Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 NFL PREVIEW - Tennessee Titans

TENNESSEE TITANS                                              

2013 Record: 7-9-0

Key Additions: RB-WR Dexter McCluster; OL Michael Oher; OL Eric Olsen; LB Shaun Phillips; QB Charlie Whitehurst; LB Wesley Woodyard.

Key Losses: RB Chris Johnson; WR Kenny Britt; QB Ryan Fitzpatrick; CB Alterraun Verner.

HEAD COACH: Ken Whisenhunt

Offense: Jake Locker is back as the starting quarterback after missing nine games last season with injuries. Locker was off to good start prior to being knocked out and passed for 1,256 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. His backup will likely be Charlie Whitehurst.
The running backs will have a new face leading the way this season as CJ2K (Chris Johnson) was not retained and left for the New York Jets this year. So it will likely be Shonn Greene (295 rush yards last year with a 3.8 ypc average and four touchdowns) taking over as the lead back. Dexter McCluster comes over from Kansas City and will fill a role in the backfield and he is very adept as a receiver, catching 53 passes for 511 yards and two scores last season. He can also return kicks. Bishop Sankey (rookie from Washington) will be on hand for the Titans as well.
The wide receivers are Nate Washington (58 receptions for 919 yards and two TD) and Kendall Wright, who snared 94 passes for 1,079 yards and two touchdowns. Also in the mix is Justin Hunter (18, 354, four TD with a 19.7 ypc), Marc Mariani and Michael Preston. The tight end is Delanie Walker (60, 571, six TD) and he is backed up by Craig Stevens.
The line has center Brian Schwenke, guards Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack and the tackles get a big addition with Michael Oher coming over from Baltimore, and he will line up with Michael Roos.

STATS - Tennessee's offense ranked 22nd overall in 2013, gaining 337 yards per game. The rushing attack was 14th, getting 118 yards per game and the passing game went for 219 yards per game, which was 21st in the NFL. The Titans scored just under 23 points per game (24th) and turned the ball over 25 times (16 INT and nine fumbles) while their quarterbacks got sacked 37 times.

Defense: With the 3-4 set on defense, the Titans line up with Jurrell Casey (10.5 QB sacks) and/or Sammie Hill at the nose tackle. The ends are Derrick Morgan (six sacks) and Al Woods. Morgan also lines up in the linebacker position as well. Meanwhile, Casey, Ropati Pitoitu and Mike Martin will rotate at defensive end as well.
The linebacking unit will also see a number of players who can rotate according to game situations as Shaun Phillips and Akeem Ayers look to be on the outside while the inside spots have Wesley Woodyard and Zach Brown. Other players getting time at linebacker are Moise Fokou, Colin McCarthy, Brandon Copeland, David Gooden and Patrick Bailey.
The defensive backfield lost cornerback Alterraun Verner, who was co-leader in the AFC with five interceptions, to free agency. In 2014, they will be with Jason McCourty and either Blidi Wreh-Wilson or Coty Sensebaugh at the corners while Bernard Pollard (three interceptions) and Michael Griffin play the safety spots.

STATS - Giving up 338 yards per game was good for 14th in the NFL in total defense for Tennessee. The Titans allowed just under 24 points per game (16th) while giving up 226 yards passing each week (11th) and finished 20th in the NFL by allowing 112 yards rushing per game. Tennessee sacked opposing quarterbacks 36 times and forced 25 turnovers, getting twelve fumble recoveries and 13 interceptions.

OUTLOOK: It's a new look for the Titans in more ways than one as new Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt takes over for the 2014 season. While he was in Arizona as the top coach, the Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl following the 2008 season.
The offensive backfield gets an overhaul as Chris Johnson is no longer around and now Shonn Greene and a supporting cast (including rookie Bishop Sankey) will shoulder the load in the running game. Quarterback Jake Locker will look to bounce back from the injuries that kept him out for more than half of last season and has a vast array of targets to get the ball to.
The defense played decent enough to keep the Titans in games last year, evidenced by the six one-score losses they had. They have a solid front seven with all the players who can interchange up front and at linebacker.
The AFC South is an interesting division in that while the Indianapolis Colts appear to be the favorite to win the division once again, the Titans (along with Houston and Jacksonville) are on the come and could be right there should Indy stumble.
The Titans have been mediocre the past five seasons, finishing over .500 just once and haven't made the playoffs since the 2008 season. For that trend to change in 2014, they will need to win the division games to avoid the wild card chase.
While it's not out of the question a team can turn it around in one year, the Titans have had trouble doing just that as they always seem to be around .500 every season as the season winds into December. A good start would be the key for them to finish with a winning record and possibly getting back into the playoffs.
There are many questions surrounding them as the season nears and if they don't find the answers quickly, it could be another .500 or lower finish once again. A 7-9 season could be where Tennessee finishes again. But with some breaks here and there, making the playoffs isn't out of the question.

Week 1- at Kansas City
Week 2- vs. Dallas
Week 3- at Cincinnati
Week 4- at Indianapolis
Week 5- vs. Cleveland
Week 6- vs. Jacksonville
Week 7- at Washington
Week 8- vs. Houston
Week 9- BYE WEEK
Week 10- at Baltimore
Week 11- vs. Pittsburgh
Week 12- at Philadelphia
Week 13- at Houston
Week 14- vs. NY Giants
Week 15- vs. NY Jets
Week 16- at Jacksonville
Week 17- vs. Indianapolis

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