Tennessee Titans: Midseason Report Cards for Each Positional Unit
With the 2013 regular season already close to being half over, it's still very hard to know who the Tennessee Titans really are.
Although they sit at 3-4 during their current bye week, the Titans are still within striking distance of the Indianapolis Colts for 1st place in the AFC South.
There are also plenty of opportunities for the Titans to string together some wins in the 2nd half of their schedule with much easier opponents than the first seven games.
Here are the midseason grades for each position as the Titans look to pull their way out of this slump, and make a push for a division crown.
Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick
It's safe to say that Jake Locker has made some great strides into becoming a reliable starting quarterback. His numbers were extremely efficient before suffering the hip injury during the route of the New York Jets.
Making his return against the San Francisco 49ers was a tough challenge, but he actually played well in that game despite the lopsided loss.
On the other hand, Ryan Fitzpatrick did what he could in Locker's absence. He showed that he is what he is, which is a backup quarterback. It didn't help that his two starts came against the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks, both top-ten defenses.
You have to wonder if the Titans could have won one of those two games if Locker would have been the starter.
Locker needs to stay healthy for the Titans to have a chance to challenge the Colts in the AFC South. If he can continue to play efficient football, then the Titans have a chance to make a late run for the playoffs.
Running Back: C-
Chris Johnson, Jackie Battle, Shonn Greene
The running game hasn't performed anywhere close to how people expected it would heading into the season. You could even say that it is somewhat of a surprise that the Titans are even 3-4 after looking at the production from the running game.
The Titans rank 17th in total rushing in the NFL, and a healthy chunk of that can be attributed to the quarterback.
Chris Johnson has shown glimpses of his electrifying abilities, but that mostly came as a receiver. He's struggled to find any running room in traditional run plays, and he has yet to rush for more than 100 yards in a game this season.
The absence of Shonn Greene has really kept the rushing attack from being what it could have been. His limited return against the 49ers should be taken with a grain of salt. Look for Greene to have a much bigger impact over the final nine games.
Jack Battle will still figure into the equation, but he has also struggled as of late.
The running back position has to improve significantly if the Titans have any chance of winning more than eight games. They have to help the offense hold onto the ball longer and, in return, help out a Titans defense that is actually playing very well overall.
Wide Receiver: B-
Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, Justin Hunter, Damian Williams, Kenny Britt
It has really been a two-man show for Titans' wide receivers in 2013, with Kendall Wright and Nate Washington being reliable contributors.
Wright could very well be on his way to having a 1,000-yard season, and maybe even push 90 catches. He's a future star in the NFL, and Jake Locker has to continue to put the ball in his hands.
After that, the production really drops off. Damian Williams has chipped in modestly, but that has really been all that Locker has been able to depend on.
Kenny Britt has been a huge topic of discussion during the first seven games, and not for any positive reasons. He has rubbed the fans the wrong way, but the Titans still need to find a way to squeeze every bit of talent out of him that they can.
If Britt can start making a steady impact, then this offense could easily start putting up 30 points on a regular basis.
The Titans have also not been shy about finding ways to get rookie Justin Hunter involved when throwing into the endzone. They need to keep doing that, because Hunter is a guy that always has a chance to come up with the football.
Tight End: C+
Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson
Delanie Walker has literally been the only tight end to produce anything for the Titans this season. He's fulfilled his role in replacing Jared Cook, but no offensive production from any other tight end is concerning.
Craig Stevens has to get more involved in the offense. He's an underrated receiving tight end that also has a ton of value as a blocker. The fact that he has zero catches and only two targets is baffling.
It will be a tall order for Locker to keep putting up efficient numbers if he doesn't have much help from the tight ends.
Offensive Line: C-
Chance Warmack, Andy Levitre, David Stewart, Michael Roos, Robert Turner, Brian Schwenke
The offensive line was supposed to be one of the stronger units of this team, but it has been anything but that through the first seven games.
A lot o the blame for why the rushing attack has been so dismal is due to the offensive line. They've been pushed around on a consistent basis this season by some pretty tough defenses.
With some weaker defenses on the horizon, you hope that the offensive line can show some improvement.
Chance Warmack has played some solid football for being just a rookie, but he has also made some rookie mistakes that you would expect.
It will be interesting to see how Brian Schwenke changes things as he'll continue start over Rob Turner in the first game after the bye week against the St. Louis Rams.
Schwenke could end up giving this Titans offensive line the jolt that it really needs to perform up to expectations.
Defensive End: B-
Derrick Morgan, Ropati Pitoitua, Lavar Edwards, Kamerion Wimbley, Karl Klug
Ropati Pitoitua has been the unexpected star of this unit instead of Derrick Morgan.
Pitoitua has four sacks and has been a reliable force in rushing the passer for the Titans this season.
As for Morgan, he has been relatively held in check despite the expectation of him having a breakout year.
You would like to see more production from this unit in the 2nd half of the season, and it all starts with Morgan continuing where he left off in 2012.
Defensive Tackle: B
Jurrell Casey, Antonio Johnson, Sammie Hill, Mike Martin
It's been an overall solid showing from these four guys. Jurrell Casey is definitely having a strong year with four sacks, and Antonio Johnson has been a nice surprise.
Sammie Lee Hill was a big free acquisition over the offseason, but he really hasn't gotten the chance to show how he can help this defense thanks to an ankle injury.
The Titans need this free agent signing to pay off and help their rushing defense that ranks 24th in rushing yards allowed per game.
Zach Brown, Akeem Ayers, Moise Fokou, Colin McCarthy
You have to love what you're seeing from Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers up to this point, They're putting good pressure on the quarterback and also doing a respectable job in pass coverage.
Moise Fokou was also doing a fine job starting for Colin McCarthy until he went down with an injury.
Now it will be interesting to see if McCarthy can earn his starting role back after the bye week. Either way, this is a unit that continues to get better every week. They'll have an opportunity to really make a statement against some inept offenses in the upcoming games.
Defensive Backs: A+
Alterraun Verner, Jason McCourty, Bernard Pollard, Michael Griffin, George Wilson, Coty Sensabaugh
This unit has been the biggest bright spot for the Titans this season, and this comes after all of the points they gave up last season.
The additions of Bernard Pollard and George Wilson at safety have proven to be smart moves, but it really starts with two guys that were already on the roster from last season.
Alterraun Verner was fighting for his starting role in training camp, and now he has four interceptions on the season. That's pretty impressive.
It's important not to forget Jason McCourty in all of this. He's locked down his side of the field while also being a very reliable open field tackler.
The defense has improved greatly from 2012, and this unit is your main reason why.
Special Teams: D
Things turned sour right out of the gate for the Titans' special teams when Darius Reynaud gave his own team a safety to open the 2013 season.
It never got better after that, and the Marc Mariani injury continues to sting as a result of that.
Reynaud has since been cut, and it's hard to know who the Titans turn to for their kick returning duties. It looks like Damian Williams is first in line according to Paul Kuharskey of ESPN.com, but he has very little experience in that role
Rob Bironas has been moderately reliable but hasn't made a kick over 50 yards. He's also missed one inside 40 yards.
However, punter Brett Kern has kept this grade from being a failing grade. He has won the field position battle on many occasions to keep the Titans in games that they could have very well fallen out of on the scoreboard.