Headed to the Super Bowl? So are 31 other teams. It's good to dream big, but big dreams aren't achieved without taking small steps. Here's what we learned from the Titans OTAs.
10) Jake 'The Jammed' Locker No More
Coaches expect mythical things from third-year quarterbacks. Jake Locker is that unicorn.
Locker’s health (every quarterback’s health) is imperative to the success of the Titans’ offense. Locker took baby-leaps in 11 starts in 2012, stood tall (tried to) behind a depleted offensive line and completed a breathtaking 56.4 percent of his tosses -- to running back Chris Johnson and an injury-plagued rotation of wide receivers: Kendall Wright, Nate Washington and Kenny Britt. Breathtaking.
Locker looked “excellent” and “very strong” in minicamp, according to NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington. The quarterback who underwent surgery on his non-throwing shoulder and a broken bone in January told Darlington that he “feels as healthy as he’s felt in a very long time.”
The elevation of his leadership role will make or break him; we’ll stay inclined towards believing that a healthy - unjammed - Locker will rise to the occasion and control the reins of Dowell Loggains’ offense in 2013. It’s the third-year’s job to lose and hand the leash over to backups Rusty Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Nathan Enderle. It’s not a cute statistic, but Locker (regardless of the excuses) hasn’t completed 60 percent of his passes for six straight years.
9) CJ2K, BE YOURSELF and Just Do It
He earned that cool moniker in 2009. It’s time to kiss it goodbye.
Chris Johnson, with no doubt, still has the burners to achieve his annual predictions (break 2,000 yards rushing). Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains plans a run-heavy attack to open up the passing lanes, which is why CJ2K remains optimistic. With new addition Shonn Greene handling the load of the interior runs, we’ll hopefully see Johnson sweep around the outside and leave chasing tacklers in the dust with his 4.28 40-yard dash speed.
8) Who is Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains?
Loggains served as the Titans quarterbacks coach prior to his promotion in the final five games of the 2012 campaign. He studied Jake Locker’s flaws/strengths and will attempt to implement the methods that he’s drawn from his influences, Bill Parcells, Sean Payton, Norm Chow and Mike Heimerdinger as the Offensive Coordinator. For the next couple months, Loggains will need to devise a solid distribution plan that showcases the offense’s strengths and more importantly, minimizes their negatrons. NFL.com’s Around the League Chris Wesseling compares the system to that of Houston Texans Gary Kubiak’s.
7) Coach Gregg Williams Brings Culture Change to Defense
According to cornerback Jason McCourty, “Guys are buying in right now during our OTAs a lot of us guys on defense know that this is the hardest we’ve worked, uh, since we’ve been here,”
Whoops. Hope he didn’t mean that. Players are talking up Williams for bringing “a new attitude” to their campus – and they could use that to tighten up a defense that allowed opponents to score an average of 29.4 points every week.
6) On the Wright Track
Kendall Wright ditched the junk food and shed 14 pounds. Please, teach me your ways.
The rising sophomore needs to improve on his 64-catch, 626-yard production. With a brand new playbook to study, we hope for Wright to ration out the pressure with fellow second-year friends linebacker Zach Brown, defensive tackle Mike Martin, and cornerback Cody Sensabaugh.
With heaps of expectations on the receiver’s plate, it’s no wonder he ditched the junk.
5) Saint Bernard Pollard to Rescue the Underdogs
Underdogs are usually more reserved, conscientious, in their words and actions. The Titans haven’t heard this much yap coming from a vicious player since Cortland Finnegan, who’s currently barking up the wrong trees in St. Louis. Pollard is different.
Saint Bernards, according to DogTime.com, were used to protect the grounds of Switzerland Hospice Saint Bernard, help find, and save lost or injured travelers. They are versatile and excel in the show ring. Touche, Pollard would say.
Pollard emphatically believes that the Titans will be legitimate contenders in the AFC. Did someone not tell him that he’s joining a horrendous defense, one that surrendered an NFL-worst 55 touchdowns in 2012?
With the Super Bowl on his mind, the safety’s mission this season is to kill. Good luckzah.
4) Kenny Britt enters his final season of five-year contract. No worries.
“Kenny is healthy and he’s doing good. He looks way different,” second-year wideout Kendall Wright said. “He took his offseason serious and went and got his knees right.”
Bad knees have been Britt’s tragic flaw since being drafted in 2009. The first-round choice suffered a season-ending injury in 2011, had surgery to repair the ACL and MCL, and needed another procedure in May 2012. Rookie wideout Justin Hunter, who also sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2011, is making headlines for annoying reasons of his own.
Britt requests that you keep his health in your prayers.
3) Freedom for Free Safety Michael Griffin
"Hopefully, we get Michael Griffin up to playing like Michael Griffin,'' Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said, "We expect a Pro Bowl player out of Michael, and he knows that…”
To relieve the stress of Griffin at free safety, the Titans signed seasoned veteran former Buffalo Bills George Wilson and recent Super Bowl winner Bernard Pollard. This instantly eliminates a bulk of excuses and launches a rocket of expectations for Griffin to do well. If I’m seeing what he’s seeing, Titans DC Jerry Gray wants more opportunities to unleash Gregg Williams’ blitz packages -- and by having faith in his stress-free safety roaming the field, the chance to send the Mike or Will should occur more frequently.
2) You Don’t Want to Go to WARmack
Rookie guard and 10th-overall draft choice out of Alabama will pave the roads for CJ2K and Shonn Greene the same way he’s been mauling over defensive linemen to clear space for Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram in college. According to his draft profile on NFL.com the thick interior lineman “possesses a strong punch to shock oncoming defenders and consistently extends his arms to keep them at bay in pass protection.
He spoke with reporters after mini-camp on his progress during the OTAs and spoke highly of Hall of Fame and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews. Head coach Mike Munchak nitpicks to the grittiest raw of details, as he too played as an offensive lineman and was selected to nine Pro Bowls.
1) Dizzying Donovan
I thought the Eagles would be my only source of headaches this summer. The Titans caused more damage.
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