We’re deep into the task of opening the doors on TFQ’s NFL Draft Advent Calendar! This is our Christmas – when NFL teams get to decide what sort of new toys they get under the tree to play with next season.
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Door #26-The Titans
2012 finish: 6-10; missed playoffs
TOTAL PICKS: 8
34 (202) (compensatory selection)
42 (248) (compensatory selection)
The Titans have been a weird team in recent years. Or maybe we should just substitute “weird” for “bad”. Hopefully Tennessee has nowhere to go but up in 2013, because in 2012 they ranked no higher than 21st in the NFL in eight major statistical categories (points, overall, rushing and passing on both sides of the ball). They drafted QB Jake Locker with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft, and the jury is still out on that decision. When healthy, the former Washington quarterback has looked a lot like he did in his last year of college: Physically gifted, but inconsistent in both decision making and throwing accuracy. After letting backup QB Matt Hasselbeck go to the Colts and bringing in Ryan Fitzpatrick, the writing is on the wall – Locker must prove himself sooner than later. The same could be said for head coach Mike Munchak, who, entering his third year as the Titans’ skipper, needs his players to reach the next level or else the Hall Of Fame O-lineman could end up being merely a caretaker for the next coach.
At the risk of overgeneralizing, Tennessee needs to get better across the board. However, the biggest issue is a defense that gave up the moist points in the league last season. General manager Ruston Webster has made arguably the most controversial move he could have possibly made to start to try and turn the D around by hiring the once-exiled Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator. Williams is widely viewed as the overseer of the Saints’ bounty program, and the rebuilding of his reputation is under way sooner than some would like. My guess is that the Titans players won’t have a problem with Williams once they start to understand how good Williams is at his job, which is pretty damn good. His transgressions in New Orleans are inexcusable, but they can’t deny his track record in the NFL as an exceptional defensive mind. Williams is back in familiar territory in the Music City (he coached there from 1990 to 2000 before taking a the coaching position in Buffalo), and if his players are up to the task, I expect the results to be familiar as well.
About those players…. All Webster has done so far to improve the defensive roster is to sign a handful of versatile role players and S Bernard Pollard from the Super Bowl champ Ravens. That’s not enough. The Titans need to add more attacking athletes to be able to carry out Williams’ trademark disruptive defense. If the top 10 of this year’s draft sees the run on offensive linemen that many are predicting, BYU’s DE Ziggy Ansah could be available. Ansah is considered by numerous scouts as the most physically raw defender in the draft, which also means he has a ton of upside. LSU’s Barkevious Mingo is a very disruptive linebacker who is even more likely to be on the board at 10th overall. Williams would love to get his hands on either player.
On offense, the tasks are to put Locker in a better position to succeed, and to try and rejuvenate a once-feared ground game. Tennessee let TE Jared Cook leave in free agency, but then they signed Delanie Walker to replace him. We’ll have to wait and see if Tennessee can use Walker in the ingenious ways that Niners offensive coordinator Greg Roman did, and/or if Walker’s skills were overvalued as a result of that use.
The Titans also signed free agent RB Shonn Greene to a 3-year, $10 million deal. The size of that contract would seem to indicate that the team wouldn’t be using Greene in solely a backup role to Chris Johnson. CJ2K has been publicly displeased with the addition of Greene and the implication of a two-back system. Johnson probably should have thought of that before he decided to worry more about juking and avoiding contact than making tough runs over the last two years. That being said, Johnson is the unquestionable starting back; his talent remains off the charts, and if anything Greene might take over goal line responsibilities from Johnson. Unless the he’s more concerned about fantasy football numbers than winning, the former 2,000-yard single season rusher should be okay with that.
As ho-hum as the skill positions have become in Tennessee, they’re not the part of the offense that needs to be addressed in the draft. (Unless a receiver they covet falls to them somewhere.) Webster snagged G Andy Levitre, who was considered the most versatile O-lineman available in free agency, and showed how badly his team needs to patch up the line by throwing him an enormous 6-year, $46.8 million contract. Robert Turner and Chris Spencer were also brought in on one-year deals to compete for the other gourd position, but if a highly-rated prospect like Alabama’s Chance Warmack or North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper haven’t been drafted in the first nine spots, the Titans would be just fine with either of them stepping in and taking over the position. That would give the team a lot of depth in the middle of the offensive line, effectively reversing the woeful performances that have defined that area of the team in recent seasons.
Some people are thinking that Tennessee could trade their top pick, but they need more big-time players. This team has been looking for its identity ever since iconic head coach Jeff Fisher left, and to find it they need to be drafting as high as they can.
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STAY TUNED FOR THE REST OF THE DAYS LEADING UP UNTIL THE 2013 NFL DRAFT. WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT EACH TEAM, AS WE OPEN THEM UP IN THE ADVENT CALENDAR. WE’LL ALSO BE DOING A LIVE TWEET-UP DURING THE DRAFT.