As we rapidly approach draft weekend, the positions of defensive end and cornerback have emerged as the Tennessee Titans' biggest needs. However, DE/CB aren't the only spots where the Titans could use some reinforcements.
Failing to replace the production and consistency displayed by former Titan Chris Carr in 2008, the Titans struggled badly on kick/punt returns in 2009. A motley crew of vets and rookies failed to get the job done as the return units went from being a strength to one of the team's biggest weaknesses from '08-09.
There's little doubt that the team will look to address KR/PR by adding someone who is capable of getting the job done with one of their draft selections. Here's a look at ten potential candidates as the Titans desperately seek a dynamic return-man.
In the first part of this little series looking at how much the Titans offense improved when Vince Young came in, I wrote about how Collins' and Young's statistics compared to what we'd expect based on teams that normally change quarterbacks midseason. The findings on that weren't too surprising, namely that Vince Young played a lot better than Collins, pretty much across the board.
One of the reasons the Titans were able to turn things around, quite apart from the quarterback play, was that the defense started playing much better. Even excluding entirely the Patriots game, the defense allowed 27.8 points per game the first five games and only allowed one opponent the last 10 games to exceed that, when they gave up 42 to San Diego on Christmas. And, bad defenses don't only give up points, they tend to allow yards. While total yardage stats can be an unreliable indicator of team quality, defenses that consistently give up a lot of yards tend to leave their offenses in unfavorable situations.
A good example of this is the first Jaguars game. The Titans put up 379 yards, their 5th best total of the season, but only scored 17 points, because their best starting field position for the entire game was their own 23. Lousy returns played a role in this, in addition to the defense, but either way the offense was starting backed up and needing 50 or more yards just to get into reasonable field goal range. Since point production is thus a result of field position, I thought I'd look at how the two quarterbacks did with similar field position.
We continue this series of prospect profiles with a look at defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
Aside from the Tye Hill signing, there was one other item of actual legitimate news from the Titans this week, the release of the 2010 preseason schedule. For those who haven't seen it yet, or just for the record, here it is:
Week 1 (Aug. 12-15), @Seattle
Week 2 (Aug. 23), v. Arizona
Week 3 (Aug. 26-29), @Carolina
Week 4 (Sept. 2-3), v. New Orleans
I confess my primary interests in the preseason schedule are selfish ones. From my perch in the Chicago area, seeing the Titans play in person is a rare treat, so I hope for games in driving distance. A trip to Green Bay two years ago was a lot of fun, and every NFL fan should see a game at Lambeau, especially if it doesn't entail getting home at 2 A.M. and going to work the next morning. Alas, Seattle and Carolina are a little too far for me.
The other thing I look for is national TV games. As an out of market fan, I'm now very happy to have the NFL Network to re-air every preseason game, but for years you only got the rare treasured moments of watching the Titans in their gestation phase. Last year, we were a little spoiled with two national TV games between the Hall of Fame game and the Dallas game, but that felt a little like overdoing it. Still, I'm happy to see the home game against the Cardinals be chosen for an ESPN Monday Night Football telecast and plan to boot up the liveblog software for that little exercise.
We're all familiar with the rags-to-riches story of the game manager himself, Kerry Collins. While many thought his days of being an NFL starting quarterback were over, in 2008, KC stepped up and delivered a stellar performance while helping lead the Tennessee Titans to a sparkling 13-3 record.
Of course, it was back to bench for Collins in 2009, as he was jettisoned to the sidelines in favor of a rejuvenated Vince Young as a result of the team's collective struggles and his own passing inefficiencies.
Fast-forward to 2010 and suddenly, mostly due to his $5.5 million salary despite being a backup, Collins could be facing an ultimatum: Take a pay-cut, or take a hike.