August 05, 2009
It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Tennessee Titans.
Drafted: WR Kenny Britt(notes), DT Sen'Derrick Marks(notes), TE Jared Cook(notes), CB Ryan Mouton(notes), LB Gerald McRath(notes), OT Troy Kropog(notes), RB Javon Ringer(notes), CB Jason McCourty(notes), WR Dominique Edison(notes), OG Ryan Durand(notes), FS Nick Schommer(notes)
Albert Haynesworth was almost a defense unto himself. He clogged the middle, he pressured the passer, he stopped the run, he caved in the offensive line, he drew so much attention from opposing offenses ... he did so many things that disrupted an opponent's gameplan.
And now he belongs to someone else.
That doesn't necessarily spell doom for the Titans. The cupboard is not bare. Cortland Finnegan(notes) is a young star, there are quality veterans sprinkled throughout the defense, and even Jason Jones(notes), who will be stepping into Haynesworth's shoes, looks like he could be a playmaker.
But you don't lose Albert Haynesworth and watch your defense suffer no ill effects at all. You just don't. Suddenly, the rest of your defensive line doesn't look so good, because Albert isn't drawing double- and triple-teams. The secondary doesn't look as good because the pass rush isn't quite the same. Opposing offenses feel a little more free to use the entire playbook, since they don't have to focus so much attention on one guy.
The problem with that is that the Tennessee offense doesn't give the defense a huge margin for error. I still expect a good defense, just not as good, and the Titans ranked 21st in yards gained per game last year. If your defense is dominant, that's fine. If your defense is merely good, you might not be fine.
So will the offense be improving? Yes, probably, if Kerry Collins(notes) finds a way to reverse the aging process, or Vince Young(notes) finally fulfills his Pro Bowl potential and -- ah, I can't say that with a straight face. No, I don't see the offense getting much better than it was last year.
Collins is a year older, and when he's your quarterback, your explosiveness is fairly limited to begin with. Their running game is obviously fearsome, but asking LenDale White(notes) and Chris Johnson to top what they did last year is asking quite a bit. The addition of first-round draft pick Kenny Britt makes the receivers better long-term, but this year? Unlikely.
Progress: I see a solid team here, but I don't see them being able to match last year's 13-3 mark. A little bit of slippage is bound to happen for any team coming off a 13-win season, but the slippage is intensified when Albert Haynesworth isn't there to anchor you down anymore. I hate to be so Albert-centric here, because there are so many other good players on the team, but there's just no way around it. He's that good, and he had that much of an impact for the Titans.
Minus four games. 13-3 last year, 9-7 this year.
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