Tennessee Titans: Midseason Report Cards for Matt Hasselbeck and More
We've already reached the halfway point of the season, and the Tennessee Titans are actually better off than many people had probably predicted before the season started.
It's actually somewhat of a miracle that the Titans are 4-3 despite Chris Johnson's lack of production and being without arguably their only major receiving threat in Kenny Britt.
For the Titans to beat out the Houston Texans for the AFC South title, all of these key players will have to play at the top of their game.
Here are the midseason report cards for how these players have played to get the Titans to where they are now, which is very much in the mix for a surprising playoff appearance.
It's important to remember that Williams is only in his second season, and saw very limited action last year. Basically he's a rookie all over again.
Sure, Williams has had a few critical drops, but he stepped up nicely in the win over the Indianapolis Colts by leading the team in receptions and yardage.
Williams will have to continue to improve if the Titans have any chance at staying with the Houston Texans in the division race.
Final Grade: B
Akeem Ayers has embraced the starting role as a rookie very nicely.
However, you would like to see some better numbers in his production, as he has yet to get a tackle for loss this season.
Much like Damian Williams, you have to remember that this is his first year and he's going to get better each and every week.
Expect to see Ayers play his best football towards the end of the season, but as of now there's still a lot to be desired.
Final Grade: C+
The reliability of your kicker is very underrated in today's pass happy NFL, but the Titans know that if they're down three points or less then they've got a guy that knock one in from extraordinary distances.
Final Grade: A
The tight end position has always been an intricate part of a Titans offense, and Jared Cook is hopefully the main guy for years to come.
He's one of the more athletic tight ends in all of football, but he's only received 26 targets in seven games this season. That's not even an average of four targets per game.
Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has to figure out a way to get Cook more involved because this guy has the potential to be something special.
Final Grade: A
Here's a player that doesn't get nearly as much praise as he probably should for the job he does nearly every week.
Griffin is currently fourth on the team in tackles and has played a vital role in helping the Titans improve their pass defense to 15th in the league as opposed to 29th last season.
He hasn't been perfect, but he's been pretty close. Chalk Griffin up as another great draft pick by the Titans organization.
Final Grade: B+
No one will ever question Cortland Finnegan's toughness and attitude he brings to the game, but he's had his fair share of blown coverages this season that has led to huge gains by the opposition.
In fact, it could be argued that second-year player Alterraun Verner has played just as well, if not better, as Finnegan up to this point.
With all that said, Finnegan is still a valuable asset to the Titans secondary and he should add a couple more critical interceptions during the second half of the season.
Final Grade: B
With the exception of Matt Hasselbeck, Barrett Ruud was probably the biggest acquisition the Titans made during the offseason.
Ruud was basically brought on to replace the departed Stephen Tulloch, and although he hasn't completely replaced Tulloch, he's come pretty close.
There have been a few games where you would have like to have seen Ruud get a little more involved in the run defense, including the wins over Baltimore and Denver where he had just six tackles combined.
He does seem to be playing the veteran leadership role well with rookies Colin McCarthy and Akeem Ayers.
Final Grade: C+
Nate Washington is a big reason the Titans have managed to go 2-2 without Kenny Britt so far, and he'll have to continue to put up the numbers of a No.1 receiver if the Titans are going to hang with teams like the Saints, Falcons and Texans.
Washington is right on pace to be the first Titan to have a 1,000-yard season since 2004 when Drew Bennett did it.
The big reason the Titans pulled off the huge upset over the Ravens was thanks to Washington's 99-yard performance, and he followed that up with another 92 yards in a win over the Broncos.
Final Grade: A
It would be hard to argue against naming Matt Hasselbeck team MVP up to this point in the season. He's completely transformed this team from a last place team to a team that has a decent shot at a division championship,
With mostly young, inexperienced receivers Hasselbeck has put up 11 touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of just under 90.
Not to mention he's getting no help from the run game.
He's kept the Titans in every game except for the loss against a Pittsburgh team that just got done knocking off the Patriots, and a game against the Texans where he got very little help from his supporting cast.
If the Titans make the playoffs, expect Hasselbeck to get plenty of votes for Comeback Player of the Year.
Final Grade: A+
It's hard to wrap your brain around what has happened to Chris Johnson this season. If not for his 2,000-yard season in 2009, Johnson would not even be the starter right now. Javon Ringer would be the starter.
However, since Johnson has the same reputation that got him his big contract, he will continue to get plenty of opportunities to shows he's worth a $50-million contract.
The last straw came when he only managed 34 rushing yards against one of the NFL's worst rush defenses this past week against the Colts.
Currently Johnson has just 302 yards rushing on the season. That's a lower total than players like Delone Carter, James Starks and Jonathan Stewart.
You can't use the argument that he's not getting enough touches because he's among the NFL's leaders in total number of rushing attempts with 107.
In fact, the players who have that many attempts are at least 100 yards ahead of Johnson at the moment.
It's not just the production that's not there. The confidence and the passion for the game seems to also be lacking.
The only positive thing you can say about Johnson this season is that he has increased is role in the passing game with 27 receptions, but that's a big reach considering his offseason claims of being the best offensive player in the game.
A dramatic change has to occur with Johnson in the second half of the season or the Titans will never survive the back end of their schedule which includes several tough opponents.
Final Grade: D-