It's mid-term report time for the Tennessee Titans and time to hand out those first semester grades.
The play of Vince Young has been a pleasant surprise so far this season.
The Titans are 5-3, which might not land them on the dean's list - but at least they're not on academic probation as they were a year ago at this time.
So with out further adieu, let's see how the Titans fared in various categories through the first eight games of the season.
QUARTERBACK: A-minus. Vince Young is having the best season of his five-year NFL career by far. Other than a bad hiccup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which he was benched (and later revealed to have missed meetings), Young's play has done what the Titans have asked. He has taken care of the football, as his only two interceptions came in that Steelers game. In seven games (he missed one with a knee injury), Young has nine touchdown passes and a 103.1 passer rating.
Backup Kerry Collins has earned his keep as well, hitting on 53 of 87 passes with five touchdown passes of his own.
RUNNING BACK: B. OK, Chris Johnson isn't going to run for 2,500 yards. No one, except maybe CJ himself, really thought he would. But Johnson was still second in the NFL in rushing entering the weekend and is on pace for more than 1,400 yards with everyone keying to stop him. Besides, Johnson has also found the end zone eight times – or an average of once per game. The Titans will certainly take that.
RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: C-plus. This group is about to get the most significant upgrade they have ever had with the arrival of Randy Moss from Minnesota. Kenny Britt was emerging as a No. 1-type receiver until he popped his hamstring last week. Still, he leads the Titans with 23 catches and has seven touchdown catches. Rookie Damian Williams is catching on fast, and Nate Washington has flashed more than he did a year ago. Tight end Bo Scaife remains a reliable target and could see the underneath open up with Moss coming on board. Jared Cook remains a mystery, but showed glimpses last week.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B-minus. This group has been decent, but some of the savvy of veteran Kevin Mawae is missing. The line is physically stronger with the revamping by putting Leroy Harris at guard and Eugene Amano at center. Amano is still learning the ropes regarding the line calls, and might not be taking as many chances in the blocking schemes as a veteran like Mawae would. It's a work in progress, but look for this group to continue to jell under Mike Munchak's tutelage.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A. Jim Washburn is the best at finding guys who fit what he wants in his system and getting them to mesh together with success. How else to you explain the success of cast-offs Dave Ball and Jason Babin who have 13 sacks between them. Defensive tackle Jason Jones can be dominant in the middle, and is showing that indeed there is life after Albert Haynesworth for the Titans defensive line. The Titans already have 26 sacks, and are doing it with first-round pick Derrick Morgan out for the year and Tony Brown and others missing time with injuries.
LINEBACKERS: B. Stephen Tulloch is playing like a man on a mission. He told TitanInsider earlier this year that he wanted to show the team he was deserving of a long-term contract, and through half a season he has. Will Witherspoon has been a nice addition as a bargain free agent, and Gerald McRath continues to get better. Depth is a bit thin here with Jamie Winborn gone, but this group has come together nicely.
SECONDARY: A-minus. Michael Griffin has recovered from his 2009 fall from grace well enough that he was AFC Defensive Player of the Month in October with four interceptions. Tennessee has found a ballhawk in rookie Alterraun Verner, and Jason McCourty has been solid as well. This group has been good enough that veteran Vincent Fuller has found himself on the outs, through no fault of his own. If there is an area of concern, it is that Cortland Finnegan has not played as well this year as he has the previous couple of years.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A. Rob Bironas has been money on field goals, hitting on 15 of 16 attempts. Tennessee has finally found a return man in Marc Mariani. Punter Brett Kern is averaging 44.5 yards per punt, and they have not given up nearly as many big plays as in years past.
COACHING: B. The real test for this group comes over the final eight games as they try to get Moss up to speed and figure out exactly how to incorporate him into the offense. There have been a couple of hiccups against Denver and San Diego that have been costly, but the decision to open up the offense - beginning with the Dallas game - has helped tremendously. Defensively, Tennessee has been opportunistic. But when those opportunities have not been there, problems have arisen with getting off the field on third down.
FRONT OFFICE: A. The front office was roundly criticized in both media and from former players for parting with such leaders as Mawae, Keith Bulluck and Kyle Vanden Bosch this offseason. But the truth is bargain signees like Babin and Witherspoon have filled in nicely, and rookies Alterraun Verner and Damian Williams are contributing quickly. Then, this week, they made the biggest splash of all, landing Moss. Kudos to the scouts and decision-makers who have not only retooled the roster, but upgraded it even in the past few days.
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