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2008 NFL Season Preview: #16 Tennessee Titans

August 5, 2008

Division: AFC South
Last Year's Record: 10-6
Head Coach: Jeff Fisher

Key Additions:
Alge Crumpler TE
Chris Johnson RB (rookie)
Jevon Kearse DE
Justin McCareins WR

Key Losses:
Pacman Jones CB
Benji Olson OL (retirement)
Chris Brown RB

Breakdown of the Offense:
Jeff Fisher is like Bill Lite or Diet Cowher: "same great taste, but less chin." Fisher's teams are always competitive. Even when they're having a down year, they put up a fight, much like Sargent Slaughter's old teams. Jeff Fisher embodies all that the term a football coach encompasses. Last year, he led a very inexperienced group to a 10-6 record and a spot in the AFC playoffs, which resulted in a 17-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

While the team did show improvement last season, those efforts do not guarantee a trip back to the postseason this year. The Titans play in one of the NFL's toughest divisions, in which they went 4-2 last season, but it will be difficult to match that success if Vince Young does not improve on his numbers of 9 passing touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Vince Young's development is the key to whether the Titans become a good team or remain a team that "just puts up a good fight." The Titans are, as many Jeff Fisher teams before them, at a precipice.

Vince Young threw three less touchdowns last season than he did in his rookie year when he played less games. He also threw more interceptions and ran for less toudchdowns than he did as a rookie. On the positive side, the team won more games. If Young improves, then the team will improve; and if this happens, then he and new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who worked with Steve McNair during his prime, deserve all the credit. In other words, the Titans did nothing to improve a weak group of wide receivers.

Justin McCareins is the biggest addition the team made at wide receiver, and he caught a god-like 232 yards last season as a Jet. McCareins most likely will be the team's third receiver. I say most likely because the two starters are not exactly franchise cornerstones. Justin Gage caught 750 yards last season and Roydell Williams caught 719 yards. The two combined for only six touchdowns.

While the Titans will not be stretching defenses with their vertical passing game, they did bring in tight end Alge Crumpler, formerly of the Falcons. When Crumpler was in Atlanta, he played a part in any big passing days that Michael Vick had. Now, Vick did not have an extraordinary amount of big passing days, but Crumpler is a much needed improvement over Bo Scaife.

Despite the obvious need for a wide receiver, the Titans used their first pick in this year's draft to select running back Chris Johnson from East Carolina. Apparently, he runs a 4.24 forty, which sort of explains why a team whose top two receivers combined for 1400 yards drafted a running back when last year's starter ran for 1110. 1110 is not a huge number for a running back until one considers that it was done by Lendale White, who quite possibly did this while having another running back inside his stomach. Yes, he was extremely fat last year, which may have led to him running all last season with torn knee cartiledge. Solidifying the Titans ground game is the fact that Vince Young will go for anywhere from 300 to 500 yards on his own. The Chris Johnson pick remains a mystery.

Do not expect this offense to transform overnight, but if Vince Young throws for more touchdowns than interceptions and Lendale White stays healthy, then this unit can give the defense some of the breathing room it desperately needed last season, even if no one really wanted to mention it because that would change the law "Vince Young is a winner" into a theory. That's how science works, right? Laws, theories, hypotheses....

Breakdown of the Defense:
Looooonnnnnnggggggg paaaaaauuuuuuussssssseeeeeee...Sorry, I'm just trying to find something interesting to say about these guys. A lot of the excitement seems to have left with the artist formerly known as Pacman Jones, and he didn't even suit up last season. Albert Haynesworth is kind of crazy, but he's not tabloid crazy. I don't know. I've got nothing. Is it possible they played the theme song from Welcome Back, Kotter for Jevon Kearse?

Man, I love that song, and I'm glad "The Freak" is back in Tennessee. Some players just seem better when they're wearing certain uniforms. Kearse just looks better in a Titans jersey than he did in an Eagles one. The only problem with this whole reunion is that it's not the same Jevon Kearse coming home. He finished last season with twelve total tackles and 3.5 sacks. He's become injury-plagued and a shell of his former self, like Russia under Putin...still scary, but not USSR scary.

In fact, that idea kind of sums up this whole defense, which is the backbone of this team. They're solid. They're trustworthy. They're dependable. They're nice. They're someone you can watch Nick at Nite with. They're so sweet they're in the friendzone.

This unit gave up an average of 18.6 point and just over 300 yards per game last year. Their strength was the number of turnovers caused by their secondary, only one other team had more interceptions. The cornerstone of the secondary is Cortland Finnegan, who coach Chuck Cecil says, "I wouldn't trade [Cortland] for any other corner in the league." Second-year man Michael Griffin will be moving to free safety after playing the other corner spot last year. Cornerback Nick Harper and strong safety Chris Hope round out the defensive backs.

The linebackers are David Thornton, Ryan Fowler, and Keith Bulluck, the king of the friendzone. Thornton was the team's leading tackler last season with 122. He also finished with 5.5 sacks.

Defensive tackle Tony Brown and Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch join Kearse and Haynesworth on the defensive line.

Season Outlook:
If Vince Young improves in the passing game, then this team will be solid on both sides of the ball. His throwing the ball successfully will improve the defense as much as it does the offense, and until he makes that adjustment, the Titans are a mediocre football team. Neither the offense nor the defense will lose games, but can either unit really go out and win games consistently? They're in a tough division. The Colts are a Super Bowl contender, the Jaguars will most likely make the playoffs again, and the Texans are improving. The good news is Jeff Fisher will have this team ready to play and his teams usually play well against their divisional opponents. This team will not go 10-6 again. 8-8 or 9-7 are both more likely, just good enough to hang out with, but not good enough to sleep with.

Langston's Thoughts:
This team's success weighs solely on the arms and feet of Vince Young. Expect them to be better, but being in the same division as the Colts and Jags will make them an afterthought.

WK 1 Jacksonville
WK 2 @ Cincinnati
WK 3 Houston
WK 4 Minnesota
WK 5 @ Baltimore
WK 7 @ Kansas City
WK 8 Indianapolis
WK 9 Green Bay
WK 10 @ Chicago
WK 11 @ Jacksonville
WK 12 NY Jets
WK 13 @ Detroit
WK 14 Cleveland
WK 15 @ Houston
WK 16 Pittsburgh
WK 17 @ Indianapolis

Now, I give you the friendzone of rap, not good, but not bad.
Man, being back sure didn't last long.


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