Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the Tennessee Titans.
After three seasons under head coach Mike Munchak in which they did not make the playoffs, the Titans decided a change was in order so they hired former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt to the same position. Whisenhunt is an offensive coach so the Titans are probably hoping he can improve upon an offense that ranked 19th in the league last season. The roster is getting a bit of an overhaul, as well, with the departures of Pro Bowl CB Alterraun Verner, RB Chris Johnson and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the addition of players including RB Dexter McCluster and T Michael Oher.
QB Jake Locker will be the starter this year, if he can stay healthy, with Fitzpatrick now in Houston. In an injury-plagued 2013, Locker threw for 1256 yards and eight touchdowns in just seven games. Johnson started all 16 games at running back last year, leaving the top three running backs on the roster — Shonn Greene, McCluster and second-round draft pick Bishop Sankey — who have a total of zero starts for the Titans between them. Greene ran for just under 300 yards and four touchdowns in his backup role for the team last season. There is more consistency in the receiving game with last year’s top pass catchers — WRs Kendall Wright and Nate Washington — still on the team. They combined for just under 2000 receiving yards and five touchdowns combined in 2013. The defense was middle-of-the-pack in the league last year, but with Verner gone it may see a drop in production this year.
Entering the season, the quarterbacks behind Locker on the depth chart include career backup Charlie Whitehurst and sixth-round draft pick Zach Mettenberger. With Locker’s injury history the last couple of years, one or both of them could see significant playing time this season. The Titans’ schedule doesn’t look like a favorable one, at least early on, with three of their first four games on the road against playoff teams from last season. Then after their bye in week nine, the Titans get three potential playoff teams this season — the Ravens, Steelers and Eagles — with two of those games on the road. The Titans finished 7-9 last season and look to be in that same range this year. If everything goes right, including Locker staying healthy and Sankey having a breakout rookie season, it’s possible they could end up with eight or nine wins.