Tom has made some excellent selections in his awards for the Titans 2011 season. I’m now going to pass out some recognition for players who didn’t play that well.
Most underachieving player, offense: Chris Johnson
For a guy who claimed he was a playmaker and deserved to be paid like one, Chris Johnson didn’t achieve like a playmaker, barely gaining 1,000 yards in 2011. CJ was tied with Beanie Wells for 14th in the league in rushing, 559 yards behind Maurice Jones-Drew. He would have been worse than a tie for 14th, if not for season-ending injuries to Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Fred Jackson. CJ had more games with less than 25 yards (five) than games with over 100 yards (four) last year. CJ’s stinkers were games of 9 carries for 24 yards (Jaguars), 13 for 21 (Broncos), 10 for 18 (Texans), 12 for 13 (Falcons) and 11 for 23 (Saints.) I remember when rushing for 1,000 yards was an accomplishment. Now it’s mediocre, which is about all CJ was last year. Here’s another interesting stat: CJ’s 4.00 yards per attempt was 49th best among backs with 50 or more carries last year.
Most underachieving player, defense: Derrick Morgan and Jason Jones (tie)
Neither of the Titans starting defensive ends played like the top draft picks they once were. Morgan, selected in the first round (16th overall) last year, and Jones, a second-round pick in 2008 (54th overall), looked more like late-round picks or even undrafted free agents at times. The biggest weakness on the Titans’ defense last year, and perhaps the biggest weakness on the team overall, was the lack of a pass rush. If you’re looking to place blame, that falls mainly on Morgan and Jones. To his credit, Morgan performed fairly well in run defense, though the same can’t be said of Jones.
Most disappointing player, offense: Eugene Amano
I distinguish between the underachieving awards and disappointing awards as follows – the underachieving guys have demonstrated ability which went unused, the disappointing guys sucked before but you hoped they somehow got better. On the offensive side of the ball, the guy who sucked before and didn’t improve last year was Eugene Amano. I thought Amano was a decent guard a few years ago and that the line would actually improve with him taking over for Kevin Mawae. Somehow, Amano forgot how to run block when he made the switch to center. I’ve got a post on the o-line, specifically the interior line, in the works and I’ll have plenty more to rant about Amano then.
Most disappointing player, defense: Sen’Derrick Marks
Like Morgan and Jones, Marks is another high draft pick (second round, 2009, 62nd overall) who didn’t play well in 2011. Unlike them, Marks sucked before and didn’t do anything to change that last season. You’d think a second-round pick, in his third year in the league, would have developed into a pretty good player by this time. As it was, the Titans’ best two defensive tackles were a pair of rookies, Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug, drafted in the third and fifth rounds, respectively. When a second-round pick in his third year is outplayed by a couple of rookies, that’s not a good sign.
Most disappointing newcomer: Barrett Ruud
Upon his arrival in Tennessee we knew that Ruud had some limitations, primarily not being physical enough at the point of attack, and he did nothing to dispel that reputation. We (or at least I) thought he’d be an upgrade over Stephen Tulloch in pass defense, but he struggled in that aspect of the game as well. I’ve got to cut Ruud a little bit of slack, as he suffered a shoulder injury in training camp, which he never did recover from. Ruud was later sidelined with a groin injury before being placed on Injured Reserve. In hindsight, the Titans would have been better off not signing Ruud at all and starting Colin McCarthy in Week One. The good news is that Ruud was signed for only a one-year contract.
In the coming weeks, Total Titans will once again be looking at the state of the team in our traditional semi-annual positional analyses. We’ll examine each position group with a particular look at the areas in need of an upgrade, whether by free agency or the draft, and an outlook on how the Titans roster might look in 2012. We hope you’ll stay tuned for this as we kick off our offseason free agency and draft coverage for the upcoming season.