10 Questions for the Tennessee Titans Before 2013 NFL Off-season
Tennessee Titans: 2013 NFL Off-season Crucial for Ruston Webster
Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams has never witnessed a Super Bowl victory from his franchise. In 2000, Kevin Dyson came within one yard of possibly sending Super Bowl XXXIV into overtime. Since January 2004, the Titans haven’t won a playoff game. Their last playoff appearance came in January 2009. Although the Titans entered the playoffs as a No. 1 seed, the Baltimore Ravens upset them in the AFC Divisional playoffs.
At age 90, Adams doesn’t have much time to achieve his goal. He was frustrated from all the lopsided losses in 2012. Following a 51-20 loss to the Chicago Bears and a 55-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Adams threatened his employees with their job security. Before the season ended, Chris Palmer was removed from his role as offensive coordinator. After the season ended, Mike Reinfeldt was fired from his role as COO.
Head coach Mike Munchak survived. For Munchak to keep his job beyond the 2013-14 NFL season, he needs a playoff appearance. He has missed the playoffs in each of his first two seasons as head coach.
How can the Titans go from a 6-10 team to a playoff contender in 12 months? Things become more complicated when one considers that the AFC South has two playoff-caliber teams with the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans. The Titans need one of them to regress, which is quite possible.
Every position has its own concern. General manager Ruston Webster faces a difficult task as he tries to correct all these deficiencies. Which problems with fix themselves and which ones require personnel changes?
Let’s review 10 of the Titans’ biggest concerns as the 2013 off-season and free agency are about to begin.
Quarterbacks: Matt Hasselbeck vs. Rusty Smith
Jake Locker is the starting quarterback. What’s a tad more uncertain is whether Matt Hasselbeck or Rusty Smith will win the No. 2 job. Although Hasselbeck has an unfriendly cap number of $7.5 million in 2013, he has stated that he’ll renegotiate his contract.
If Hasselbeck renegotiates his salary and stays healthy, he’ll win that job.
Running Backs: More Power, Depth behind Chris Johnson?
Chris Johnson hasn’t had a reliable backup running back since LenDale White was traded after the 2009-10 season. Johnson will turn 28 years old in September. It’s time for management to add another body who can reduce his carries, especially toward the goal line.
Wide Receivers: Availability of Kenny Britt
Kenny Britt has the talent to become the Titans’ No. 1 wide receiver. Of course, talent means nothing when Britt can’t stay on the field. Since Britt was drafted in 2009, he has had nine police incidents and multiple knee surgeries. In 2011, he tore his ACL in a Week 3 game against the Denver Broncos.
Can Britt stay healthy in a contract year? This offense needs an outside receiver to flourish with Nate Washington and Kendall Wright. Another name to keep an eye on: Michael Preston, a 6'5" receiver who could earn playing time in 2013
Tight Ends: Too Much Drama with Jared Cook?
Does Jared Cook want to stay in Nashville? Doesn't seem like it.
If the Titans use their franchise tag on Cook, he may argue that he’s a wide receiver. If Cook wins, the Titans would owe him approximately $10.5 million. That’s too much money for a tight end who offers nothing as a blocker.
Offensive Line: Is Fernando Velasco a Center or Guard?
Restructuring the interior of the offensive line is the Titans’ No. 1 off-season priority. At the very least, the Titans need either a center or guard. Which position will depend on whether Fernando Velasco stays at center or returns to guard. It also depends on whether Steve Hutchinson postpones retirement, which he probably will.
Defensive Line: Who Steps Up?
Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley were the starting defensive ends. They combined to have 12.5 sacks. Morgan led the team with 6.5 sacks.
The Titans need at least one of these players to become a double-digit sack producer. As a former first-round pick, Morgan has the potential to do that. Furthermore, the Titans need more depth at defensive end. They could also replace Sen'Derrick Marks for depth.
Linebackers: Is Colin McCarthy the Answer at Middle Linebacker?
For this defense to make huge strides, they need great play from their middle linebacker. That’s hard to get when their starter, Colin McCarthy, is inactive or playing injured. McCarthy can’t improve unless he stays on the field.
Defensive Backs: Can Coty Sensabaugh Play Outside?
Alterraun Verner is a solid cornerback who's even better when used as a slot defensive back. After Cortland Finnegan left after the 2011-12 season, the Titans weren’t confident with playing any of their depth cornerbacks on outside receivers. Opponents would move their No. 1 receiver into the slot. That led to frustrating mismatches such as Calvin Johnson vs. Ryan Mouton.
Titans need more flexibility from their cornerbacks. Even if Coty Sensabaugh is that man, they still need more depth behind him.
Special Teams: New Coordinator, More Changes Await?
One of the biggest off-season surprises came when Alan Lowry was fired from his position as special teams coordinator. What made it more surprising was that defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains both kept their jobs. Special teams were accountable for at least three of the Titans’ six wins.
What happens with Marc Mariani? Will management re-sign Rob Bironas?
Coaching: Enough Quality Changes?
Following Bountygate, Gregg Williams joined the Titans as an assistant coach.
Chet Parlavecchio, who coached a high school team to a 1-9 record in 2009, was promoted from special teams assistant to linebacker coach. Nate Kaczor moved from offensive line assistant to special teams coordinator. Dave Ragone moved from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach.
Shawn Jefferson, George Henshaw and Sylvester Croom all joined the staff.
Can these men save Coach Munchak and others from Adams’ wrath?