It may only be mini-camp, but the Tennessee Titans are sending notice to the rest of the league: Offensively we are going to pass on you this year, and defensively you ain't seen nothing yet. With a new crop of wide receivers and a new man at the helm of the defense, Tennessee is looking to improve on their effort of 2008. And it is beginning to look like they may have the tools to do it.
With so many changes to cover, I have decided to make this a two-parter: today we will cover the offense, tomorrow, the defense.
Air it Out
The Tennessee Titans ranked 27th overall in passing offense in 2008, and yet they managed to take the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, despite having a receiving corps that was overshadowed by the efforts of a rookie running back and two plodding tight ends.
One of whom, if you will remember, cost the Titans a shot at the AFC Championship game when he fumbled the ball in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter of the Divisional game against The Balitmore Ravens.
Don't expect such a lackluster effort out of the passing game this year.
Talk about telegraphing your punch—So far this silly season the Titans have acquired three receivers, a new tight end, and are talking to a former receiver to try and get him back on board.
For their part, Tennessee doesn't seem to care that the eyes of the NFL are on them right now. They are excited about the possibilities, and have no problem saying so.
Quarterback Kerry Collins seems particularly impressed with rookie WR Kenny Britt: "He can run, and I think he catches the ball well. He's got strong hands. He's going to be the kind of guy I think can catch balls in traffic. Also, he has the size to be able to go up and get some of those balls."
Indeed. But Britt isn't the only large target Collins will have available. Besides having Britt at 6'3", they also acquired Dominique Edison, who comes in at 6'2", they already had Justin Gage at 6'4", and they stole Nate Washington from Pittsburgh, who comes in at 6'1".
And that former receiver they are talking to? None other than fan favorite Drew Bennett, who comes in at 6'5", and set an NFL record in 2004 when he scored eight touchdowns over three games.
I'm not at all concerned that St. Louis considered him one of the worst trade acquisitions ever; they played him 15 games over two seasons, and threw to him infrequently. Unfortunately Drew suffered a couple of injuries one right after the other, and in today's gotta-have-it-now NFL, that just doesn't cut it.
Bennett's past record with the Titans speaks for itself. If he's healthy, he's another great asset for Colins.
But height isn't the only asset these guys bring to the table. According to the Titans defenders, these guys, in particular Nate Washington, are fast.
"Like they always say, if you're even, you're leaving. And with Nate Washington, even if he's even with you, which he is rarely because he's always leaving," safety Michael Griffin said when asked his opinion of the new crop of receivers.
"It's going to be something I'm looking forward to this season to see what he can actually do on the football field."
Apparently Nate is so fast he has left the defense flat-footed AND tongue-tied.
It stands to reason that the Titans would look to bolster their passing game. They were at or near the top all year defensively, but when it came to putting points on the board, they were a dismal 21st in overall production. (Granted, the eventual Super Bowl Champion Steelers came in at 22nd in the regular season, but they held on to the ball in the playoffs and put up 85 points in three games in the post season).
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, detractors be damned: defense gets you TO the championship level, but POINTS win the trophy.
And from the looks of things, Tennessee is looking to change that in a BIG way in 2009.