rushing with only the sixth 2,000+ yd season,racking up 2,006, as well as 16 total TDs, and 503 receiving yards. As long as he is on the field he is a constant threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Right now the Titans have some serious depth issues at the running back position, compounded by the loss of their short yardage back LenDale White and backup Javon Ringer only has 8 career rushes. Despite the fact that Chris Johnson will reportedly get fewer touches this season, I do not foresee an epic drop in production (14 Total TDs; 1550-1700 rushing yds). He is a top 3 pick in any draft, hands down.
Wide Receiver (WR)
The Titans definitely enjoy spreading the ball around when they do decide to throw the ball, which, unfortunately, is not very often, ranking 28th in pass attempts, which accordingly leads to a fewer passing yards, ranked 23rd in receiving yds/g in 2009.
- Kenny Britt- Has potential to be the Titans most explosive receiver, but low-and-behold he showed up to OTAs out of shape. Not a good sign for the Tennessee faithful. He has decent hands and speed down the field and is their only big play man on the outside when they do take their shots. If, and only if, he gets his act together and proves that he is a starter in this league, he has the potential to be a 1,000 yd man in his sophomore season, but will most likely stay the course (50 catches and 600-750 yds) and fall into the middle rounds of your draft.
- Justin Gage/Nate Washington- Both solid performers and experienced veterans. Gage and Washington are the main targets when the Titans go to the air in the red zone, accounting for more than half of the Titans aerial TD production, with 9 combined, but do not expect them to carry your team to greater heights. They give you consistent production, but lack the explosiveness, and the offensive scheme, to put up big numbers every week.
Tight End (TE)
Bo Scaife- Bo knows blocking, but Bo doesn't necessarily know fantasy points. Scaife is a solid blocking tight end and produced when he needed to last season, but is not a great target on the field or in your draft. He caught the football relatively frequently for the Titans passing game last season, but only hit pay dirt once and failed to come even close to a 100 yd receiving game. Scaife's season high output was a mere 68 yds against the Arizona Cardinals, a team notorious for letting tight ends go off on a weekly basis. Although the departure of Alge Crumpler to the Patriots will put Scaife in position to catch the ball more frequently, it is still a run first oriented offensive scheme and his primary goal will be to block for Chris Johnson rather than catch touchdowns.
What was once a staple of the Tennessee Titans has now become a bull’s-eye around the league. Last season the Titans were under the microscope in the wake of big Albert Haynesworth’s departure and they struggled, but I don’t think people expected them to struggle as much as they did. During the 2009 season, the Titans gave up the second most passing yards per game, and fifth most points per game in the league. They did have one relative bright spot being that their defensive line overcame some early struggles and put together a solid season ranking eleventh against the run with 106 yds/g. Jeff Fisher has made an attempt to rebuild piecemeal through the draft with the key additions of DE Derrick Morgan in the first round, 16th overall, who will make an immediate impact with his speed and power to attack the passer, and two safeties in Robert Johnson and Myron Rolle, who will compete for spots in the secondary that accounted for 20 interceptions a year ago. Overall, I cannot recommend the Titans defense too highly, not until they show it on the field. The Titans D would be a great asset to have on the bench if they do pull it together this year as they are a team that can make plays, but last year’s inconsistencies, primarily in the secondary, raise too many red flags for them to be a primary option. Look for Cortland Finnegan to be a major impact player this year and build on his 5 interceptions from last year and a potentially dangerous return man if Kenny Britt doesn’t get his act together in time.
1 Sun, Sept 12 vs. Oakland Raiders
2 Sun, Sept 19 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
3 Sun, Sept 26 @ New York Giants
4 Sun, Oct 3 vs. Denver Broncos
5 Sun, Oct 10 @ Dallas Cowboys
6 Mon, Oct 18 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
7 Sun, Oct 24 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
8 Sun, Oct 31 @ San Diego Chargers
9 BYE WEEK
10 Sun, Nov 14 @ Miami Dolphins
11 Sun, Nov 21 vs. Washington Redskins
12 Sun, Nov 28 @Houston Texans
13 Sun, Dec 5 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
14 Thu, Dec 9 vs. Indianapolis Colts
15 Sun, Dec 19 vs. Houston Texans
16 Sun, Dec 26 @ Kansas City Chiefs
17 Sun, Jan 2 @ Indianapolis Colts
Schedule wise 2010 could prove to be a nightmare season for the Titans. The AFC South division is as tough as it has ever been, with the Colts coming off of a Super Bowl appearance, the constantly improving offensive juggernaut that the Houston Texans have become over the past two seasons, and the Jacksonville Jaguars could surprise some people this year if they can improve on the defensive side of the football. Even if they make it out of their division with a .500 record, which in itself is a major task, their competition is just as stiff throughout the rest of the regular season against teams that have made major improvements in the off season like the Miami Dolphins with Brandon Marshall and the Washington Redskin’s addition of Donovan McNabb. In order for the Titans to have a successful season they need to take care of business against their weaker opponents like the Raiders and the Jags, and they need to play perfect football against the rest of the league if they even want a sniff at the AFC Wild Card spot. I see potential for an 8-8 season with key wins against the Roethlisberger-less Steelers in week 2 and the Colts in week 17 playing without most of their starters with their post-season spot already a lock.
Coach Jeff Fisher's game plan last season was relatively simple, hand the ball off until Chris Johnson’s legs no longer function, and, surprisingly enough, at times it actually worked. In other words, this is, and will continue to be, a run focused offense. Teams knew it was coming and they still got hit in the mouth. Granted, in the NFL, if you hand the ball off enough times, running backs are bound to get few yards here and there, and with a guy as talented as Johnson they are bound to break one or two out for massive gains. Fisher has built a solid offensive line that opens holes all over the field, but the odds of them replicating their success on the ground from last season is relatively slim. With Vince Young stepping in under center as the undisputed starter for the first time, I see Fisher putting the ball in Young's hands early in the season to prove that he has faith in his QB, and hopefully build some of the confidence that we saw glimpses of in the second half of the season last year. The one problem is that Young, and his receiving corps, are still relatively unproven as a threat down the field so teams will continue to pack the box and attack, attack, and attack some more just for good measure. Opposing teams will want Vince to rush his throws to inexperienced, shaky hands, and ball hawk every time he drops back to pass. Although Young is still a threat to run, he has failed to duplicate the kind of versatility that he had in college, leaving most teams to make him prove that he is still a threat outside the tackle box before sitting back and waiting for him to run.
The Titans desperately need to turn things around on the defensive side. There were times last season where they showed glimpses of their vaunted defense that led them to a 13-3 record a mere two years ago, but those moments normally came in games again weaker opposition and were never able to step up against the cream of the NFL crop. For example: In week 14 they held the hapless Rams to a mere 7 points, but in Weeks 5 and 6, the Titans gave up 31 and 59 pts against their division rival Colts and the New England Patriots, respectively. The Titans will continue to be solid against the run this year as they have a great combination of veterans and youth along their front line, but they need to get more pressure on the quarterback from the linebacker position. As of right now, their starting linebackers in their base 4-3 Defense, Will Witherspoon, Stephen Tulloch, and David Thornton, combined for only 4 sacks last season, and for them to have success against the premier players that they will face, like Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub, that simply is not going to cut it. Tennessee needs to attack from all positions up front, being conservative only got them into more trouble last year as they tried to adapt and contain the opposition rather than force them to adjust to the Titans style like they used to. Once the guys start putting more pressure up front it will allow the secondary to settle in and play tight. All year they are going to face QBs that, given any amount of time, will pick apart even the best secondary, let alone an average one. If the Titans defense can make the proper adjustments and play hard, fast, and set the tone they can carry this team because their offense is not good enough to bail them out on a weekly basis.