Where These Tennessee Titans Players Must Improve in 2014-15
The big question heading into the offseason is how will the stars of the Tennessee Titans respond to new head coach Ken Whisenhunt in 2014?
Whisenhunt is coming into a situation where he has the stars to mold this team into a playoff caliber organization that could get into the conversation of a division crown in the wide open AFC South.
A lot of the frustration surrounding this team last season was knowing that the talent was there, but that it didn't result into wins. That is ultimately what cost Mike Munchak his job.
For Whisenhunt to see instant success with the Titans, these stars have to show improvement in certain areas of their game.
It's now or never for Jake Locker if he's going to become the long-term franchise quarterback for the Titans. He'll get one more opportunity to prove he's the guy, but he has to stay healthy to have any chance to make it past this season as a starter.
Locker didn't do enough in the games he did play in 2013 to make you feel 100 percent confident that he's the answer. He showed minor improvement, most notably in the win over the Jets.
With Ken Whisenhunt coming in as head coach, Locker has a great opportunity to transform his game into one that lends itself to staying healthy. He has to learn to make the right reads in the pocket, and only run when absolutely necessary. His body just can't hold up against these fast NFL defenses who are getting free shots at him.
At this point, the Titans pretty much have to stick with Locker heading into Week 1 of 2014.
The Titans aren't going to get a quarterback with the 11th overall draft pick that would give them a better chance to win than Locker would in Week 1.
If Locker can be successful through the first five or six games and stay healthy, then it's his job for the remainder of the season. That's what the Titans have to hope for in 2014.
Kendall Wright—Red-Zone Looks
It's pretty challenging to find anything wrong with what Kendall Wright has done in his first two seasons with the Titans. He was one of the few bright spots on the Titans as he finished with over 1,000 yards receiving.
Wright has easily become the No.1 receiver for the Titans, but the touchdowns haven't followed from that. He managed just two touchdowns in 16 games for the Titans in 2013.
We all know how lethal Wright can be inside the slot and raking in the yards after the catch. That strength just needs to be translated into touchdowns.
The rocky quarterback situation probably played a big role into why Wright seemed to become a non-factor inside the red zone. He needs to become Locker's biggest weapon no matter what part of the field the Titans are on.
The only thing keeping Wright from becoming a star in the NFL is more touchdown receptions. If he improves that area of his game, then the Titans offense will become a formidable one.
Akeem Ayers—Pass Rushing
A widely perceived strength of Akeem Ayers is his ability to rush the passer at outside linebacker, but Ayers managed just one sack in 2013.
It was certainly a disappointing season for Ayers, so his entire game really needs to improve. However, getting more pressure on the quarterback is something we have to start seeing more consistently from Ayers.
Ayers has the talent to become a solid pass-rushing linebacker in the NFL, and it would send a positive rippling effect throughout this entire defense if Ayers could improve in this area.
Expect to see some competition for Ayers to be the starter in Week 1.
The Titans could be targeting C.J. Mosely in the draft according to Will Lomas of Yahoo! Sports, or could elevate a Zaviar Gooden to a starting role. That would all be squashed quickly if Ayers becomes a better pass-rusher in 2014.
Derrick Morgan has all of the raw talent to become at least a guy who regularly gets eight to nine sacks a season. Consistency has been his issue since being drafted in 2010 at 16th overall by the Titans.
When you look at Morgan's 2013 season, you see inconsistency. He starts off strong, disappears for a few games, and then returns with a couple more solid outings. That roller coaster ride sums up his short career to this point.
Morgan finished 2013 with six sacks, which just isn't good enough. Those numbers have to improve, and he has to be more reliable on a week to week basis. His numbers dropped off considerably in nine Titans losses as opposed to seven Titans wins.
It's looking like it's very possible that the Titans will become a 3-4 defense next season under Ken Whisenhunt according to Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. That could give Morgan a chance to blossom into a sack machine in a 3-4 defense, which would most likely move Jurrell Casey from defensive tackle to the other side.
This is all murky waters at this point as Whisenhunt hasn't had the chance to really examine the roster and figure out what he wants to do.
With that said, the opportunity is their for Morgan to have a breakout season if he becomes more consistent.
Taylor Thompson—Offensive Production
The drafting of Taylor Thompson was a project from the start as he was originally a defensive end. That project is still in full effect, but he has the physical frame to be a quality complement to Delanie Walker at tight end.
Thompson will have a chance to play in a much more different offense than he's probably ever played in now that Ken Whisenhunt is head coach. He could easily end up having a career season, which wouldn't be saying much.
There is such great opportunity for Thompson to become a quality red-zone target for the Titans if he just continues to develop under the right coaches.
Don't forget hat Whisenhunt is a former tight end and also was a tight ends coach at Vanderbilt in the mid-90s.
The Titans have plenty of weapons at wide receiver, but another receiving threat at tight end would make this offense a difficult one to stop for any defense. Too much of the load was put onto Walker at tight end.
Thompson's offensive production needs to spike in 2014 to give this team a full arsenal in the passing game.