I’ve settled back to earth after blowing a gasket following the Lions' loss to the 49ers last Sunday night. I’d like to thank the many Lions and even Niners fans who talked me in off the ledge.
It’s on to Week 3, where the Lions will take out their frustrations on the Tennessee Titans under second-year head coach Mike Munchak. Who are these Titans, and what can we expect from this rebuilding team in free-fall in everybody’s NFL power rankings?
A Bad Situation Made Worse
Going into this season, the Titans had few realistic expectations of winning the AFC South crown, where Houston will reign supreme. The good news for Titans fans is that Indianapolis and Jacksonville round out the division.
The Titans are in a state of flux as a high roster turnover has been the rule, rather than the exception.
Notable free-agent losses were CB Cortland Finnegan, WR Randy Moss and DE Jason Jones. The only notable free agent signed was 12-year veteran Steve Hutchinson.
The Titans have drafted well, but have been forced to start five players on defense who have two years or less experience. One, MLB Colin McCarthy is questionable to start against Detroit (ankle). McCarthy would be a huge hole in a porous defense if he can’t play.
The 0-2 Titans have lost to the Patriots at home (34-13) and to the resurgent Chargers in San Diego (38-10). Now, they face a Detroit Lions team coming to town with a chip on their shoulder.
Which Chris Johnson Will Show Up?
CJ2K has virtually disappeared from the Titans offense. The rushing game has been all but abandoned and Chris Johnson’s carries have been drastically reduced. He had only eight carries for 17 yards in San Diego.
It’s pretty safe to say that Johnson is being paid more money per yard than any other player in the NFL.
QB Jake Locker Won’t Win In a One-Dimensional Offense.
The Titans offense has been turned over to second-year QB Jake Locker. He’s acquitted himself rather admirably considering the lack of a running game.
Locker doesn’t turn the ball over and gets decent protection. He spreads the ball around like a seasoned veteran, but his supporting cast of receivers doesn’t exactly strike fear into a defense.
Stick a Fork in the Titans Defense
When your free safety is making roughly half of the defense’s tackles, you have a catastrophe waiting to happen.
The Titans play a soft 4-3 defense that features inexperienced players, or those who are pension eligible. They are 25th in total defense, 20th against the pass and 30th against the run.
The Return of RB Mikel LeShoure
LeShoure was sorely missed in San Francisco, but should see a lot of work against the woeful Titans run defense. LeShoure could be that “road rage” RB that the Lions have been waiting for. A heat-seeking missile that hunts DBs and destroys them.
Speaking of Running Backs….
The Lions are working out RBs Ryan Grant (for the second time) and Steve Slaton as I type this.
With the return of LeShoure and the possible signing of a free agent, it’s possible that every RB on the Lions current roster could be turned over. Kieland Williams and Joique Bell are the most expendable, and Kevin Smith will be a goner as soon as Jahvid Best returns—if he returns at all.
Then, there’s that pesky salary cap thingy. Signing Grant and/or Slaton will precipitate the departure of a veteran as a cap casualty.
I’ll leave the speculation open to you as to who gets the ax. I have some candidates of underperforming vets who qualify. Do you?
This Looks Like a Lions Win…On Paper
The Lions should come out of their collective funk at LP Stadium and beat the Titans. Stafford and LeShoure should have a field day and Calvin Johnson should get his first TD of the season…and his second…
The Lions defense will be augmented by the probable return of starting CBs Chris Houston and Bill Bentley. Just in time after CB Drayton Florence went down with an arm injury.
The Lions front seven has a much easier task at hand this week also. Containing the seldom-used Chris Johnson is a priority regardless of his reduced snaps. Getting after Locker will be much easier than getting after Alex Smith.
Unlike last week, the Lions will bring all of their offensive weapons to bear, including the debut of WR Ryan Broyles in a four-wide package.
Now, if QB Matt Stafford can find his mojo, this game looks like a blowout. I’ll even lend him some of mine.
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