For the second year in a row, the Titans at the halfway point have already won as many games as I expected them to win all year. Next year, I’ll have to predict them to win more than 8 games just to see if I brought about the same sort of time paradox that featured so prominently in the Back to the Future movies. Anyway, I wrote a post a month ago on why my pre-season prediction looked wrong, so I won’t replicate that. Instead, I’ll look at a couple players who’ve played better than I’ve expected this year, some who’ve done about the same as I thought they would, and some who haven’t done what I expected of them this year.
First, a look at the overachievers.
TE Bo Scaife
Wow. I was really down on Scaife in the preseason, to the point of saying he might be a surprise cut. That was never going to happen after they gave him a second round tender, but Bo was still the worst starting tight end in the NFL last year. This year, he’s been positively productive, ranking 11th in Football Outsiders’ DYAR method and 16th in value per play even after a hugely unproductive game against the Packers.
RB Chris Johnson
Another player I’m happy to be wrong on, Johnson has actually been a real running back, not just a speed demon. He’s fast, has better acceleration, and significantly shiftier than I thought he’d be. The explosiveness he’s added to the Titans’ attack has been hugely important.
CB Cortland Finnegan
When I did the cornerbacks preview back in July, I tried to temper the enthusiasm for Finnegan a little, showing he’d been only good in his first full year as a starter. This year, though, he’s improved, showing more of the small sample size stardom he showed his rookie season. I still don’t think he’s the kind of corner you have to gameplan against, but he’s been terrific so far this year.
Next, some players who’ve done about as well as I thought they would.
DT Albert Haynesworth
If Albert is healthy and motivated, he’s a dominating player. Playing for a contract, the only question was whether or not he’d be healthy. He is, and he’s been killing other teams. He’ll be looking at some serious, serious coin come March.
LT Michael Roos
Chalk, absolute chalk. He’ll never be an elite drive blocker a la Boselli or Orlando Pace, but he does the job the Titans ask of him, and does it quite well. One of my favorite parts of the media love from 8-0 is the rest of the country discovering just how good this guy is.
QB Kerry Collins
A little bit of juxtaposition here-Haynesworth is talked about as an MVP candidate, Roos is making All-Pro teams, Kerry Collins? What about Kerry Collins? Collins is mediocre. Not excellent, not very good, not good, mediocre, and by pretty much any measure you care to use. He’s 27th in passer rating. He’s 20th in DVOA, Football Outsiders’ per play measure of value. The Titans are 24th in AdjNetYPA. The Titans are a below average passing game, and Collins has been mediocre for an NFL starter. He’s been above average at turning the ball over, and well below average at actually throwing the ball for yards. To me, that adds up to mediocre.
Finally, some players who haven’t done what I thought they would:
QB Vince Young
Injury, yes, but also lack of productivity before that. There’s a reason he’s sitting on the back even now that he’s healthy. Enough digital bits have been spilled on him already for now. Right now, it looks like he’ll spend the rest of the 2008 season on the bench barring a Collins injury. If that changes, I’ll write more about him. If not, let’s talk about him more in the offseason.
TE Alge Crumpler
One of the Titans’ veteran free agent gambles, Crumpler has 13 catches for 134 yards. He’s on pace for the worst year of his career. A valuable receiving weapon he has not been.
DE Kyle Vanden Bosch
One of the reasons for pessimism I wrote about is injuries. KVB has officially played in 3 of the last 4 games You wouldn’t know it by looking at the other categories of the stat sheet, though, as he’s recorded 1 tackle in that span. If the Titans are going to achieve the potential they’ve shown this year, they’ll need a serious edge rusher. Jevon Kearse hasn’t been that guy. KVB can be, but not if he can’t get healthy.