2012 Record: 6-10
In 2011, the first year with Mike Munchak running the show, the Titans gave up just 19.8 PPG, eighth best average in the league.
One year later, Tennessee allowed 29.4 PPG, the worst in the NFL. How does a team allow 10 more points a game than it did the year before?
Even if you took away the staggering number of touchdowns that can't be blamed on the defense (four pick-sixes, a fumble, two blocked punts, and a kickoff return), Tennessee's defense is still on the hook for 25.9 PPG, which would still relegate them to the bottom quarter of the league.
Poor safety play helped tank the defense, particularly from Michael Griffin, who missed 22 tackles. Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty held their own at corner, despite Tennessee being worst in the league in time-of-possession disparity, and that took its toll. The secondary really missed the volatile nuisance that is Cortland Finnegan.
Ineptitude Renders CJ2K Moot
A look at the final stat lines of 2012 shows that Chris Johnson ran for 1,243 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 4.5 YPA (his highest average since his pantheon 2009 season). On paper, it's a damn fine year, and CJ2K ranked ninth in rushing yards to cap a bounce-back season.
But it didn't start that way. In his first three games combined, Johnson ran for 45 yards on 33 carries. In Week 4, he rebounded with 141 yards on 25 carries vs. Houston. In all, the man who carried fantasy teams in 2009 had only five 100-yard games on the season.
The Titans were 3-3 when Johnson received 20+ carries, and were 1-4 when he had 15 or less carries. The moral here seems to be Tennessee abandoning the run when the passing game and defense put them in a hole. Too much having to come from behind will do that to any running game, and make an offense predictable.
2013 Projected Wins: 6.5
Top 3 Rookies
-Chance Warmack, G (1/10): Chris Johnson can enjoy the same help Eddie Lacy was afforded at Alabama. Warmack was made to pile-drive through the line and create lanes.
-Justin Hunter, WR (2/34): With Nate Washington aging, and Kenny Britt being an off-field episode, the Titans traded up for a tall receiver with grace and control.
-Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB (3/70): Demonstrates exceptional physical dominance in zone coverage, but can get burned rather easily covering man to man.
The issues with the secondary were readily apparent, and reinforcements are here in the form of the punishing Bernard Pollard, as well as Buffalo lifer George Wilson, who's hovered around 100 tackles each of the last two seasons. Despite drafting Wreh-Wilson, there've been few notable cornerback acquisitions, so it's clear what the Titans feel the problem was.
On offense, veteran Matt Hasselbeck was let go. He's replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had the world in his hands in Buffalo before descending to being merely okay again. Fitzpatrick seems content to mentor Jake Locker, just as Shonn Greene comes in to supplement Johnson.
But the offense received yet more of a makeover. With Steve Hutchinson retired, Bills guard Andy Levitre (was Buffalo telemarketing directly to Tennessee?) is in on a six year deal. Tight end Delanie Walker and wide receiver Kevin Walter also give Locker some new weaponry.
Potential Starting Lineup
QB - Jake Locker
RB - Chris Johnson
FB - Craig Stevens
WR - Kenny Britt
WR - Kendall Wright
TE - Delanie Walker
LT - Michael Roos
LG - Andy Levitre
C - Fernando Velasco
RG - Chance Warmack
RT - David Stewart
DE - Derrick Morgan
DT - Sammie Hill
DT - Jurrell Casey
DE - Kamerion Wimbley
OLB - Akeem Ayers
MLB - Colin McCarthy
OLB - Zach Brown
CB - Jason McCourty
CB - Alterraun Verner
FS - Michael Griffin
SS - Bernard Pollard
K - Rob Bironas
P - Brett Kern
LS - Beau Brinkley
2013 at a Glance
After a Week 12 loss to the lowly Jaguars sunk Tennessee to 4-7, the team fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, and promoted 32-year-old quarterback coach Dowell Loggains to the job.
Tennessee would average 334.7 yards per game on offense over the next three games, up from their 313.1 average on the season, but lost two of those three games.
Loggains retains the coordinator gig for 2013, and will try to turn around a team that ranked 23rd in offensive yards.
Despite his pudgy, Jonah Hill-like face, and any notions of him being a wet-behind-the-ears kid with his toes barely wet, Loggains has big plans for the offense.
He's announced his intentions to make the offense run-first (and with Johnson and Greene, why wouldn't you?) that'd test Warmack's might and drive from the start.
Warmack, of course, isn't the only lineman. Levitre came in at a high price, though run-blocking isn't his forte. Veteran tackle David Stewart has had leg issues. The run-blocking wasn't stellar last season, and you'd expect better from a team with Hall of Famers in Munchak and Bruce Matthews overseeing development.
While Fitzpatrick claims he's happy to mentor Locker, it might not be a stretch to see the Harvard alum starting. Fitzpatrick enjoyed decent pass protection in Buffalo, with Levitre as one of his guards.
In Tennessee, tackles Stewart and Michael Roos have served well in pass protection, and Fitzpatrick might look more comfortable behind that line, as opposed to the slow-developing Locker.
In Buffalo, Fitzpatrick had only one highly-productive receiver in Steve Johnson. With the Titans, the quartet of Wright, Walter, Britt, and Hunter might be the boost he needs. He already knows the nuances of a two-headed running system from CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson.
Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray's getting a chance to unstick himself after the disastrous results of 2012. He'll have the disgraced Gregg Williams as his primary assistant, and the two have an extensive history in Tennessee, Buffalo, and Washington together.
Gray remains confident that the secondary can get the job done, particularly in one on one situations, but the Titans do have reinforcements at the safety position. A wild card like Pollard adds a degree of intimidation to any defense.
As for the pass rushing, Munchak claims to be content with the development of Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, and Akeem Ayers, while noting there's still room to improve. The team doesn't appear to be signing aging rusher John Abraham, despite a number of talks.
Between a quarterback system without much promise, alterations on offense by a 32-year-old coordinator, and a defense trying to put the 2012 nightmare behind them, there's much for the Titans to prove, especially as Munchak's job is caught in a vice.
For the most part, the Titans have, on paper, upgraded many of the things that needed to be upgraded, but it needs to produce results. With the quarterback situation a question mark, the defense and running backs will have to step up. Given the personnel, it'll be easier than a year ago.