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Before the 2011-12 season began I thought the Titans were an 8-8 team. It was a pleasant surprise that by the end of the season, I thought we should've beat the Colts to go 10-6. I was impressed by Munchak's first yr and look forward to what's to come.
DT - Throughout the season we saw the emergence of 2 players that no one saw coming. Jurell Casey and Karl Klug surfaced out of nowhere. Klug led the team in sacks as a DT. He's a bit small to be a 3 down lineman, but it is already clear that he has established himself as a unique part of the d-line. Casey looks like he's going to be a decent lineman for us for yrs to come. Marks continued his Jekyll and Hyde ways. At times he is impressive and at times depressive. During the off-season DT was not a huge priority, but they just couldn't pass on taking Martin in the 3rd rd of the draft. Martin (a fairly productive DT out of Michigan) is a high motor, high character 3 down DT that was a steal in the 3rd rd. Think Vanden Bosch as a DT. I would not be surprised to see him pass up Marks to start alongside Casey for most downs with Klug coming in for 3rd downs or special packages. Veteran Smith may be reaching the end of his tenure with Tennessee.
DE - This was a major need during the season and off. As a whole the DE's were pathetic in the pass rush. Klug, a DT, led the team in sacks. Morgan played in his 2nd yr after ACL surgery. The results were so-so. He wasn't terrible, but thus far has yet to live up to his contract. Though keep in mind that Morgan wasn't recruited to be a pass-rush extraordinaire. During his draft he was known as being the best "all-around DE" in the draft. The pass-rusher in the draft was JPP who now has a superbowl ring. Morgan is a player that is good against the run, good against the pass, but has never really excelled in one area. He should be better in his 3rd yr. Having another yr apart from his surgery, having better DT play, and having a better pass rusher at the other DE. Enter Wimbley who is the major off-season addition. Wimbley is a talented athlete and a former DE, but played LB for the last several yrs. He'll likely add some decent pass rush, but will likely be rusty. The draft was weak on pass rushing DE's this yr which is one of the likely reasons why they didn't really go after too many. They also added a 7th rd draft pick in Solomon who will likely be a role player for a few yrs.
LB - As a whole they were "ok" throughout the season. Ruud's better days are behind him....and thank goodness for McCarthy as he more than ably replaced Ruud. Ayers was decent for the most part, but at times really showed that he was a rookie. He should be better in yr 2. Witherspoon was decent as a 2 down OLB, but struggled in pass coverage. He is aging and needs to be replaced, but they could've gone another yr or two with him. The off-season prompted probably the biggest surprise. In the 2nd rd of the draft the Titans top center prospect on their boards dropped down to them. Center was a major need, yet they passed over the need and chose Brown instead. He is known to be insanely athletic, but very, very raw. Even Mr. Positivity (Gruden) found it hard to say really good things about him.....and I as I watched the entire draft Gruden wasn't that critical of another player....at all. This is is call for worry. The Titans idea is that Brown has shown ability in pass coverage and if they can hone his craft it will free up Ayers on the other side for more blitzes......thereby improving the pass rush. It sounds good in theory, but...
CB - The corps as a whole were decent throughout the yr. Had they had a decent pass rush they could've been one of the best units in the NFL....heck they were up there regardless. We lost Finnegan in the off-season. The staff believes that ATV and McCourty can take over as the starters without missing much. They are also very, very, very high on Campbell. They also like Hawkins. In the off-season they mainly are in search of vets for depth and youth to develop. They picked up highly athletic prospect in Sensabaugh in the 4th rd and have tried their hands at a couple of veteran prospects. All the prospects have failed.
S - Overall not a bad showing....but not great either. Griffin continues to show that he has all the talent in the world to be a top 5 safety in the league, but lacks the consistency to get there. Babineaux proved that he is worth keeping around for a few more yrs until we can find his replacement. Griffin was franchised this yr, but likely will go elsewhere after this next yr. The safety draft classes over the last few yrs have not been very good. As a result there are a lot of teams that are dying for a safety. I look for Griffin to put in a little extra effort this yr and then get overpaid by another team next yr.....leaving the Titans with a hole. During the off-season they found a steal in Markelle Martin late in the draft. He has potential to take over if Griffin leaves, but will take time to develop. Will he develop in time? They currently are still searching for veteran depth.
Overall: Despite the lack of a pass rush (31st in the league) the defense was stingy with pts allowed (8th). Run stoppage was decent and pass coverage was above average. Had they a pass rush they could've been a top 5 defense in pts allowed. Here's the thing. Pass rush was the #1 priority to remedy, however the Titans thought outside the box to cure their ills. Instead of just going out and signing a couple of nice DE's, they signed a guy that hasn't played DE in a half-decade to provide a theoretical pass rush from the edge. The also signed a talented but incredibly raw OLB who they hope will develop quickly and allow Ayers to rush more from the other side. Again they way they fixed things is all.....well....theoretical.
Prognosis: The pass rush was so bad last yr that it almost certainly will be better....but how much? Also, can the improved pass rush offset the loss in pass coverage from Finnegan leaving? With the addition of a healthy Morgan, an athlete in Wimbley, and a work-horse in Martin the d-line should be improved. Ayers and McCarthy should only improve. The CB unit as a whole should be decent, but will they have someone emerge that can shut down some receivers like Finnegan did? Safeties should play about the same. In all this unit has potential. If Brown develops quickly he will enable some very creative flexibility in the defense.
Off-season 2013: By the end of the 2013 yr I wouldn't be surprised to see the Titans with the same off-season "needs" as they faced in 2012. I wouldn't be surprised to see the addition of a FA DE or a high DE draft pick. They likely will have a hole at safety due to the departure of Griffin. They'll likely look for depth at CB....which seems to be a Titan staple over the yrs.
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