The Titans Offensive Mid-Season Report Card … The Grade Is In!

PFC Titans Writer: Dan Johns

To correctly assess the Titans mid-season report card, you almost have to look no further than their first 8-0 start.  Currently they have won 11 straight games (dating back to last year’s regular season, where they ended that season 3-0), which is tied for a franchise record with the 1993-94 Houston Oilers.  A win at Chicago this week would make that historic mark 12 straight games and would then be a new franchise record for their organization.  Now let’s look to the Titans specific grades through the first 9 weeks of the season:
Let’s first just look at the Offensive side of the ball (Defense to come in a later post)

Coaching Staff:

The Titans are one of if not that best coached team in the league; and that does not come with bias, it comes with facts.  Jeff Fisher is currently still the longest tenured coach in the NFL.  He has been the head coach since 1994 and only trails Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz in basketball and Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves in baseball as the longest running head coach in all the major sports.

Fisher made a bold decision to bench their star quarterback Vince Young for the 35 year old veteran Kerry Collins and it sure has paid dividends for their success.   Fish without a doubt, is one of the more respected coaches in the league and is strongly making his case for Coach of the Year in 2008.

The re-hiring of Offensive Coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, another one of Fisher’s smart moves, has brought success back to the Titans Offense.  Although they aren’t tearing it up stat wise offensively, Heimerdinger has helped minimize a lot of mistakes and turnovers by taking over the Offense.  Lastly, new running backs coach Ernest Byner has the Titans run game and very young running back core as dangerous as ever.

Grade:    A

Quarterback/Passing Game:

The Titan’s aren’t going to be scaring a lot of people with the pass.  In fact Kerry Collins passing wise is rated currently #28 out of 32 quarterbacks this year.  Through the first 8 games of the season (7 of which he has started) his 3 touchdowns to 3 interception ratio isn’t all that impressive, in fact for the last couple of weeks he probably should have been picked off several more times.  But Kerry is a game manager, nothing more, nothing less.  He doesn’t need to go out and put up Peyton Manning – Drew Brees numbers to win games for this team, he is doing exactly what he needs to – that is don’t make many mistakes and play smart.  His stats don’t jump put, but if you watch the Titans play this year at all, Kerry does all the little things right.  Certainly he makes less silly mistakes than the more youthful Vince Young would make; therefore, Kerry is a very big reason why this squad is 8-0 this year.

Grade:     C+

Running Backs/Running Game

This is the Titan’s bread and butter.  The combination of Len Dale White “Smash” and Chris Johnson “Dash” has the Titans looking like a contender this year.  Len Dale White is showing forms of his days playing at USC in College, where he now leads the league in rushing touchdowns with 10.  Meanwhile, the Titans are silencing critic’s week in and week out with their first round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft by selecting running back Chris Johnson from East Carolina .  Johnson currently leads the AFC in rushing yards with 715 and has added 5 touchdowns of his own on top of that mark.  A few weeks back when Tennessee traveled to Kansas City to play the Chiefs, they won in a runaway but largely in thanks to this dynamic running duo.  For the first time in franchise history, the Titans had two running backs in the same game go for over 100 yards each.  Johnson is certainly making a case for Rookie of the Year behind Falcon QB Matt Ryan and could quite possibly having an Adrian Peterson 2007 type of year, although were only half way.  This is one scary duo of “Thunder” and “Lightning” as the power and size of Len Dale is combined with the quickness and shiftiness of Johnson.

Grade:     A+

Wide Receivers/Catching Game

Well this has been the Achilles heel so-to-speak for quite sometime.  The Titans don’t generally go after big name receivers, which really brought out critics bashing of the Titans early in the off-season this year.  The main focal point many thought was for the Titans to do out and address the apparent need for a wide receiver in order to help Vince Young develop and progress in this league.  The Titans once again did not please the fans by drafting a marquee receiver early in the draft and did not trade or even pick up one in the off-season.  Instead they elected to bring back former Titan WR Justin McCareins and draft Lavelle Hawkins deep into the 4th round of the 2008 Draft.  Both have had minimal impact so far on the year, but the Titan core of receivers haven’t done so horribly like many had thought, but then again aren’t playing spectacular as well.  You can’t blame them too much, as the Titans are a run first team and have only 3 touchdown passes all year.  Brandon Jones is making quality catches this year that he would have dropped last year, however Justin Gage, their starting receiver and there best one last year at that, has battled injuries and dropped passes all year.

Grade:     D+

Tight Ends

Titans have always been known for their Tight Ends so this is to no surprise why the Tight Ends are catching more than the Wide Receivers.  Their big off season acquisition was former Atlanta Falcon TE Alge Crumpler, however it’s been the Titans own Bo Scaife who has been the pleasant surprise up to the mid way mark this year.  He leads the team with 32 catches and a touchdown, while he seems to come up with a big drive saving catch nearly every week.  The Titans have always used their big tight ends as security blankets for their quarter backs to thrown too and this year is no different.  Crumpler is not flashing great stats so far, but is no doubt contributing to the teams success; albeit big blocks to set the running backs free or coming up with the big game winning catch at Baltimore back in Week -5, either way the Titans have a formula which works and are sticking with it.

Grade:     B

Offensive Line

The mammoths up front are the ones who pave the holes for the running backs to burst through.  That’s why the big Len Dale White has already broken an 80 yard run and a 50 yard run in the last 3 weeks.  Tennessee has a good core up front with two premier tackles that they recently locked up for the long-term future, Michael Roos and David Stewart.  They have big pulling guards in Eugene Amano and Jake Scott.  And of course they have long-time vet Kevin Mawae anchoring the line at the center position.  Things guys are big and bad and have been dominating the opposing team’s d-line seemingly all year (with exceptions to the games against Baltimore and Indianapolis ).  They have only surrendered 4 sacks all year, 2 of which came last week against Green Bay .  The o-line is playing rock-solid to this point and is the key component to the success in the running game department.  Also only yielding 4 sacks through 8 games is a remarkable feat, considering they have been protecting the stone statue 35 year old Kerry Collins, that tells you something about this o-line and how they have been dominating from start to finish.  It would be a shame if they didn’t pull a Cowboys of 2007 and nearly send their entire o-line to Honolulu .

Grade:     A

Titans Defensive Report … Grades Coming In Soon!