Following up on the prior post on the guards, we conclude the offensive side of our trip around the Tennessee Titans position by position as we approach the 2013 regular season with a look at the centers.
While the Titans will have two new starters at guard, we know who those men will be barring injury and other unexpected things happening. The man manning the pivot position, though, is a question that at least has the potential of, well, pivoting in a different direction. The likeliest result, at least in my eyes, is the Titans will in fact have continuity at the center position from 2012 to 2013, but 2014 will bring a new starter at the position in the body of the man drafted this offseason.
The returning starter is of course Fernando Velasco. Forced into the lineup when incumbent starter Eugene Amano tore his triceps last training camp, he played every snap save one, most of it in the middle of the offensive line but also a bit at left guard as part of the injury-created late-season shuffling. As Andrew noted in last preseason's analysis, Velasco always stood out as being better than the annual parade of camp bodies, but it was never clear if he was good enough to be a reliable starter. My evaluation of his play in the offseason positional analysis was equivocal.no comments
Here are some pics for your enjoyment, after the jump.no comments
After a look at the perennially static, not to say staid offensive tackle position, our next on our trip around the Tennessee Titans position by position as we approach the 2013 regular season is a look at the offensive guards, where change is the order of the day. That's right. A year after the Titans had new starters at both left guard and right guard, the Titans will once again have new starters at both left guard and right guard. If things go anywhere close to the way the Titans planned, 2013 will be the last year for a good long while that will be true.
The reason for that? The Titans saw the same thing I and everybody else did, that neither of last year's starters at guard was good enough, and depth was even worse. Mike Munchak has spoken recently about how he hoped 2013 would be a year where the Titans could make a last run with a collection of interior linemen they planned to replace in relatively short order. Steve Hutchinson was an acceptable starter, once the Titans learned his limitations, until his inevitable trip to injured reserve. Likely informed the Titans were unwilling to pay $4.75 million for another year of that, he retired rather than be released. Leroy Harris was a least worst option at right guard whose virtue was he was marginally better than Deuce Lutui, who replaced him when he went to injured reserve at midseason.
Enter two new starters, acquired at the combined total price of almost $59 million between the free agent and the high draft pick. That's an extraordinary investment in what's generally been regarded as a non-premium position, one where the Titans were able to get by for so long with relative value picks and recently have just been buying, albeit at a more modest dollar amount than they paid this offseason. This had better work, but will it?no comments
Next up on our trip around the Tennessee Titans position by position as we approach the 2013 regular season is a look at the offensive tackle.
As I noted in the offseason look, you can basically write tackle names in pen for another year. Barring injury, Michael Roos will be the starting left tackle for the eighth consecutive season. I named him the Titans' offensive MVP last season, admittedly a choice as much by default as anything else. He missed his first career game last year, though due to an appendectomy I think you can fairly state is extraordinarily unlikely to recur. His back flared up during OTAs, but he's back and fully participating in training camp, so I'm not worried. A smooth and generally efficient pass blocker who has never been and will never be a people-mover in the run game, he was among the league's better left tackles again in 2012, and while he probably won't ever rank in the top five again should be an extremely reliable presence once again.
At the other end of the line for the seventh consecutive season opener will be David Stewart. Coming off a broken leg suffered in Week 13 against Houston, I wondered about the pace of his recovery, but after missing OTAs like Roos he is fully participating in training camp with no major limitations or slowness that I've seen reported. As I have a tendency of repeating, he's a mauler, but that effect has rarely been visible in statistics showing how effective the Titans are running to the right side outside of 2009. He's also vulnerable to speed rushers; not so much so as someone like Phil Loadholt, but it's an issue. He also had a team-high (among O-linemen) 7 penalties last year, including a couple in the game in Houston where Brooks Reed seemed to get under his skin. He turns 31 later this month (Roos hits the same mark in early October) and it's worth monitoring how he fares going forward, but he should be at least an average starting right tackle this year.no comments
After covering the quarterbacks, running backs, fullbacks, and wide receivers, we now reach our last "skill positions" stop on our tour of the Tennessee Titans as we approach the start of the 2013 regular season, the tight ends.
Perhaps the most interesting imponderable of the 2013 Tennessee Titans offseason came when Jared Cook fought the franchise tag with an eye toward playing elsewhere. What if Cook had been willing to accept the tag? Would the Titans still have signed a big-money free agent tight end? Would they still have traded up to draft Justin Hunter? As I covered, the Titans began the offseason just concluded with some uncertainty at tight end, a question that became amplified when they failed to franchise Cook. As I chronicled when that happened, they had choices as to what type of tight end to add. It seemed likely they would add a major contributor, but would they look for another oversized wideout like Cook or more of a blocker? The player they added would also tell us more about what kind of offense they wanted to be.
And the Titans made a clear statement when the player they selected was Delanie Walker, late of the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. A career backup behind Vernon Davis who has never had more than 29 catches, Walker is a Joker who can and has done a bit of everything on offense, lining up at fullback, inline, on the wing, in the slot, and even split out at wide receiver. Only 6'0" tall, he's built more like a fullback than a traditional in-line tight end, but from what the Titans have said he should continue to line up all over the field with H-back more his primary position. With the Titans electing to pay him $17.5 million over four years even though he'll be 29 by the time the season starts, they're clearly expecting big things. I'm not expecting him to reach the 70 catch mark he's discussed in multiple interviews this offseason, but 45 could be reasonable.no comments
Next up on our trip around the Tennessee Titans position by position is a look at the wide receiver position.
When I addressed the receivers back in February, I noted the Titans had all seven of their top receivers under contract and queried how much change we would see from a position group that, while disappointing in 2012, could be good. Beyond the usual assortment of mucking at the bottom of the depth chart, the Titans made two roster moves that affected the top seven this offseason. That changes things to some degree, but just how much? And what should we expect from the six of the seven who remain?
The biggest X-factor at the position, as it has been the past three seasons, is of course Kenny Britt. He was awesome in a small sample size in 2011. He was the key to the efficient, low-volume deep passing game that helped the Titans be surprisingly successful the first half of 2010. When he was injured in 2010, the offense wasn't nearly as good without him. His 2011 performance came in a small sample size because he blew up his knee. His 2012 season was awful by Football Outsiders numbers as he looked nothing like the old Kenny Britt, not moving as well and clearly not used to playing football. Reports on his physical conditioning have been uniformly positive, and an offseason basketball game told him he was back to where he was before 2011's torn ACL. Now it's a question of staying healthy and learning the new offense, a task Dowell Loggains simplified for him by letting him learn solely the X position while every other receiver is learning every position.no comments