Tennessee Titans' Success Is No Fluke
Yes, those Titans, who have endured not having a wide receiver since Derrick Mason. Yes, those Titans, who have picked halfbacks like crazy in the NFL Draft recently. And yes, those Titans, who are playing without potential superstar quarterback Vince Young.
So how are they doing it? Simple. They play tough, smash-mouth football. Starting with the defense, their line is one of the best in the league. They have already recorded 15 sacks, a third of which came from superstar defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.
Haynesworth has been a huge cog in the Titans success. He has clogged up the middle and is shutting down plays. He has 20 tackles, a forced fumble, and two pass deflections.
Kyle Vanden Bosch is the neighboring right defensive end. Vanden Bosch made the Pro Bowl last season and already has three sacks this year. Tony Brown, Haynesworth's partnering defensive tackle, leads the defensive line in tackles with 21 and has 3.5 sacks.
Jevon Kearse, formerly known as "the Freak," has 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks in his second stint with the Titans.
Next, consider the linebackers. Keith Bulluck is potentially the best in the NFL at playing weakside linebacker. He has 29 tackles, good enough for third best on his team. Bulluck is 31 years old and still plays like he's 25.
He has been a leader of the Titans' defense since joining them in 2000. The strongside linebacker is David Thornton. Thornton led the defense in tackles last season and is sixth so far, with 22 tackles. Thornton has three deflected passes and three tackles for a loss. The middle linebacker is probably the weakest point on the defense. Ryan Fowler and Stephen Tulloch, two young prospects, are taking turns starting. Tulloch brings speed; Fowler brings power. Fowler has 20 tackles while Tulloch only has 16. However, their combined age isn't even 50 yet, so they still have plenty of football to play.
The secondary is probably the most improved area of the Titans' defense. The cornerbacks are Nick Harper and Cortland Finnegan. Harper has 28 tackles and six deflected passes, as well as two interceptions.
Finnegan is potentially the best player on the defense. He is second in tackles with 30, leads the team in pass deflections with seven, leads the team in interceptions with four, leads in defensive touchdowns, and leads in defensive yardage (100). Finnegan is 24 years old and is a seventh-round pick from Samford.
No, not Stanford. SAMFORD. And that is not a misprint; Finnegan was only good enough to be a seventh-round pick. The Titans are looking pretty smart now.
The strong safety, Chris Hope, leads the team with 32 tackles and two pass deflections. The free safety, Michael Griffin, has 20 tackles, one sack, five pass deflections, and four interceptions. Griffin is only in his second year out of Texas as a first-round pick for the Titans.
So enough stats about the defense, right? They have faced a tough slate of halfbacks this year. Adrian Peterson, Fred Taylor, Chester Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Willis McGahee. Nothing easy about that. They held these halfbacks as well as all the others they faced to 479 yards rushing, which is 96 yards rushing per game.
However, the schedule lightens up, as the Titans only have left to face Joseph Addai, Larry Johnson, Jamal Lewis, Willie Parker, and Ryan Grant, but all of them have injured offensive lines.
The pass defense shocked the world by intercepting David Garrard twice in the opener. Garrard threw just three interceptions all of last year. They also shut down quarterbacks like Carson Palmer, Matt Schaub, Gus Frerotte, and Joe Flacco. Sure, not that many impressive names, but with Finnegan and Harper, you're never going to get burnt too badly threw the air.
So enough about the defense. Time to talk about the offense, the biggest question mark of the offseason and even threw the regular season. At quarterback, Kerry Collins is the starter.
Vince Young has been nursing injury ever since the end of the Jacksonville game, in which he threw two interceptions, one touchdown, and completed just 55 percent of his passes. He has mental and emotional issues, though it is unclear as to what exactly has been going on. He could make a push for the starting job if Collins struggles.
Anyway, Collins is the 35-year-old veteran who has played for a number of teams and finally has a starting gig for more than just three or four games. Collins has completed 56 percent of his passes, thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions, and 740 yards.
The former Nittany Lion has found ways to have the subpar receiving team to catch balls. His favorite target appears to be Justin Gage, who has been battling injuries this season. In two games with Collins, Gage has caught a total of 10 passes for 151 yards and a score.
Next to Gage is Bo Scaife, the backup tight end. Scaife has been a huge surprise to everyone, considering the fact that he was second fiddle to a tight end like Alge Crumpler. Scaife has 20 catches for 226 yards and a score.
Brandon Jones has been another target Collins has found, hitting him with 11 balls, good for 140 yards. Crumpler and Justin McCariens have also been found, combining for 15 catches.
But the biggest part of the Titans offense is not the passing attack, but the running game. Halfbacks LenDale White and Chris Johnson complement each other so well. White is the power, and Johnson is the speed.
White has been a bruiser on each of his 63 carries, running for 165 yards and five touchdowns. His yards-per-carry figure is one of the worst in the NFL, but that is because he wears down the defense for Johnson and gets the goal-line carries. Now, the rookie halfback Johnson (pictured above in the article) out of East Carolina has been nothing short of fantastic.
He has used 85 carries to gain 381 yards and two scores. He has also caught 12 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. Johnson runs with so much speed it's unbelievable. You have to see it yourself.
So those are all the numbers. Every number you need to know about the Titans. On paper, they are one of the best. But the game isn't played on paper.
The reason the Titans are 5-0 is because of Jeff Fisher, the head coach. I give 100 percent of the credit to him. He has created a defense that has allowed 56 points in five games, with young stars at nearly each position.
He has created an offensive line that is seemingly impenetrable. He has created a halfback duo that is as scary as they come. He has found a veteran game-manager in Collins, and has formed a young, basic receiving corps. It could still use some work, but for now it is fine.
This Titans team can make the Super Bowl. The toughest foes still on their schedule are the inconsistent Chicago Bears, the half-dead Pittsburgh Steelers, and the underacheiving Indianapolis Colts. Other AFC powers, like San Diego and New England have fallen apart. Tennessee is in the driver's seat of what is sure to still be a great season.
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