Quick Review of 2011
Offense—No. 12 passing, No. 31 rushing, No. 17 total.
Defense—No. 14 passing, No. 24 rushing, No. 18 total.
The 2011 season marked a year of change for the Tennessee Titans.
Following the 2010 season, the team cut ties with long-time head coach Jeff Fisher and quarterback Vince Young. Fisher had been coach since 1994, and was the longest tenured NFL head coach. Young was the third pick of the 2006 NFL Draft who, though talented, never seemed mature enough to lead an NFL team.
Fisher was replaced by Mike Munchak. Munchak, though never a head coach on any level, was no stranger to the Titans organization. Drafted by the old Oilers with the eighth pick of the 1982 draft, he has been with the team ever since. He played guard on the offensive line for 12 seasons, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
To replace Young, the Titans drafted quarterback Jake Locker of Washington in the first round. However, Locker was the only quarterback drafted in the first round last year that didn't log significant playing time. Instead, the Titans went with former Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck was able to lead the team to a 9-7 record, and keep them in contention for a Wild-Card spot until the final week of the season. He did this despite the lack of production from running back Chris Johnson. Johnson held out in preseason and rushed for a career low 1,047 yards and only four touchdowns. Hasselbeck also missed wide receiver Kenny Britt for 13 games.
The defense was only average and finished tied with Arizona at 18th in total defense. No Titan was among the league leaders in any defensive category, and the Titans were one of only three teams that didn't have a single Pro Bowler.
LB Zac Diles, G Steve Hutchinson, LB Kamerion Wimbley
WR Kendall Wright, LB Zach Brown, DT Mike Martin, CB Coty Sensabaugh, TE Taylor Thompson, S Markelle Martin, DE Scott Solomon
Undrafted Free Agents
C Beau Brinkley, DT DaJohn Harris, LB Alex Watkins
WR Donnie Avery, WR Kevin Curtis, CB Cortland Finnegan, FB Ahmard Hall, CB Chris Hawkins, DE William Hayes, S Chris Hope, DT Jason Jones, LB Barrett Ruud, G Jake Scott, DE Malcolm Sheppard, S Anthony Smith, DT Shaun Smith
C Eugene Amano, DE Dave Ball, DE Leger Douzable, G Ryan Durand, LB Kevin Malast, WR Marc Mariani, LB Gerald McRath, CB Terrance Wheatley
Outlook for 2012
Jake Locker will be the starting quarterback this year. He played well in limited action last year, despite a low completion percentage of only 51.
He will need help from running back Chris Johnson. Johnson's production was the worst of his career in 2011. To take the pressure off the young quarterback, Johnson needs to return to his form of 2009, when he rushed for over 2,000 yards.
The Titans also need wide receiver Kenny Britt healthy for the entire year. He missed 13 games last year with a torn ACL. He will miss Week 1 though, with a one-game suspension for a July DUI arrest.
The defense must step up in 2012. They lost cornerback Cortland Finnegan in free agency, and will face seven of the Top 13 passers from last season. The Titans will face Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Schaub twice, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers in 2012.
The Titans success will depend on the development of Locker, Johnson's production and the ability of the defense to stop the elite passers they will face in 2012 .
Sep. 9 New England
Sep. 16 at San Diego
Sep. 23 Detroit
Sep. 30 at Houston
Oct. 7 at Minnesota
Oct. 11 Pittsburgh
Oct. 21 at Buffalo
Oct. 28 Indianapolis
Nov. 4 Chicago
Nov. 11 at Miami
Nov. 25 at Jacksonville
Dec. 2 Houston
Dec. 9 at Indianapolis
Dec. 17 New York Jets
Dec. 23 at Green Bay
Dec. 30 Jacksonville
The first six weeks could be brutal, and put an early end to playoff hopes.
As in the past, being from small-market Nashville, the Titans don't get much national media attention.
They do have two prime-time appearances this year. They play Pittsburgh on Thursday, October 11 and meet the Jets on Monday Night Football December 17.
All other games are at 1:00 P.M. Eastern Time, except at San Diego on September 16.
Can the Titans contend for a division title in 2012?
With the Jaguars and Colts still rebuilding, and some key losses in Houston, especially on defense, it's a possibility.
The key for this team will be Locker's development and Chris Johnson's production.
With all the elite passers on the schedule, the defense can't be just average this year. Many of the quarterbacks they have to face, such as Aaron Rodgers, can score at will against any but the top tier defenses.
The Titans may be better overall, yet the record might not reflect the improvement as they may be a victim of the schedule, especially the first six weeks. Those games could derail the season before it really gets started.
With some upsets, and if Houston suffers a setback, the Titans could be in contention all year.
However, an inexperienced quarterback and the tough early schedule will prevent them from winning nine games in 2012.