Much like the Jaguars and the Colts, the Titans find themselves in a division with a clear front runner and the rest of the division in the midst of a rebuild. Like the others, Tennessee has seen some positive signs despite the 1-3 start.
Their lone win in the 2012 season was one of the craziest fourth quarters I’ve ever seen, while their worst loss shows that they still have a way to go before they’re ready to seriously compete in the AFC South again. But let’s take a look at the good and the bad through the first quarter of the 2012 NFL season.
Mike Munchak had quite a task in front of him in rebuilding an offense that was built around the combination of Vince Young and Chris Johnson when he took the reins last year. The first coach to fill the shoes long filled by Jeff Fisher, he started by drafting Jake Locker and signing Matt Hasselbeck to be the stopgap until he was ready, in turn giving Vince Young his walking papers.
Locker showed flashes of being a top 10 draft pick in his small amount of playing time his rookie season, but won the starting job outright in camp this year. However, a slow start and an injury against the Texans last week has him back to watching Hasselbeck run the show to finish out the first quarter of the season. Locker hasn’t played bad, but there is certainly a “work in progress” look to him in the early going.
The biggest surprise, which isn’t necessarily exclusive to this season, is how quickly running back Chris Johnson has fallen off. I’ve never seen a stud running back, under the age of 30, fall off this fast without a serious injury or drug/alcohol problem. It’s really uncanny. Many point to his 141 yards rushing against the Texans in week 4 as a possible resurgence, but to any who watched that game knows; when you’re down 31 points in the 4th quarter and you’re willing to run the ball, the opposing defense is going to let you run out the clock all day. So I wouldn’t hang my hat on that performance.
When the offense is currently ranked the 10th worst in the league and barely averaging 20 points per game, you’re going to struggle to compete at a high level.
Here is a place where I thought Tennessee would be doing better, but the only thing they’re doing better is the New Orleans Saints defense, which is the only one in the league currently ranked lower. Allowing 422 yards and 38 points per game when you have an inexperienced quarterback and an under performing running back is usually a pretty lethal combo.
The only real bright spot for the defense has been a decent pass rush that has seen the Titans compile six sacks of the quarterback and numerous hurries. The fact that all six of those sacks have been spread among six different players is encouraging as well.
However, as long as the secondary continues to get burned deep and teams routinely score in the mid to high 30′s, Jerry Gray might be on the hot seat much earlier than Mike Munchak.
Grade: D -
For a team that most didn’t consider to be much of a threat in the AFC South, the Titans haven’t really disappointed. Truthfully, if not for two special teams touchdowns against Detroit, they’re probably the only winless team in the division.
The real conundrum will be what the team decides to do with Chris Johnson, and more specifically his huge contract, if he doesn’t build on his performance last week. At some point, you have to eat some money to improve other parts of the team.
Filed under: Tennessee Titans