We conclude our trip around the Tennessee Titans as we head into the 2013 offseason with a look at the special teams.
I like to start these positional analyses with a more macro-level view of where the Titans are in the position, focusing less on the specific individuals than in trying to provide a bit of context for where the position has been, where it is, and where it seems to be going. That's harder to do on special teams.
Far more than is the case even for a position with some division of responsibility like outside linebacker, special teams is made up of (a) one set of three skills, two of which are normally handled by one person and one by another; (b) an unrelated fourth skill, which is customarily handled by the other of the aforementioned duo; (c) an unrelated fifth skill, which is customarily handled by a third person who may or may not have responsibilities elsewhere; and (d) one other set of two skills, which may be handled by the same or different people. The results of skills in groupings (a) and (d) are also heavily influenced by (e) people from other positions, some of whom have significant responsibilities elsewhere on the team that are or are not related to what they do on special teams. As I indicated, a bit of a mess.
My preferred metric for evaluating special teams play, and not just because I write for them, is Football Outsiders' numbers. By FO metrics, the Titans were a touch below average on special teams in 2012. They actually finished first in the league in punt return value, a little above average in kickoff return value, a little below average on field goals and extra points, and well below average on both punts and kickoffs. I've previously written about the effect of field position on the Titans offense and defense in 2012, which dealt with field position following punts and kickoffs.
Of the three players I typically categorize as special teams players when I do my roster breakdowns, two are under contract and should and are likely to return in 2013, while the status of the third is an open question after a down season. The primary return man in 2012 is a free agent, but the job isn't guaranteed to be his if he does return. Oh, and for the first time since the Clinton administration, the Titans have a new special teams coach.