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2014 Team Report: Tennessee Titans
QuarterbacksStarter: Jake Locker
Backup(s): Charlie Whitehurst, Tyler Wilson, Zach Mettenberger Starting QB: Before being injured last season, Jake Locker had made a very impressive start as the Titans starting quarterback. That impressive start didn't necessarily result in huge production though. In the four games prior to his first injury, Locker was averaging 180.25 passing yards on 27.75 pass attempts per game. He accounted for seven total touchdowns(one rushing) and no turnovers. The Titans were asking Locker to throw in safer situations as a complementary piece to the running game, but he was still making impressive throws. Justin Hunter hadn't established himself in the offense at that point of the season, so he also didn't have that big-play threat to push the ball down the field to. When Locker returned from his initial injury, his production worsened because he was less comfortable moving around the field. Locker clearly wasn't fully healthy and he never really retained his comfort level from earlier in the season before he was sidelined for the season because of a hip injury. The only major concern about Locker is his health. He showed he is a talented quarterback when healthy last year, but if he is to take advantage of the weapons in Tennessee this year, he needs to stay healthy. Backup QB: While it may not be the sexy selection, Charlie Whitehurst should be the favorite for the backup quarterback job in Tennessee. Whitehurst has less physical talent than Tyler Wilson or 2014 draft pick Zach Mettenberger, but he knows Ken Whisenhunt's system and is a proven veteran. Wilson is a complete unknown because he has dropped into the background since being drafted in 2013 by the Raiders, while Mettenberger's adjustment to the NFL is going to be hampered by his return from a torn ACL. Mettenberger is talented, but not so talented that he could immediately start in the NFL if called upon.
Running BacksStarter: Bishop Sankey [R]
Backup(s): Dexter McCluster, Shonn Greene, Jackie Battle, Antonio Andrews[R], Leon Washington
Fullback(s): Quinn Johnson, Collin Mooney Starting RB: It's possible that Shonn Greene could be the starter because of his experience, but after spending the 54th overall pick in the 2014 draft on Bishop Sankey, he should be the favorite for the starting role. Sankey is short, but he is not a small running back. He is officially listed at 5'9”, 209 lbs and he showed in college that he could handle a heavy load with an incredible 644 rushing attempts and 67 receptions during his three year stint at the University of Washington. Sankey isn't as explosive as the departed Chris Johnson, but he should be more consistent with his decision-making and vision. Behind the Titans offensive line, that could turn him into a very productive player. The Titans offensive line underwhelmed last year, but that's because Andy Levitre dealt with a hip issue throughout the year and Chance Warmack was still adjusting as a very talented rookie. Both of those guards give the Titans the potential to be a dominant rushing attack. If Michael Roos moves to center and Taylor Lewan starts at left tackle, Sankey and the rest of the Titans' running backs should prosper. Backup RBs: The Titans have two types of backup running backs: The elusive back and the power back. Dexter McCluster is the only elusive back, so he should immediately assume a role similar to the one Danny Woodhead enjoyed in San Diego last year. The power backs will need to be sorted out in training camp. Shonn Greene was the primary short-yardage back and complement to Chris Johnson for the last regime, but he couldn't stay healthy for 16 games so Jackie Battle carried a more prominent role. Greene is significantly better than Battle, but both players are limited all-around talents. Greene has enough talent to be a complementary piece to Sankey or a very limited starter, but Battle is solely a short-yardage runner. Although Antonio Andrews went undrafted this year, he shouldn't be completely counted out of this contest. Andrews needs to prove his consistency holding onto the football, but he has a lot of talent as a runner and carries the physicality that attracted Ken Whisenhunt when his Cardinals brought in Chris Wells and Ryan Williams in Arizona. Fullback: Quinn Johnson should be the starter at fullback over Collin Mooney, but neither player offers any value in fantasy terms. Johnson can catch the ball out of the backfield, but the Titans won't be throwing to him very often if all goes to plan. With so many short-yardage running backs on the roster, neither fullback should expect any touchdown runs if they make the roster.
Wide ReceiversStarters: Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Nate Washington
Backups: Michael Preston, Marc Mariani, Isaiah Williams, Lamont Bryant, Brian Robiskie, Jaz Reynolds, Josh Stewart, Derel Walker, Eric Ward Starting WRs: Kendall Wright should prosper this year. Wright broke out last season with a number of exceptional displays, but his statistical production was severely hampered by the presence of Ryan Fitzpatrick. He finished with 94 receptions for 1,079 yards and two touchdowns. The lack of touchdowns is concerning, but only if you don't understand the situation. The offense didn't give Wright many opportunities to score touchdowns and he had twice as many scoring plays on 30 fewer receptions during his rookie season. Nate Washington didn't drop a pass all of last season and he is a veteran with a previous relationship with Whisenhunt from his time in Pittsburgh. However, Washington also doesn't have the same talent as Justin Hunter. During his rookie season, Hunter played sparingly but did enough to show off his massive big-play potential. At 22 years of age, he had 18 receptions for 354 yards and four touchdowns. He had 5 plays of 20 or more yards and four of 40 or more yards. Furthermore, Hunter made a number of spectacular contested catches and did enough to suggest that he can develop into an all-around receiver. He probably won't be the best player he can be next year, but if his development goes well he could still be very productive. Backup WRs: The Titans have a clear divide on their depth chart at the receiver position. Michael Preston was impressive last season, impressive enough to secure his spot as the fourth receiver on the team. It's more likely that Preston pushes Hunter or Washington for playing time opposed to losing his spot to anyone below him during training camp. Because Dexter McCluster will likely spend time at receiver also and Delanie Walker will see his targets too, the receivers after Preston are likely going to be irrelevant unless mass injuries hit. Marc Mariani is a proven special teams player while everyone else on the roster is a veteran trying to earn a roster spot or an undrafted free agent trying to make it somewhere in the NFL.
Tight EndsStarters: Delanie Walker
Backups: Taylor Thompson, Craig Stevens There is no real reason to suggest anything will change at the tight end position for the Titans this season. Delanie Walker had 60 receptions last year, a number that was likely bloated by Ryan Fitzpatrick's inability to stay in the pocket and find different receivers. He averaged just 9.5 yards per reception last year with six touchdowns. While his number of targets may fall this year, he could have more big plays if the quarterback situation is improved. Craig Stevens is a run-blocking tight end, while Taylor Thompson will be fighting Walker for any playing time he receives. With the Titans seemingly looking to run the ball a lot next year, Thompson should struggle to get on the field.
Place KickerMaikon Bonani, Travis Coons: 36-year-old kicker Rob Bironas was released this year after making 25 of 29 field goals last season. A battle between two unknowns will take place in training camp for Bironas' open spot. Brazilian Maikon Bonani is a carryover from last year's training camp, while Travis Coons is a 2014 undrafted free agent from the university of Washington.
Kick and Punt ReturnersKick Returners: Leon Washington, Marc Mariani, Dexter McCluster Of the three potential returners on the Titans roster, only Dexter McCluster figures to contribute on the offensive side of the ball. That should make him the favorite for both returner roles, but the Titans will have space to carry one specialist returner if the value is there. That specialist's best opportunity to make the roster will come as a kick returner. McCluster hasn't been an effective kick returner throughout his career and only has one return of that kind over the past two seasons. Marc Mariani spent last season on IR, while Leon Washington averaged 30.1 yards on 16 kick returns during that time. Punt Returners: Dexter McCluster McCluster should be the primary kick returner as he has a 12.1 career average on 79 returns. Three of his four 40+ yard returns came last season while two of his three touchdown returns came last season.
Offensive LineProjected Starters: LT Michael Roos, LG Andy Levitre, C Brian Schwenke, RG Chance Warmack, RT Michael Oher
Key Backups: T Taylor Lewan, G Chris Spencer The selection of Taylor Lewan really threw a veil over the Titans projected starters on the offensive line. Lewan is a left tackle, but veteran Michael Roos has been the team's best starter for a long time. Generally when a team drafts a left tackle high in the draft when they already have a proven starter, they move him to the right side. However, the Titans also gave Michael Oher over $9 million guaranteed in free agency to be their starting right tackle this year. This suggests that Lewan will sit for a season before replacing Roos when he leaves in free agency. Cutting Roos is possible, but it would make more sense to move him to center if the Titans want to get their best five offensive linemen on the field. Brian Schwenke was a fourth round choice of the previous regime. He didn't enter last season as a starter and when he played he was very unimpressive. The Titans don't have great depth upfront and they need to sort out exactly what they want to do with their starting lineup. Another move or two could come before/during training camp.
Team DefenseThe Titans defense projects to be a bit of a mess next season. New defensive coordinator Ray Horton will attempt to put his players in their best positions to succeed, but he won't have the perfect fits for a 3-4 defensive front. This could be a Jeckel and Hyde unit that sees lots of big plays going both ways.
Defensive LineStarters: DE Derrick Morgan, DT Jurrell Casey, DE Al Woods
Backups: DE Karl Kluig, DT Sammie Hill, DT Antonio Johnson, DE Ropati Pitoitua, DE Mike Martin, DE DaQuan Jones Starting DL: Adaptability is the key for the Tennessee Titans defensive line this year. Either Horton will adapt to run more 4-3 than his preferred 3-4 approach or the current pieces on the defensive line will adapt their roles to align more with Horton's philosophy. At this stage of the offseason, Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan, the team's two most talented defensive linemen, are projected to start in miscast roles. Casey will be the nose tackle of the 3-4 and Morgan will shift further inside from his usual spot over the offensive tackle. Al Woods, a bit-part player for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, was signed because he is a natural fit in Horton's 3-4 as a defensive end. He is talented, but will need to learn on the job if he does seize the starting spot. Backup DL: 2014 fourth round draft pick DaQuan Jones is an intriguing talent, but he shouldn't see the field much as a rookie. Jones needs to develop more before he can be trusted on an NFL field. Ropati Pitoitua's versatility and production from last season could make him a starter over Al Woods if Woods struggles in training camp. There are a number of pieces on moveable pieces on the Titans defensive line because nobody fits perfect in any role. Sammie Lee Hill could viably start at nose tackle so Jurrell Casey could move to defensive end, while Mike Martin, Karl Kluig or Antonio Johnson could also break the starting lineup depending on what Horton wants to do. This is a black hole for clarity when you're an outsider looking in.
LinebackersStarters: OLB Shaun Phillips, OLB Akeem Ayers, ILB Zach Brown, ILB Wesley Woodyard
Backups: ILB Colin McCarthy, ILB Moise Fokou, OLB Zaviar Gooden, OLB Kamerion Wimbley, ILB Avery Williamson Starting LBs: On paper, it looks like the Titans are going to have major issues when teams run between the tackles next year. Without a true nose tackle on the defensive line, Colin McCarthy may see more snaps than he did last season, but ideally the more athletic combination of Zach Brown and Wesley Woodyard will stay on the field. Woodyard arrived as a free agent signing from the Denver Broncos this offseason. He had 117 tackles in 15 starts during the 2012 season, but just 84 last season because of injury. Woodyard has great range around the field and could top 120 tackles in 2014 if fully healthy. His main problem will be competing with the athleticism of his teammate Brown who also has impressive range to find the football. Brown is entering his third season and has had 90+ tackles in each of his first two. On the outside, Akeem Ayers is a peculiar fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he is a good athlete and is still very young despite playing three seasons in the league. Shaun Phillips on the other side is at the other end of his career. He is 33 years of age, but also had 10 sacks and 35 tackles for the Denver Broncos last season. Backup LBs: Colin McCarthy is the most recognisable name, but he barely played last season and wasn't impressive when he did. Moise Fokou was a key linebacker for Jerry Gray's defense, but he was just as ineffective as McCarthy. Neither player is a good enough run stopper to supplant Brown and Woodyard who will stay on the field primarily because of their athleticism. It would be a surprise if Avery Williamson could compete for a primary backup role as a rookie. He is more of a developmental prospect. Zaviar Gooden could get playing time on the inside or outside, but a high ankle sprain ruined his rookie season and he fits best as a weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 rather than a 3-4. That leaves Kamerion Wimbley as the primary backup on the outside. The 30-year-old is talented, but he is coming off a very underwhelming season. Ray Horton will be hoping to revitalise his career after restructuring his contract during the offseason. OLB Zaviar Gooden was drafted in the third round and will back up Ayers and Brown. He's an excellent athlete with range to go from sideline to sideline. However, he's not as physical as the team would like, and that might hold him back a bit in his rookie year. A solid play for the future, though. After spending time in Philadelphia and Indianapolis, MLB Moise Fokou comes to Tennessee to back up McCarthy in the middle. While not much of a pass rusher, Fokou is a solid tackler and can step up if McCarthy goes down. But his long term IDP value is minimal. Tim Shaw, Tom Wort and Patrick Bailey are strictly supporting fodder only.
Defensive BacksStarters: CB Jason McCourty, S Michael Griffin, CB Coty Sensabaugh/CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, S Bernard Pollard
Backups: S George Wilson, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson/CB Coty Sensabaugh, S Marqueston Huff, CB Tommie Campbell Starting DBs: It was a down year for Jason McCourty's production last season. He didn't have any interceptions for the first time since his rookie season, while his tackle numbers and pass deflections also dropped significantly from 2012. With Alterraun Verner departed, it's possible that teams throw away from McCourty more next season, but it's unlikely because he is not an elite cover corner. Replacing Verner won't be easy for the Titans, but Coty Sensabaugh played a lot last season and was effective. Sensabaugh should be the favorite to start entering training camp, but if Blidi Wreh-Wilson, a third round pick in 2013, impresses his new coaches he has the talent to steal that spot. There should be a competition through camp, but unless one player really struggles both should be strong contributors for the Titans next season. Bernard Pollard was retained this year to re-establish his partnership with Michael Griffin on the backend of the defense. Pollard had 99 tackles last season, but with more rangy linebackers in front of him that number should drop this year. CB Jason McCourty is a CB1 and even possibly a DB1. The four year veteran has been very consistent in his last two years as a starter and his 73-19 tackles and 4 interceptions place his fantasy numbers amongst the league leaders at his position. He'll only be 26 years old on opening day and has excellent long term IDP dynasty value. CB Alterraun Verner is another solid IDP CB play. Now entering his fourth year in the league, Verner had 64-18 tackles last year. A lack of consistency and inability to create turnovers (he only has 6 interceptions in 3 seasons) are the only worrisome parts, but as long as he remains a starter, those worrisome parts often mean more passess tossed his way, and thereby more opportunities for making plays. Starting at free safety will be Michael Griffin, who has regressed a bit since his big season in 2010, had 59-19 tackles and 4 interceptions last year. Griffin was rewarded for his mediocre play with a huge contract. He's probably no more than a DB4 or DB5, but should be rostered in leagues that separate safeties and cornerbacks. The strong safety is Bernard Pollard. Pollard can gobble up plenty of tackles and even has 9 career sacks, but he often seems like he's on the cusp of losing his starting spot. He came over after the Ravens let him go. Despite what might sounds like negative comments, Pollard provides consistent numbers (especially with tackles) and can provide alot of help to your IDP squad. He had 71-27 tackles and 2 sacks last year. Backup DBs: Because Sensabaugh can play inside or outside, it doesn't matter much who wins the starting spot between he and Wreh-Wilson. Wreh-Wilson should play outside in nickel packages with Sensabaugh on the inside. If Horton asks McCourty to follow WR1s around the field like he did with Joe Haden and Patrick Peterson previously, then both defensive backs will need to prove effective outside. Safety George Wilson is a proven veteran who will see snaps in the box and as a primary backup to Bernard Pollard. Marqueston Huff, a fourth round draft pick, is the player who can turn everything on its head for the Titans. Huff is a free safety who previously played cornerback. He has the versatility and talent to contribute as a backup to Michael Griffin or as a nickel cornerback at some point, but it's unclear if it will take him a season to develop consistency in his game. Last modified: 2014-05-14 15:04:36