The Total Titans‘ writers are each expressing their opinions this week on the Titans’ season at its halfway mark. Drexel Perry provided his thoughts yesterday, Andrew Strickert has today’s commentary, and Tom Gower will conclude the series tomorrow.
AFC South Standings:
Team W-L Div Indianapolis Colts 7-1 3-0 Tennessee Titans 6-2 2-1 Jacksonville Jaguars 5-3 1-2 Houston Texans 4-5 0-3
Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher often speaks of breaking down a season into four quarters, just as a ball game is. Looking back at the first half, there are both the good and bad, the expected and unexpected. That 6-2 record looks pretty good now, doesn’t it? The Titans would be a #5 seed if the playoffs started today.
Defensive line — When a defensive tackle consistently commands, and often defeats, double teams, it helps everything else the defense does and gives them more flexibility. Jeff Fisher said Tuesday night that Albert Haynesworth is the best DT in the league right now. Keith Bulluck is calling him a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Kyle Vanden Bosch has benefited greatly by playing next to Big Al and is on track for another double-digit sack season. As much as I like Tony Brown, I had some preseason doubts if he could be an every down NFL DT, and thought he’d probably finish the season at DE, due to the injury history of Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy. Brown removed all doubts and the Odom/LaBoy tandem stayed healthy until LaBoy’s concussion last week. The pair has been a very pleasant surprise at LDE so far.
Midterm grade: A+
Linebackers — Keith Bulluck has led the Titans in tackles for five years in a row, so it may surprise some fans to learn he’s currently fourth on the team in that category. Part of the reason for that is due to the play of Albert and KVB in front of him. Offenses are trying to run away from them, giving a healthy David Thornton the opportunity to lead the team with 59 tackles. I love the way Thornton pursues and he’s one of the guys I like to train my binoculars on from time to time. Ryan Fowler has been an upgrade in the middle but his play is often unnoticed. With Big Al in front of him, Bulluck and Thornton on either side, and Chris Hope behind him, how can he go wrong?
Midterm grade: A
Secondary — Like just about everyone else, I was worried about the cornerbacks before the season and thought they might be a liability this year. They’ve been more than just a pleasant surprise. Nick Harper has proved he’s good in man coverage, which I prefer to cover-2, and Cortland Finnegan has made a nice transition from nickel to corner. The pair has been excellent in run support, either making tackles or forcing runners back inside. They’re second and third on the team in tackles. Vince Fuller finally seems to be fully recovered from his broken leg and has performed well at nickel. Chris Hope has been pretty solid at strong safety against both the run and the pass. I believe it was only a matter of time before Michael Griffin broke into the starting lineup and the only question was at which position. Calvin Lowry did a decent job with the exception of getting beat deep a few times.
Midterm grade: B+
Total defense midterm grade: A
Offensive line — Although they stubbed their toes a few times, they’ve pretty much performed as expected, as the strength of the offense this year. Give them most of the credit for the Titans being ranked third in the league in rushing. It’s not smoke and mirrors, and it’s not because Vince Young is rushing for huge yardage. They’re doing it the old-fashioned way. RT David Stewart continues to improve and is dominating some people. He’s well paired next to veteran Benji Olson. Kevin Mawae seems to be making great line calls, Jacob Bell has solidified into a dependable guard and Michael Roos continues to excel against the best pass rushers the NFL has to offer. He has great technique for a young player and isn’t bad as a run-blocker either. I was glad to see the Titans sign Eugene Amano to a two-year extension.
Midterm grade: A
Running backs — After a career game in Week One, Chris Brown has rushed his way back to third string, although he could see plenty of action against the Jags this week. LenDale White has seized the opportunity and has three 100-yard games in a row. His fumbles this year have been a concern though. Chris Henry has proved to be a good change of pace to White. The trio owes most of their yards to the o-line and ought to owe them a lot of steak dinners as well. The Titans will miss FB Ahmard Hall’s blocking and I hope he’s able to return soon.
Midterm grade: B
Quarterbacks — Although offensive coordinator Norm Chow has worked a lot with Vince Young since his Rookie of the Year season, it doesn’t seem to have helped much. Vince has not made the progression expected from second-year players and I question his decision making at times. His completion percentage is up from last year, but his passer rating is down. He’s also not running as often or as effectively as last year and it looks like he at times eschews the run for easy yardage to attempt low percentage passes. A 3 to 8 TD to INT ratio is not good and I like the old Vince better than the 2007 model. I also like having Kerry Collins on the team. He proved his worth in the Houston game.
Midterm grade: C-
Receivers — The bar was really lowered for the expectations from the receivers this year. They haven’t been able to clear that low bar consistently, as was the case when the leading receiver in one game had 19 yards. None of the receivers stand out in a good way. Roydell Williams has improved a little on what was an unspectacular first two years. Brandon Jones has regressed. Eric Moulds and Justin Gage have showed Titans fans why they were released by their previous teams. You hate to depend on a rookie for anything, but I had some hopes for Chris Davis to contribute in the slot and for Paul Williams to do something. Neither did.
Midterm grade: D
Tight ends — “Unfulfilled potential” is a phrase which should have originated with a description of Ben Troupe. He continues to underwhelm and I cringe when I see him enter the game. The Titans usually cringe the first time a pass is thrown to him. Bo Scaife has become the most dependable target for Vince Young and I’d like to see him a little more often. Ben Hartsock is a very good inline blocking tight end and has exhibited good hands on a few tough catches. I’d like to see a few more passes thrown his way as well.
Midterm grade: C
Total offense midterm grade: C
Rob Bironas has greatly improved his kicking since his 2005 rookie year. I like his range, newly found consistency and dependability, which is a word often used in describing Craig Hentrich. All Hentrich does is punt very well, hold for Bironas very well, pass out of punt formation, and be available as an emergency quarterback. Not bad for a 35-year old man with a bad back. Snapper Ken Amato is out for the year but the Titans seem to have found a decent replacement in Jeremy Cain. The Titans have neither scored nor been scored upon with a punt or kick return. This is one area where Pacman Jones is missed.
Midterm grade: B+
Titans cumulative team midterm grade: B+