Five Reasons for Continued Success in Tennessee
When the team was first born (officially as the Tennessee Titans) in 1999, they burst on the scene with a Superbowl appearance against the "greatest show on turf", the St. Louis Rams.
Every Titans fan remembers the bitter taste in their mouth after the beautifully orchestrated, methodical drive in the last seconds of the Superbowl, led by the late Steve McNair (R.I.P.), only to see Kevin Dyson come up inches short of sending Superbowl XXXIV into overtime.
Despite this disappointing Superbowl appearance, Tennessee has remained a dominant AFC contender, making it to the playoffs six out of 10 years of existence and only having three losing seasons.
After achieving the first seed in the AFC for the NFL playoffs in 2008, a disappointing loss after a first round bye to their bitter rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, yet again left Tennessee fans wondering, will they make it back to a Superbowl? Here are five reasons why they will.
The Running Game
After a great season at East Carolina University and the holder of the fastest 40-yard-dash time at the 2008 NFL Combine, Chris Johnson was glad to get started on the Titans this season.
What became was a great tandem backfield consisting of LenDale White's 240 pound figure plowing through defenders, and Chris Johnson's 4.24 speed and moves evading many persistent players.
Although LenDale was used on the majority of short yardage plays (and it paid off, finishing the season with 15 touchdowns), he proved on a handful of occasions that he could burst out for larger gains than predicted. Chris Johnson wowed spectators this season with his incredible speed and jukes, and displayed that he was by far one of the best in the league, finishing eighth overall in rushing yards for the season (1,228) despite having less attempts than any other rusher in the top ten (251).
An injury sustained in the playoff game against Baltimore played a part in the loss, and hopefully his full recovery will continue on through his career.
There has been talk about the tandem "parting ways," and having a slight fued, but when asked about it, Jeff Fisher was sure it would blow over soon.
Rookie Javon Ringer will prove himself being added into the Titans running attack, what he lacks in speed and size he makes up for in fantastic running ability. He was an outstanding college player and will soon come up to be a great NFL back.
The Rockhard Proven Defense
Finishing the 2008 season, the Titans defense came a near overall second in the league in touchdowns allowed, seventh in overall yards, sixth in rushing yards, ninth in passing yards, fifth in sacks, and sixth in interceptions.
Despite losing pro-bowler and powerhouse Albert Haynesworth, the Titans defense still have all the more reason to return a better defense than last season. While Haynesworth was hurt in the 2008 season, his backup, now projected starter Tony Brown, proved he was more than competent, racking up a monster game while in against Pittsburgh.
Returning veteran defensive ends Jevon Kearse and Kyle Vanden Bosch have been known as some of the best in the league. On the other side at defensive tackle, Jovan Haye will no doubt spark the line after two solid seasons in Tampa Bay, this will be his first in Tennessee.
On the next level at linebacker, the heart of this core is no doubt veteran Keith Bulluck. He has loads of experience, spending all ten of his years in the NFL on the Titans, and has never stopped being a consistent backer. In the middle, Steven Tulloch has also been a consistent and hard-hitting backer in his four years with the Titans.
Also possibly in the middle, All-Conference rookie from Southern Miss, Gerald McRath could turn out to be an outstanding NFL backer. David Thorton has been an amazing linebacker, racking up an impressive 122 tackles in 2007, and an average of 103 tackles a season in Tennessee.
In the secondary, Cortland Finnegan has proved himself as one of the best corners in the league, being voted into the Pro-Bowl last season and being feared by some of the best receivers.
Rookie and 4th overall pick for the Titans, Ryan Mouton, is a speedy corner with really good size and ball skills and could turn out being a starter for Tennessee. Overall experience is really what shines in Tennessee's relentless defense. For the starters, the average amount of time in the league is seven years.
The Solid Offensive Line
All things considered, Tennessee has one of the best O-lines in the league. Advancing veteran center Kevin Mawae, division I-AA graduate surprise left tackle Michael Roos, and right tackle David Stewart were all voted into the Pro-Bowl last season.
Michael Roos, drafted in 2005, started every game that season on. There are only three other players drafted that year who accomplished the feat, and only one other offensive player.
The most experience player on the Titans besides punter Craig Hentrich, Kevin Mawae is the best in the league at his position.
It seems a rushing attack comes along with this veteran center, considering for 12 of his 15 NFL seasons, he has blocked for a 1,000-yard or more rusher. The line has also proved themselves as stellar pass blockers, allowing a mere 12 sacks last season, an NFL low.
The Passing Game
Justin Gage has proved himself a newfound target of Kerry Collins when the time comes to pass the ball. Last season Gage had 651 yards and six touchdowns on the season.
Both tight ends Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler have racked up decent numbers, and Ahmard Hall has been a solid receiver out of the backfield. Drafted this season, rookie tight end Jared Cook from South Carolina is a fast pass-catching tight end, and will soon come to be a deep threat midfield.
Nate Washington from Pittsburgh will hopefully prove as a deep threat as he was with the Steelers, and has unofficially earned the starting receiver position, along with Gage, after camp.
The big receiver that we'll have to "wait and see" on is standout college player, Kenny Britt. He has an outstanding frame, 6'3" and 218 lbs, and was no doubt one of the best receivers in college last year.
He set a Big East record with 3,043 receiving yards, became the Rutger's all-time leader in touchdown receptions (17), consecutive 100-yard receiving game (five in 2008), career 100-yard receiving games (14), single-season receiving yards (1,371 in 2008) and single season receptions (87 in 2008).
He set a school record for 100-yard games with 14, tying All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald's Big East record. He will no doubt be an outstanding NFL receiver for years to come.
A More Stable QB Situation
You have to consider Jeff Fisher's tough situation. Two Pro-Bowl quarterbacks, one a 15 year veteran, the other was AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the year a couple years ago.
One has great speed, but has shown emotional instability in the past, causing question, and the other has loads of experience and a great last season. Fisher went with Kerry Collins, and I respect and trust his judgment.
Although he was previously emotionally unstable, Vince Young is now okay with backing up Collins, and presumably, when his time comes, he will emerge as an outstanding NFL quarterback.