2014 TENNESSEE TITANS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
July 17, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
2014 TENNESSEE TITANS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
HEAD COACH: KEN WHISENHUNT, 0-0 AT TENNESSEE
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: JASON MICHAEL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: RAY HORTON
OFFENSE PPG: 22.6
TOTAL OFFENSE: 336.9
DEFENSE SCORING: 23.8
TOTAL DEFENSE: 337.9
TURNOVER MARGIN: 0
Tennessee is heading to a new chapter in their history after the death of owner Bud Adams and the firing of Mike Munchak. Former Cardinals HC and SD OC Ken Whisenhunt was hired to resurrect a team and an offense that has become nothing more than average. Whisenhunt helped the Chargers last season to the 5th best offense in the NFL and before that, led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl.
With Whisenhunt the new head coach, many are hoping he can help QB Jake Locker take another step in his development to becoming an elite signal-caller. Locker hasn’t lived up to expectations after being drafted with the #8 selection in the 2011 draft. In 18 NFL starts, Locker has thrown for only 3,432 yards, 18 TD’s and 15 INT’s. His durability is also a question mark after missing eight games in 2013 with a foot injury and five games in 2012 with a non-throwing shoulder injury.
To keep Locker injury free and on his feet, the Titans re-vamped their offensive line. This could be one of the better lines in the NFL if everything comes together. Tennessee invested heavily in first-round picks OG Chance Womack (#10 overall in 2013) and OT rookie Taylor Lewan (#11 in 2014) to team with former Pro Bowl LT Michael Roos and OG Andy Levitre.
The running attack will look different without Chris Johnson in the Titans backfield. Johnson was allowed to leave via free-agency to the Jets. Johnson will be replaced by Bishop Sankey and Shon Greene. Sankey rushed for 1,870 yards and 20 TD’s at Washington in 2013 while Greene has two 1,000 yard seasons in his history.
The receiving corps will consist of Nate Washington, Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker. Wright led the team in 2013 with 94 receptions for 1,079 yards and 2 TD’s. Walker had 60 catches and six TD’s with Washington averaging 15.8 yards per catch and three scores.
Tennessee’s defense will see changes as well going from a 4-3 to a 3-4 hybrid. Ray Horton is the DC and is familiar with Coach Whisenhunt after being with him in Pittsburgh and Arizona. Horton also guided Cleveland’s defense to a 9th ranked finish.
Horton will inherit plenty of talent including DT Jurrell Casey who should have been in the Pro Bowl. Casey finished the season with 10.5 sacks even after consistently being double-teamed all season. Casey will be the anchor in the new 3-4 scheme and will be joined by former Steeler NT Al Woods and NT Sammie Hill. Hill has great size at 6-4, 328 pounds. The D-line will have plenty of depth with Rookie DaQuan Jones, Ropati Pitoitua and Karl Klug in the mix.
Tennessee will be deep at OLB with Derrick Morgan, Akeem Ayers, Shaun Phillips, Kamerion Wimbley sharing the duties. On the inside will be Zach Brown, Wesley Woodyard and Colin McCarthy. Phillips and Woodyard were signed as a free agents from Denver. The biggest question at LB will be where Derrick Morgan will play after switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4.
2014 DRAFT REVIEW:
The 2014 NFL Draft has come and gone for the new Tennessee Titans coaching regime. The franchise has been in a static place over the past handful of years, and this new organizational overhaul intends on making a loud and immediate impact from day one to get the Titans back to the top of the NFL. Tennessee made some smart moves as well as some surprising ones, but snap judgments need not be made. New coach Ken Whisenhunt has high aspirations for this team and fans are going to have to wait and see how things unfold before making an accurate assessment on his first draft.
The Titans started the festivities by snagging controversial left tackle Taylor Lewan out of Michigan with the 11th overall pick. Michael Roos is aging and also in a contract year as the team’s incumbent left tackle, and newly-signed Michael Oher will be manning right tackle for at least one season due to a clause in his contract. Lewan will be given the chance to win a starting job from day one. Regardless of whether or not that happens, Whisenhunt likely took care of a crucial position on the field for his Titans for the next decade. Lewan is an immensely gifted player and although the Titans did not address an immediate need with his selection, they did go with the best player available on their NFL draft board.
Tennessee then addressed a major need in round two after cutting Chris Johnson by selecting the first running back in the draft, Bishop Sankey out of Washington. Sankey is a tremendous talent and could immediately step in as the lead back in Whisenhunt’s offense. Shonn Greene is more of a short yardage guy, while free agent acquisition Dexter McCluster is more of a scat back. Sankey has the power and speed to grab hold of the spot and give the Titans an easy transition from the CJ2K era.
In the fourth and fifth rounds of the NFL draft, Tennessee nabbed defensive tackle DaQuan Jones out of Penn State, a massive body who could fit well in Ray Horton’s new 3-4 scheme. The Titans also selected cornerback Marqueston Huff out of Wyoming and linebacker Avery Williamson from Kentucky in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively.
One of the biggest steals in the NFL draft came in round six where the Titans nabbed Zach Mettenberger, the LSU quarterback with a huge arm and a torn ACL. Prior to his knee injury, very few thought there would be any chance of him lasting past round two. The Titans have an uncertain situation at the position with the oft-injured Jake Locker heading into the last year of his deal, and it was almost a certainty the Titans would look for quarterback help in this draft. Mettenberger has healed remarkably fast from his injury and clearly Tennessee had no reserve stealing him so late in the draft. He could easily turn out to be the best value pick of 2014.
Overall, the Titans brought in a good crop of players with only six draft picks, but the one area believed to be a huge need was pass rushing. Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown all regressed this past year in getting after the quarterback, and it was widely assumed that acquiring a potential dominant edge rusher in the draft was one of, if not the most pressing need for this team. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey was the team’s most productive rusher last year with 10.5 sacks, a number almost sure to go down given his increased reputation and the shift to the 3-4. Whisenhunt did bring in Shaun Phillips in free agency, but he is obviously banking on the scheme alterations to bring out the best in the guys already in town. All the aforementioned players have shown the ability to wreak havoc in the backfield, but it just hasn’t happened the past couple of years. Hopefully Whisenhunt can change that.
2014 SCHEDULE PREVIEW:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Titans open the 2014 season at Kansas City on September 7, and they will be featured on Monday Night Football against long-time rival Pittsburgh at LP Field on November 17. Tennessee opens its home schedule on September 14 against Dallas. The Titans also will appear in a Thursday night primetime contest at Jacksonville on December 18.
“As always with an NFL schedule, you never know what you are going to get. There are a number of things to like, but obviously we have a tough start with three of the first four on the road and three of them playoff teams from last year. It will give us a chance to find out a lot about our football team. The good thing is that maybe it will create a sense of urgency with our team in the offseason workouts and training camp. We know what faces us and we must come together as a team and create those bonds,” said head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
“It is interesting how the schedule is put together with three of four on the road and three of four at home, alternating through the year. The bye falls at a good point to get some guys healthy and having enough game tape during the first eight games to sort through and study before the final eight games.
“I like the Thursday night game late in the season. The goal is to have that last game in the season mean something and the Thursday night game gives you a chance to heal up a bit and get in extra work before the finale and hopefully going into the playoffs. All of the noon starts will give us a chance to get into a routine and I like routines.
“Lastly, I am excited for our fans to get a Monday Night game. Those games create a great deal of energy and excitement in a town and I am looking forward to seeing the atmosphere for that game.”
The Titans schedule features home games against Dallas, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, the New York Giants, the New York Jets, Jacksonville, Houston and Indianapolis.
Tennessee will travel to Kansas City, Cincinnati, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Houston, Jacksonville and Indianapolis.
For the first time, flexible scheduling may be applied in Weeks 5-10. During that period, flexible scheduling can be used by the NFL in no more than two weeks by shifting a Sunday afternoon game into primetime and moving the Sunday night game to an afternoon start time.
Also, for the first time, a select number of games are being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring potentially under-distributed games to wider audiences.
“Flexible scheduling” will be used in Weeks 11-17 as it has been in recent years. In Weeks 11-16, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time. Flexible scheduling will not be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday or Monday nights. A flexible scheduling move would be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the Sunday night game will be announced no later than six days prior to December 28. The NFL schedule does not list a Sunday night game in Week 17, but an afternoon game with playoff implications will be moved to that time slot. Flexible scheduling ensures quality matchups in all Sunday time slots in those weeks and gives “surprise” teams a chance to play their way into primetime.
The Titans 2014 schedule contains several interesting stories: