Next up on our trip around the Tennessee Titans position by position as we approach the 2013 regular season is a look at the running back position.
For the past not quite four seasons, the story of running back for the Tennessee Titans has been almost exclusively the story of Chris Johnson. As I noted in the offseason positional analysis, Johnson has been the recipient of 85% of all handoffs the Titans have made to running backs over their past 58 games. This offseason brought the winds of change to the position, or at least a slight breeze at a certain time of day. Johnson remains, but the story of running back for the Tennessee Titans in 2013 looks like it will be only mostly the story of Chris Johnson.
But it will still be mostly the story of Chris Johnson. By now, I've spent enough time watching Chris Johnson I have a comfortable feeling for who he is as a back, one who, while perhaps not quite as fast as he was in 2009, still has excellent long speed for the position, but whose lack of vision and discomfort running between the tackles make him a boom-and-bust arhythmic runner. When he's comfortable with the quality of the first-level blocking at the point of attack, he's a quality back. When he's not comfortable with it, he tries to make his own hole, sometimes resulting in spectacular gains but all too often in lost yardage. Fundamentally, NFL teams mostly learned how to defend him after 2009, by denying him the space on the edges he craves. He didn't do the shockingly awful things he did in 2011 last year, but he's been a below-average producer by Football Outsiders numbers the past three seasons.no comments
We begin our trip around the Titans position by position as we approach the start of the 2013 regular season with a look at the quarterback position.
Unlike last year, the depth chart at quarterback is absolutely clear. Jake Locker is the unquestioned starter, and the man with whom the 2013 Titans will sink or swim. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the backup. He will play if Jake Locker gets hurt. Rusty Smith will be the third quarterback, if the Titans keep a third quarterback.
I think I've belabored the point enough, writing about Locker late last season, in the offseason positional analysis, and looking at more micro areas like sacks, the red zone, and interceptions. Short version: He wasn't good enough in 2012, and outside of running well it was hard to find a consistent bright spot. That was no surprise to me, since I doubted coming out of college whether he'd be a good enough NFL passer. The good news is, he's a young quarterback, there's plenty of time to improve, and 2013 is a new season.no comments
My annual rite is that I post my 53-man roster prediction the day training camp opens. I actually already posted one in early June, though, as a bit of a guide to OTAs. With only one official roster move and another that seems to be coming (adding TE DeMarco Cosby), I don't see a reason to do another full-fledged projection but will instead highlight what I see as the key things to watch.
First, though, here is that roster prediction:
QB: Nathan Enderle, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jake Locker
RB/FB: Shonn Greene, Chris Johnson, Quinn Johnson, Jalen Parmele
WR: Kenny Britt, Justin Hunter, Marc Mariani, Kevin Walter, Damian Williams, Kendall Wright
TE: Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson, Delanie Walker
OL: Andy Levitre, Mike Otto, Michael Roos, Brian Schwenke, David Stewart, Byron Stingily, Rob Turner, Fernando Velasco, Chance Warmack
DL: Jurrell Casey, Keyunta Dawson, Lavar Edwards, Sammie Lee Hill, Antonio Johnson, Mike Martin, Derrick Morgan, Ropati Pitoitua, Kamerion Wimbley
LB: Akeem Ayers, Zach Brown, Moise Fokou, Zaviar Gooden, Greg Jones, Colin McCarthy, Tim Shaw
CB: Jason McCourty, Coty Sensabaugh, Alterraun Verner, Khalid Wooten, Blidi Wreh-Wilson
S: Michael Griffin, Robert Johnson, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson
ST: Rob Bironas, Beau Brinkley, Brett Kern
After the jump, the key questions that will likely affect who actually does make the final 53.no comments
To get a better idea of what the Titans are getting, I went back and watched a couple games of offensive lineman Rob Turner, formerly of the St. Louis Rams.
Turner played and started all 16 games for the Rams last year. He spent seven games at left guard and the other nine at center. The breakdown was simple: when Scott Wells was healthy, he played center and Turner played left guard. When Wells was out, Turner played center. I decided to watch one game Turner played at left guard and one game he played at center. Since offensive linemen aren't subbed in and out over the course of a game the way defensive tackles like Sammie Lee Hill are, I chose games not by how much Turner played but rather by which games I felt like watching. I chose for his game at center the Rams' 19-13 win over Seattle in Week 4 and for left guard the Rams' 36-22 loss to Minnesota in Week 15.
As with the Sammie Lee Hill post, this is decidedly an amateur analysis. As I've written before, I'm not very good at analyzing things like hand use by linemen and the subtleties in a player's stance. The finer points of line technique are lost on me, so I'm going to say very little or nothing about them. These are really important things, and the input of somebody who is good at evaluating those things could drastically change my opinion of Turner's play. Further, two games is a small sample size. Were I to watch all 1042 snaps Turner played instead of just the roughly 120 I did (I bailed early on the Vikings game, which was in garbage time), my opinion of him could similarly drastically change. So, amateur analysis off a pretty modest sample size, accept the following with a huge grain of salt.no comments
To get a better idea of what the Titans are getting, I went back and watched a couple games of defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, formerly of the Detroit Lions.
With Hill, the first question was which games to watch. He started the season as the Lions' fourth defensive tackle, behind Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, and Nick Fairley. That's where he was when the Lions faced the Titans and I noted his presence in Enemy Intelligence. When the Lions had those four players, Hill played about 30% of the time as the Lions used a four-man rotation at D-tackle. After Williams went down, Hill became the third defensive tackle and played a little under half the time on average. After Fairley followed Williams to injured reserve, Hill became the starter and played about 70% of the time.
I wanted to get a decent sample of Hill's work, so I chose two games where he had a heavier workload. That ruled out the game against the Titans, as he only played 13 snaps. The first game I watched was the Lions' 34-24 loss to the Vikings in Week 10. With Corey Williams out, he was part of a 3-man rotation behind Suh and Fairley, playing 44 snaps (63%) to Suh's 61 and Fairley's 48. The second was the Lions' 31-18 loss to the Falcons in Week 16. Hill played 40 snaps (71%) that game, while Suh played 51 and late-season addition Andre Fluellen 21.no comments