Saturday, September 1, 2012

2012 NFL PREVIEW - Tennessee Titans


2011 Record: 9-7-0 (2nd in AFC South) 

HEAD COACH: Mike Munchak

Key Additions: DE Kamerion Wimbley; OL Steve Hutchinson

Key Losses: CB Cortland Finnegan; DE William Hayes; LB Barrett Ruud; DE Jason Jones

Offense: It's a changing of the guard for the Titans this season as Jake Locker has been tapped to be the starting quarterback ahead of veteran Matt Hasselbeck.
Locker played sparingly last year and threw for 542 yards with four touchdown passes and no interceptions. The second year QB is also quick on his feet, averaging seven yards per carry last year and he also scored a rushing touchdown. Hasselbeck (3,571 yards passing, 18 TD and 14 INT in 2011) will provide a solid backup for the team.
Chris Johnson (1,047 yards with a 4.0 ypc average and four TD) is ready to make amends for a rough 2011 season as the primary running back for the Titans. Johnson, who went over 2,000 yards three years ago, topped the 100-yard plateau in a game just four times last season.
Javon Ringer is the backup after going for 185 yards and one touchdown last season. Jamie Harper is also available. The fullback is Craig Stevens.
There is good depth at wide receiver with Nate Washington (74 receptions for 1,023 yards and seven TD) and either Kenny Britt (17, 289, three TD in just three games in 2011) or rookie Kendall Wright (Baylor)  starting. Britt is suspended for the start of the season, but was off to a big start last year before being sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Lavelle Hawkins (47, 470, one TD) and Damian Williams (45, 592, five TD) will be relied upon again this year. The tight end is Jared Cook, who made 49 receptions for 759 yards (15.5 ypc average) and three touchdowns.
Up front will be center Fernando Velasco (starting center Eugene Amano is likely out for the season after an injury in pre-season) with Steve Hutchinson and Leroy Harris at the guard spots. The tackles will be Michael Roos and David Stewart.
Kevin Matthews, Mike Otto, Byron Stingily and Ryan Durand will be the backups.
The Titans running game slipped to 31st in the NFL last year, averaging only 90 yards per game. The passing game was good for 245 yards (12th in NFL) to help rank the team at 17th overall on offense, averaging 335 yards per game.

Defense: Playing the 4-3 set, Tennessee features defensive ends Derrick Morgan and free agent Kamerion Wimbley (seven QB sacks with Oakland a year ago) along with Sen'Derrick Marks and Jurrell Casey at tackle.
Adding depth to the D-line is Malcolm Sheppard, Mike Martin (rookie from Michigan), Karl Klug (seven sacks), Shaun Smith, Dave Ball (four sacks), Leger Douzable and Keyunta Dawson.
The linebacking corps has Akeem Ayers Will Witherspoon on the outside with Colin McCarthy at middle linebacker. In reserve are Patrick Bailey, Tim Shaw, Gerald McRath, Kevin Malast and rookie Zach Brown (North Carolina).
Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty are the cornerbacks while Jordan Babineaux and Michael Griffin will be the safeties. McCourty and Griffin each picked off two passes to lead the team in 2011.
Also in the secondary is Ryan Mouton, rookie Coty Sensebaugh (Clemson), Tommie Campbell, Robert Johnson, Chris Hawkins and Al Afalava.
Tennessee allowed just under 20 points per game last year while finishing 18th in the league defensively, giving up 355 yards per game. The run defense was 24th (128 yards allowed) while the pass defense, which made eleven interceptions, finished 14th overall by allowing 227 yards per game.

OUTLOOK:  Expectations seem to be higher than a year ago for the Titans, who present the biggest challenge to Houston in the AFC South.
Head Coach Mike Munchak will be relying on quarterback Jake Locker to provide the spark for the passing game in 2012 after showing good things this pre-season.
A bounce back season from Chris Johnson would be huge for the team, as opposing teams would have to be concerned about a dual threat from the Titans' offense.
With a good array of wide receivers and a good tight end providing another target, the passing game should thrive as long as the running game is consistent. Tennessee's O-line provides good pass protection (only 24 QB sacks allowed last season) as well.
Defensively, Tennessee must improve against the run, especially going against Houston and Jacksonville twice during the season. More pressure on opposing quarterbacks would be a plus as the team only generated 28 sacks last year.
A good start to the season is the key for the Titans, as they play four tough opponents right out of the gate while the Texans look to have the benefit of a lighter schedule in the first three games before facing the Titans (in Houston) in Week Four.
There is reason for optimism in Tennessee this year as the offense should improve (the Titans averaged 20 points per game in 2011) as long as Johnson gets back to his old form for the running game.
Expect another 9-7 season from the Titans, but they could be better if they get out of the gate quick. A wild card spot or possible division title will hinge solely on their head-to-head games with Houston.

Week 1- vs. New England
Week 2- a San Diego
Week 3- vs. Detroit
Week 4- at Houston
Week 5- at Minnesota
Week 6- vs. Pittsburgh
Week 7- at Buffalo
Week 8- vs. Indianapolis
Week 9- vs. Chicago
Week 10- at Miami
Week 11- BYE
Week 12- at Jacksonville
Week 13- vs. Houston
Week 14- at Indianapolis
Week 15- vs. NY Jets
Week 16- at Green Bay
Week 17- vs. Jacksonville

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