by Justin of The Sportmeisters
The 2008 Tennessee Titans had expectations of making a deep playoff run and a possible Super Bowl appearance, riding the momentum of the regular season.
Tennessee was able to put the turbulent personal life of its young and talented QB Vince Young aside and focus on opening the season with 10 straight wins. Although the Titans we able to put the team’s success before any one individual’s issues, I believe the Titans under-achieved in 2008, thanks to an early exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
Tennessee proved that ,in an era where teams are constantly trying to develop new schemes to gain competitive advantages over opponents, the old philosophy of running the ball and playing great defense is still effective in today’s game.
The Titans offense only averaged 23.4 points per game (15th in the league) and averaged 313.6 total offensive yards in 2008 (21st in the league). The Titans sprinkled passing plays into the offensive play calling to keep defenses honest and when they were behind in games.
Journeyman QB Kerry Collins only had 415 passing attempts in 2008, which was 21st in the league. With such a low number of attempts, it is not surprising that Collins was 24th in the leagues in passing yards (2676 yards).
Looking at the statistics thus far, one might be inclined to conclude that the Titans offense was below average and suspect all season. Where the offense picked up its slack was on the ground in the rushing game, averaging 137.4 yards per game and ranking seventh in the league.
The Titans dominated the line of scrimmage and relied on a two-headed monster that had the names of White and Johnson on the backs of their jerseys. One half of the monster was big bruising LenDale White, who scratched and clawed for tough yardage on his 200 attempts for 773 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry.
The second half of the beast was rookie sensation Chris Johnson, who ran through defenses using his speed and agility all season gaining 1,228 yards from scrimmage on 251 attempts, making him the eighth leading rusher in the league.
Tennessee controlled the clock and made the game shorter by looking to run first and pass when necessary. By doing this, the Titans’ offensive gave its defense time to rest during games.
When the Tennessee Titan defense was on the field it played just like that—TITANS. Tennessee ranked seventh overall in total yards allowed, ninth in passing yards allowed, and sixth in rushing yards allowed. The Titans also ranked second in points allowed, with 14.6 PPG.
If you did not notice, the Titans defense ranked in the top 10 in all four major defensive categories in 2008. In the playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, it was apparent that the Titans were one or two players away from making it to the “Big Show”.
I will take it one step further and give three areas of improvement the Tennessee Titans must give attention to in order to have better success in 2009.
Tennessee Titans Draft Picks
Round One: pick 30
Round Two: pick 30
Round Three: pick 30
Round Four: pick 30
Round Four: pick 35
Round Four: pick 37
Round Five: pick 37
Round Six: pick 33
Round Seven: pick 30
Round Seven: pick 33
Team Need No. 1: WR
I realize that the Titans are a franchise that believes in running the ball in order to open up the pass, but a playmaker at the WR position is needed to prevent defenses from crowding the box in 2009.
The leading WR for the Titans in 2008 was Justin Gage, with 651 receiving yards and six TD. Tennessee did not have a WR in the top 41 leading receivers in the league in 2008. An improved WR corps will allow the Titans to test defenses deep and open up the field of play for running bakcs Johnson and White to run rapid through defenses once again in 2009.
Another reason why it is important for the Titans to acquire a quality WR for the 2009 season is that when the running game is not as effective as Tennessee is used to, it will allow them to continue to score points and move the ball down the field.
This point was illustrated in the playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens when RB Chris Johnson was sidelined due to an injury. While it is important to be able to run the ball effectively it is as equally important to have a passing game that compliments the running game in must-pass situations.
Team Need No. 2: CB
While the pass defense of the Titans was ranked in the top 10 last season, it is important to replace cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who was tied for sixth in the league with five interceptions. Another CB that can play opposite of CR Michael Griffin, who had seven interceptions (tied for second), will aid in the continuing dominance of the Titans defense.
Team Need Three: NT
The Titans need to sure up the interior of its defense before the 2009 season kicks off. Albert Haynesworth was a force to be reckoned with in the 2008 season, with 8.5 sacks. Furthermore, Haynesworth was in the top f15 in the league in sacks and was one of only two defensive tackles in the league that was ranked in the top 20 in the league in sacks.
It is easy to see that the Titans' defensive success stemmed from very productive interior play. With that same type of production in 2009 from another interior defensive lineman, the defense of the Tennessee Titans will once again be ranked in the top 10 in every major statistical category in 2009.
The Tennessee Titans know exactly what it takes to win in the NFL; an excellent defense and a very efficient and methodical running game. What is lacking on the offensive side of the ball is the threat of the big play from the WR position.
If the Titans can maintain its superior defensive performance, a deep playoff run in 2009 is inevitable. With a crafty veteran at the helm named Kerry Collins, who knows how to manage games to put his team in a position to come out on top week in and week out, the Titans have the main ingredients for success.
The team motto in 2009 for the Tennessee Titans should be Super Bowl or Bust, because without a Super Bowl appearance, what it the point of having the best record in the leagu?