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Tennessee Titans

Stadium: LP Field | Coach: Ken Whisenhunt
Team RankingOverallRushingPassing
Offense29th87.0 (28th)224.1 (20th)
Defense29th142.1 (31st)230.6 (11th)

Titans report: Strategy and personnel

The Sports Xchange
 
Strategy and personnel · Notes, quotes · Inside slant
 

As they sort through their first-round of 2006 personnel questions, the Titans will have to decide if they still want to continue to hold on to some aging veterans or if they will continue to turn over the roster.

Among the veterans with salary numbers that put their futures in question: LT Brad Hopkins, RG Benji Olson, LB Peter Sirmon and FS Lamont Thompson. UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACK
Starter - Steve McNair. Backups - Billy Volek, Matt Mauck.

McNair wants to return and the Titans want him back. Still, the two sides will need to reach an agreement to drive his salary cap number down. It's time for him to change some of his quirky superstitions in exchange for more time working with his young receivers. Despite strong fan sentiment to the contrary, it's possible Volek is back. If not, the Titans will look to deal him for a draft pick. Mauck was poor in one start, but the Titans think he's got a good upside. If they land Matt Leinart, Vince Young or Jay Cutler in the draft, it's hard to imagine the newcomer would rank lower than No. 2.

RUNNING BACKS
Starters - RB Chris Brown, FB Troy Fleming. Backups - RB Travis Henry, RB Damien Nash, RB Jarrett Payton.

Brown played in 15 of 16 games. Though he didn't finish them all, the team felt he answered some durability questions. But he did not run nearly as well as he did in 2004 in his first year as the starter and now qualifies as a question mark. Henry served a four-game drug suspension and has some ankle problems. He looked slow at year's end. He's due a $4 million option bonus, but has little leverage and could be back at a reduced cost. Payton is limited and Nash looked good in his one chance, but odds are the Titans draft a back on the first day if they can. Fleming did OK, but didn't blossom in Norm Chow's system as expected.

TIGHT END
Starter - Erron Kinney. Backups - Ben Troupe, Bo Scaife, Gregg Guenther.

Easily the position the Titans feel most comfortable about. Kinney is a reliable, no-excuses player and the Titans could use more who lead as he does. Troupe needs to be tougher and more consistent, but as the Titans get better at WR it will help him. Rookie Bo Scaife showed great instincts and an ability to make the first defender miss. Guenther was a pleasant surprise, but it not a threat to the three above him. If the Titans could use them less, they might be even better.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Starters - Drew Bennett, Brandon Jones. Backups - Courtney Roby, Roydell Williams. Bobby Wade, Tyrone Calico.

The Titans didn't get a single 100-yard game from anyone in the group all season. Bennett dealt with some injuries but didn't establish himself as a No. 1 and appears to be better cast as a No. 2. Jones is the real deal, but tore an ACL and is unlikely to be ready for training camp. The Titans cannot wait on the other two rookies - Roby and Williams - to emerge, though they like their upside. Same with Calico. He struggled coming back from a major knee injury, but showed no fire or passion. If he can produce next year it needs to be a bonus, not something the team counts on. Wade can be a solid slot receiver and take over punt or kickoff return duties from Pacman Jones. The Titans won't chase a big name like Reggie Wayne, but expect them to be serious suitors for a veteran free agent, perhaps David Givens.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Starters - LT Brad Hopkins, LG Zach Piller, C Justin Hartwig, RG Benji Olson, RT Michael Roos. Backups - G-T Jacob Bell, C-G Eugene Amano, T David Stewart, T Daniel Loper.

While RT Fred Miller was let go, the Titans made a big deal out of keeping their four other starters in place. But while it offered pretty good pass protection, the unit underperformed, drawing a ton of penalties and failing to spark the run game. Hopkins played very light and is still a top-flight guy, though his penalties were too high. Piller was solid and Hartwig a notch better than that. But the center is heading for free agency and is represented by Drew Rosenhaus. Tennessee doesn't have a history of paying big money at the position and has been willing to insert new people there, which is how Hartwig got started. Olson is slowing down. Roos got raves from coaches and will likely end up as the team's left tackle, it's just a matter of when. The depth is unproven beyond Bell, who's played effectively at both guard and tackle.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Starters - LE Kyle Vanden Bosch, LT Randy Starks, RT Albert Haynesworth, RE Travis LaBoy. Backups - DT Rien Long, DE Antwan Odom, DT Jared Clauss, DE Bo Schobel, DT Marcus White.

Vanden Bosch was as good a value as there was in the league, posting 12 1/2 sacks after signing a one-year deal for the veteran minimum. The Titans need to lock him up, as his work ethic and approach are a huge example for the young group. Haynesworth was dominant in stretches, but injuries and weight issues slowed him at times. Starks did not have the big second-year jump the team expected, though he was banged up. LaBoy actually showed some toughness and got better against the run. Can he go a significant stretch without some nagging injury? Long is a solid pass rusher who's improved against the run. Odom didn't carry a big preseason showing into the season, though he scooped up and scored on two fumble returns. Personal issues may have had some bearing. Clauss is a smart, reliable fill-in. Schobel was the odd man out and needs to find a way to force the Titans to play him. White is a project.

LINEBACKERS
Starters - LLB Peter Sirmon, MLB Brad Kassell, RLB Keith Bulluck. Backups - OLB Rocky Boiman, MLB Robert Reynolds, OLB Cody Spencer.

Bulluck was the team's best player on defense along with Vanden Bosch. But he was left to do too much and it hurt him. Sirmon is a smart player and good leader, but he was not as fast in his comeback from ACL surgery and could be on his way out. Kassell brings great toughness, but simply doesn't have the speed and the Titans will look to upgrade. Reynolds will probably get a shot to compete with a draft pick or free agent. Boiman, heading for free agency, stayed healthy and played great special teams while making a solid showing when he was part of special defensive packages. Spencer is a core special teamer who's not in the picture as anything more than a low-ranking backup.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Starters - LCB Reynaldo Hill, RCB Pacman Jones, SS Tank Williams, FS Lamont Thompson. Backups - CB Andre Woolfolk, CB Michael Waddell, S Vincent Fuller, S Donnie Nickey, S Marcus Randall, CB Tony Beckham, CB Rich Gardner.

Hill and Jones showed steady improvement, though they have completely different personalities - Hill is a humble, stand-up guy; Jones a flamboyant player unable to avoid confrontation. Woolfolk, a first-round pick in 2003, has been reduced to a nickel back role, and it's disappointing the Titans can't get more out of him. Williams was not himself coming off ACL reconstruction, though the team felt he improved at the end. He is heading for unrestricted free agency and should only be back at an inexpensive price. The team makes all kind of excuses for Thompson, but he took some awful angles and missed tackles and they would benefit from an upgrade with him due a bonus. Fuller will be a wild card, as he looked great before an early-season ankle injury ended his rookie season. He could be more a nickel back type than a safety. Waddell has a chance to continue to be a role player and special teamer, but Beckham and Gardner are goners. Nickey has never shown himself to be worth the trade up the Titans made to get him. Randall, a quarterback at LSU, is an intriguing player after a position change.

SPECIAL TEAMS
K Rob Bironas, P Craig Hentrich, LS Jon Dorenbos, KR/PR Pacman Jones.

Teams seemed to figure out Jones at the end of the season, when he dropped off. Ideally he'll hold only one of the jobs, with someone like Courtney Roby or Bobby Wade taking over the other. Jones can be as explosive and unpredictable a return man as there is. Bironas has a solid first season, though he didn't have to make many clutch kicks and missed a PAT in the finale. He could face competition again in camp. Hentrich was very good, and some unfortunate bounces that led to touchbacks hurt his net average (37.8). Dorenbos was a good fill-in, but injured Ken Amato is likely to take the job back.

Copyright (C) 2005 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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