|Poor play by the offensive line may explain part of Chris Johnson's struggles early on last season. (US Presswire)|
The Tennessee Titans courted Peyton Manning, craved Peyton Manning, and didn't get him.
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The Titans have stockpiled some good, young talent, so if they can figure out the quarterback position they could push the Houston Texans in the division.
Now we know why they pursued Manning.
QB: The Titans have a big decision now that Manning went elsewhere. For the long-term success of the franchise, they might want to move on to Locker. He showed well in the time he played last season. Hasselbeck is still a decent starter, but is he the long-term solution? He was top 10 last season in only one passing category (completion percentage). The Titans have an interesting decision to make. Rusty Smith is the third quarterback.
RB: After a holdout, Chris Johnson wasn't the same back last season. It took him a while to get into a groove, although the poor line play early on contributed. Johnson rushed for 1,047 yards, but his per-carry average was 4 yards, the lowest of his career. It's why the Titans were 31st in rushing yards per game. He needs to be more explosive again. Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper are solid backups. Harper is a bigger back who flashed as a rookie. The fullback will be Quinn Johnson.
WR: The Titans need a healthy Kenny Britt. He went down with a knee injury in the third game and finished with 17 catches and three touchdowns. Britt has to be healthy for the Titans to have a real No. 1 threat down the field. Nate Washington was the leading receiver last season with 74 catches and seven touchdowns. Lavelle Hawkins and Damian Williams each had over 40 catches and Williams had five touchdown catches. Marc Mariani is another reserve who excels on special teams. The key to this unit is Britt's health. They could take a receiver at some point in the draft.
TE: Jared Cook emerged as a big-time threat in his second season in 2011. Cook caught 49 passes, but averaged 15.5 per catch. The Titans have to get that number up to 70 catches this season. The backups are Craig Stevens and Daniel Graham, but they're both more blockers than receivers.
OL: Tennessee's tackles form one of the best tandems in the league, with Michael Roos on the left side and David Stewart the right. Both are good in the run game, which is key for the Titans, but they are also solid in pass protection. The inside play wasn't very good last season. That's why the Titans signed veteran Steve Hutchinson. He is getting up there in years, but he will help the inside run game. Center Eugene Amano and right guard Leroy Harris have to be better. Duke Robinson, Fernando Velasco and Kevin Matthews provide backup inside.
DL: The Titans had a lot of injuries on the line last season that slowed their progress and limited the team to 28 sacks. Derrick Morgan, who was counted on to be a breakout star, was limited to 10 starts. The Titans signed Kamerion Wimbley as a free agent from Oakland. He will start at one end. Jason Jones left to sign with Seattle. The leading returning sacker from the end spot is Dave Ball with four, but he is a free agent who hasn't signed yet. The inside play was the surprise for the team in 2011. Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug both had good rookie seasons. Klug had seven sacks from his tackle spot. Sen'Derrick Marks and Shaun Smith offer good depth inside.
LB: The Titans signed Barrett Ruud to a one-year deal as a free agent, and he opened as the starter. But when he got hurt, rookie Colin McCarthy stepped in and played well. He will be the starter this season and should be for a long time. He's a heck of a find. Akeem Ayers had a good rookie season on the outside, giving the Titans a nice young 1-2 punch. Veteran Will Witherspoon is the other starter. He was solid in 2011. The top backups are raw, with the exception of Gerald McGrath. They could use an early pick on a linebacker.
DB: The departure of Cortland Finnegan to the Rams in free agency leaves a void on the corner. Alterraun Verner will get the first shot, but don't be shocked to see the Titans use an early pick on a corner. Jason McCourty was good on the other side as he emerged as their best cover player last season. Ryan Mouton is the top reserve and he could push for the starting job. Tommie Campbell and Terrence Wheatley are also in the mix. The Titans put the franchise tag on free safety Michael Griffin, even though he didn't have a great season. That speaks to the weakness of the safety spot in the league. Jordan Babineaux was a pleasant surprise last season with 14 starts and was given a new contract extension.