2005 Preview: Tennessee Titans
Virtually every prediction you've read about this team is based on the off-season talent purge... and what a purge it was. I won't rehash it all here, as by now, if you're an NFL fan, you know exactly who left. Lets look at things objectively though. From top to bottom.. position by position... how does this team stack up?
This figures to be one of the strengths of the team... and when you have a good offensive line, you can cover up a lot of weak spots. Replacing Fred Miller on the left side will be rookie Micheal Roos. So far the kid has been outstanding... blowing everyone away in training camp. He looked awesome on the right side, and did just as well when they switched him to the left side to rest Brad Hopkins. The big eaters will dominate at times. They can open wholes on any D-line in the NFL, and with the new faster offensive, they don't have to hold up nearly as long when passblocking.
Steve McNair. Billy Volek. What more do you need to hear? Steve is healthy and fired up. He doesn't just take a hit and bounce up smiling... In the Tampa game Friday, he scrambled and laid a defensive back out. That's Mac-9's game. But what if he goes down again? Meet the Legendary Billy Volek. The Titans backup started most of last year, and proved that he is better than most of the starters in the NFL today. He throws a better deep ball than McNair does... the kid has old-school gun slinger written all over him.
The addition of Travis Henry (Cheese!) is huge. Chris Brown is a good back, but he has proven to be injury prone. Henry is just what the doctor ordered. He's a proven NFL back... and with enough carries, behind the big Titans O-line, he could be among the AFC's top rushers. Behind those two we find Jared Peyton... running like a monster. If you're unfamiliar with Walter Peyton's son, you may not be for much longer. He's big, and he's suddenly started displaying speed on the edge. He was turning the corner on the outside runs against a fast Tampa Bay defense. At full back the titans are still raving about Troy Fleming and his pass catching and blocking.
Erron Kinney, Ben Troupe, and rookie Bo Scaifel make up a quality group of pass catchers and run blockers with a ton of athleticism and size.
At last we reach the a weak spot. What we've got here is Drew Bennett and everyone else. Oh sure... there's loads of talent... all of which is unproven. What the group has going for it is numbers. Top to bottom, this group is big and fast, and there are a lot of them. The three picks, Roydell Williams, Brandon Jones and Cortney Roby have been great in the preseason. Sure... they've made some silly rookie mistakes... like losing the ball on go routes... but they've also made some great plays. Jones has been the real standout, and figures to be the number 3 guy behind Tyrone Calico.
Albert Haynesworth is the anchor of another young, but extremely talented group. Big Al can dominate a game inside, and this year he's showing the attitude to do just that. Joining him at tackle is Randy Starks, and the two are simply going to blow things up inside. On the edge things get more dicey. Antwan Odom is fast and strong... Travis LaBoy and Bo Schobel also have tons of upside. A year from now this could be the best D-line in football... but right now? Expect the inconsistancy of youth at defensive end... but expect the tackles to be rock solid. Playmaker Rocky Boiman will also see time at end. The D-line will be a strength of the team by mid-season.
Beware. Notice has been served. Keith Bulluck is finally getting the recognition he deserves. You listening Ray Lewis? Meet the Best Linebacker in the NFL. Headhunters are everywhere in this unit. Brad Kassell will anchor the middle. He's a thug. He will bust you in the chops. Peter Sirmon returns on the other side. Along with these killers we find the two Rocky's... Boiman and Calmus. Both are ball hawks... and both hit like trucks. This group is fast, strong, and plays with a bad attitude. They're gonna hurt people this year.
Tank Williams is the unquestioned leader of the secondary... flanked by free saftey Lamont Thompson. I'm sold on Tank. He's an assassin back there... Thompson is still a question mark for me. He's made some great plays... and he's been burned. He wasn't consistant enough for my tastes last year... though we've been spoiled at this position for a long time. Lance Schulters was a rock back there. Those are big shoes to fill. Behind them we find a youngster named Vincent Fuller, and a 3rd year fella... Donnie Nickey. Nickey is experienced and solid. He's played nickle back in the past. Good speed. Fuller has some serious Kieth Bulluck in him. By that, I mean he's one of those guys that is just always around the ball. He's a film nut, and a serious student of the game.
Andre Woolfolke will be starting on one side. He's got tons of talent. He's big, he's fast, and he has the instincts to go with his size. Its his first time starting at corner... but I'm not conserned. On the otherside... things are wide open. PacMan still hasn't signed, and with every day, his stock goes down. The only thing this kid has done consistantly is make an ass of himself. This is coming from a guy who was totally stoked about the pick. I can't imagine what the boys who wanted Rolle are thinking. But as fast as Pacman's stock is dropping... others are stepping up. Michael Waddell started a few games last year. He ended up lookin' like a kid running around a school yard. A year later, we see him a totally different player. He's driving off the ball. He's knockin' people on their butts. The starting job is Tony Beckham's for now, but if he doesn't step up bigtime, Waddell will take it. It's probably just a matter of time anyway. Pacman is going around telling the press that his goals are to win rookie of the year, and make the probowl. At this point, I don't think he'll even beat Michael Waddell for the starting job.
Craig Hentrich is still punting... and that is an undervalued weapon. There is a kicking battle between two foriegners... or something... I dunno... but they are both kicking well.. so I figure we'll be ok there too.
Objectively this is a team with a lot more answers than questions. They will give points to Indy... but who won't? Talk of another 5-11 campaign is ridiculous. This is gonna be an exciting team. There's talent and speed all over the field. They'll run the ball way more than they did last year, and they should. Expect a winning season, and the playoffs are a legitimate goal.