Tennessee Titans: 5 Realistic Expectations for 2012 NFL Season
As the offseason continues to roll along, it's now time to really start sizing up the Tennessee Titans for the upcoming season.
Last season was a promising one in the sense that the Titans narrowly missed the playoffs despite the very low expectations heading in.
This season's expectations should be a lot higher, but there are still plenty of question marks for 2012. The tough schedule provides enough of a question mark for this season.
Here are some realistic expectations for Titans fans in 2012.
The Team Sack Total Will Improve
The addition of Kamerion Wimbley alone will drastically improve this team's sack total from a dismal 28 in 2011, but a couple other players should improve on their production as well.
Akeem Ayers is one guy that should get to the quarterback a lot more heading into his second NFL season at the linebacker position.
Then you have Derrick Morgan, who has unfortunately had trouble staying healthy. A healthy Morgan will help the Titans get to the top half of the league in sacks.
If the Titans don't improve in this area, then they'll miss the playoffs yet again. Simple as that.
Chris Johnson Will Have a Bounce-Back Year
There's no way to sugar-coat the fact that Chris Johnson came into last season unprepared thanks to his highly-publicized holdout.
This season Johnson should come in with a chip on his shoulder, and that should mean a much faster start.
Johnson has already gotten a head start from last season, since he is attending the offseason workouts with the team—something he's never done in the past.
It seems that Johnson has adopted a more team-first type of attitude, which is something that was lacking last season.
If Johnson even comes close to his unstoppable nature in 2010 when he rushed for over 2,000 yards, then the Titans will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Expecting Johnson to rush for over 2,000 yards would be wishful thinking, but somewhere in the ballpark of 1,500 yards is realistic.
Kenny Britt Will Push for a Pro Bowl Spot
Kenny Britt's health holds the key to whether or not the Titans survive the first part of their brutal 2012 schedule.
With the New England Patriots paying a visit to LP Field in Week 1, Britt will have to get off to the same start he got off to the last two seasons.
Britt is going to get a ton of looks every game from whoever the Titans quarterback is, and taking Kendall Wright in the draft sets the table even more for Britt to have a breakout year.
Obviously the looming question is his health. Britt just recently had another procedure done that should speed up his recovery process and have him at 100-percent for the season-opener.
Expect Britt to set career marks in yards and touchdowns, which should at the very least put him in the conversation for a Pro Bowl spot.
He does have plenty of competition in the AFC with guys like Andre Johnson, Mike Wallace and Wes Welker being the obvious front runners to get in the Pro Bowl.
The Titans haven't had a wide receiver get a Pro Bowl spot since Derrick Mason in 2004. Britt has a good chance to change that this season.
Titans Will Rank Top Ten in Scoring
The Titans threw everyone a curveball by choosing to draft a wide receiver in the first round over a defensive player.
It's clear that the Titans plan make this offense as potent as possible, while moving forward with a predominantly young defense.
Kendall Wright's speed will allow the Titans to stretch the field, making the other Titans receivers more productive.
It should also help Chris Johnson's chances of increasing his production from last season.
The return of Kenny Britt will alone make the Titans a much higher scoring team, and you have to think Johnson will have a better season than last season's disappointment.
The Titans offense isn't going to be quite as lethal as the Green Bay Packers or New England Patriots, but they'll be one of the higher scoring Titans teams we've seen since they've been in Nashville.
They're going to have to win some shootouts if they're going to make the playoffs in 2012. There are just too many potent offenses on the schedule for the Titans to not be a high-scoring team this season.
Jake Locker Will Eventually Become the Starter
It's going to be very difficult for Jake Locker to take out Matt Hasselbeck for the starting job in training camp.
To use a political analogy, it's like replacing a first-term president. They have to really do something wrong for them to be replaced after one term, and Hasselbeck did everything he was asked to do last season.
Hasselbeck took a team that wasn't expected to compete at all and put them in the thick of a playoff race.
With that being said, Locker is still the future of the franchise. Hasselbeck knew this when he took the job, and it's really only a matter of time before Locker is given the keys to the car for good.
It could very well happen within the first four weeks of the season when you look at the Titans first four games.
Starting the season 0-4 is not out of the realm of possibility, but starting 1-3 is very likely. You have to wonder how much patience Mike Munchak will have with Hasselbeck if the Titans start out slow.
Even if the Titans do survive and split those first four games, the schedule doesn't get much easier after that first onslaught.
If the Titans fall out of the playoff picture early, then Locker will definitely become the starter.
Combine the tough schedule with Hasselbeck's durability, and it just seems that it's Locker's year to take over as the Titans starting quarterback for years to come.