By Jimmy, Music City Miracles
The Titans really had a tale of two seasons last year.
The first season ended with the most embarrassing defeat in NFL history, at least it felt that way to Titans fans, and an 0-6 record. The second season started after the bye week with the insertion of Vince Young into the starting lineup. The Titans finished the season winning eight of their last ten to end with an 8-8 record. The challenge for this team will be finding a way to be the second half team for the whole season.
Significant Offseason Additions/Subtractions
There were a lot more subtractions than additions. The Titans lost veteran leaders Kevin Mawae (still unsigned), Kyle Vanden Bosch (free agent to the Lions) and Keith Bulluck (free agent to the Giants). They also traded running back LenDale White.
The only significant free agent acquisition was OLB Will Witherspoon who will occupy the spot vacated by Bulluck.
They drafted DE Derrick Morgan from Georgia Tech to replace KVB, but he has yet to be on the practice field because of a calf injury.
For the first time since the franchise moved to Tennessee, the Titans should be a team that wins with offense. Chris Johnson had the greatest single season by a running back in NFL history last year- in his second year in the league. He says he is going for 2,500 yards this year. While that is obviously unrealistic, it isn't unrealistic to think he could be the first back ever to turn in back to back 2,000 yard seasons. Jeff Fisher has always been a run first coach, so CJ2K will get the carries. The only thing that will stop him from putting up at least 1,700 yards could be health.
Vince Young came in and played well after being the back-up for a year and a half. He proved that he had really put the time in to studying film and working on his mechanics while he was backing up Kerry Collins. VY is never going to be a pure pocket passer, but he does give offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger a lot of options that aren't available with other quarterbacks.
The Titans have struggled for decades to find a solid receiving corp, but the group they have right now is the best one they have had in recent memory, and Kenny Britt has a chance to be the best receiver since they moved to Tennessee if he can keep his head straight off the field.
The defense was terrible in the first six games of last season and was barely better in the last ten. It is hard to see how the defense is going to take that much of a step forward, but they have a lot of young guys that they are hoping take a huge step forward this year.
Not all of the defensive problems last year were because of lack of talent. They were hit hard with injuries in the secondary early in the season, at one point playing without both starting corners and the starting nickel. They lost Jason Jones for the year early on, and he is a guy they are counting on in big way in 2010.
The Titans have one of the best kickers in the league in Rob Bironas. Craig Hentrich, who was the punter for this team for 12 years (and was also the holder and the kicker when injuries made it necessary), retired this offseason and gave way to Brett Kern midway through 2009. (Fun Brett Kern fact: He was 14-2 last season after playing the first six games of the season with the Broncos.)
The return game was a huge problem for the Titans in 2009, but they hoped to have solved that problem with third round draft pick Damian Williams.
Jeff Fisher is considered by many around the NFL to be one of the best coaches in the league, but he could be nearing the end of the rope in Tennessee. He hasn't won a playoff game since 2003. He is very respected by team owner Bud Adams, but Adams isn't getting any younger.
Heimerdinger is in his second stint with the Titans and did an excellent job last year re-inventing the offense for VY and Johnson.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil was in his first season calling the shots last season and took a lot of heat early. He looked to get more comfortable last year as the season went along, but there are a lot of rumors that Fisher got more involved with the defense after 0-6.
This team will more resemble the team that finished 8-2 than the one that finished 0-6, but that doesn't mean they are a Super Bowl contender. When you look closely at the 8-2 stretch that ended the season it only included one win against a playoff team and that was the Arizona Cardinals without Kurt Warner. This team should be better than the '09 team, but they face a tougher schedule playing the NFC East instead of West. They should be in the playoff mix for most of the season but will probably end up on the outside looking in again.