The acquisition of former Pro Bowl TE Alge Crumpler was one of the first moves made by the Tennessee Titans at the onset of free agency.
Despite bad knees, Crumpler was a proven commodity at the TE position and the expectation was for Algernon to play a valuable role in a Titan passing game searching for playmakers.
Through the first quarter of the 2008 season, Alge’s contributions to the Titans’ vertical attack have been minimal: five catches in four games, no touchdowns.
Perhaps the biggest reason behind Alge’s lack of involvement in the offense is the quarterback change.
During my visit to training camp, one of my observations was the recurring theme of Vince Young throwing to his tight ends and running backs:
“One thing that stood out with Vince today was the constant checkdowns…he was consistently throwing the balls to his backs and tight ends instead of attempting to take chances downfield.”
On the other hand, Kerry Collins was doing a better job of getting the ball to the wide receivers:
“While Vince was checking down, Collins was taking chances downfield.”
Vince and Kerry’s throwing tendencies during training camp have continued into the regular season.
In Week 1 against the Jags, 10 of Vince Young’s 12 completed passes (83%) went to backs and tight ends. Since replacing Vince, 28 of Kerry Collins’ 47 completions (60%) have been caught by wide receivers.
Against the Vikings, both members of the Justin WR-duo were targeted 10 times by Kerry Collins, who threw 35 passes in last week’s victory.
Collins presence has enabled the wide receivers to play a much bigger role in the passing game. This trend has undoubtedly played a big role in the explanation for Alge’s disappearance from the Titans’ aerial attack.
Another reason behind Alge’s milk-carton status has been the play of fellow TE Bo Scaife. Bo excelled in the season’s first game against the Jags, catching 6 passes for 105 yards. On the year, Scaife (13 receptions) has more than doubled Crumpler’s production (5).
Despite Alge’s lack of production, Jeff Fisher is optimistic that Crumpler will eventually become more of a factor in the passing game.
Personally, I’m not that worried about Crumpler’s slow start. The TE’s responsibilities also consist of blocking, and Alge has done a great job in that department.
I agree with Jeff Fisher’s belief that we will see more out of Alge in the weeks to come. His veteran leadership and playoff experience should come in handy as the Titans continue their possible trek towards a postseason birth this year. I could easily envision a scenario where Crumpler makes a big catch or two to seal an important win down the road.
The searchlights may be beaming as confused observers wonder about the whereabouts of the former Pro Bowl TE, but don’t worry: he’s lurking in the shadows. It’s not a matter of if but when Crumpler will become a bigger focal point in the passing game.