Big-spending Titans tired of losing, ready to win
The Tennessee Titans finally have gotten to the point where they
are tired of staying home during the playoffs. With owner Bud Adams
spending more than $100 million this offseason, they finally feel
ready to do something about that now.
Coach Mike Munchak promised Titans fans during training camp
this year will be different.
”Believe me, we will not disappoint you this year,” Munchak
This franchise hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2008, and it’s
been nearly a decade since their last postseason victory back in
January 2004. That doesn’t cut it in the NFL, and Adams’ patience
may be up with Munchak if the coach doesn’t deliver a playoff berth
in his third season.
Injuries, including to Jake Locker, led to a miserable 6-10
record in 2012. Munchak and general manager Ruston Webster promised
to revamp the roster and remake the Titans into a physical team.
This roster could have as many as 25 new players.
The biggest makeover came on the offensive line with veteran
left guard Andy Levitre and center Rob Turner. The Titans also
drafted right guard Chance Warmack at No. 10 overall bringing his
winning experience from national champion Alabama.
Munchak also changed up his staff, bringing in Gregg Williams
after a nearly yearlong suspension from the NFL for his role in the
Saints’ bounty scandal. Munchak went with youth, naming Dowell
Loggains, 32, his offensive coordinator after he handled the final
five games last season. He hired Sylvester Croom to coach running
backs and Shawn Jefferson for receivers.
Loggains’ playbook meets Munchak’s mandate to be a run-first
offense both to help Locker and help the Titans hold the ball
longer after an NFL-worst 27 minutes, 18 seconds per game.
The defense could have four new starters with tackle Sammie Hill
and end Ropati Pitoitua adding much-needed bulk on the line. Change
was needed after the Titans gave up at least 30 points in each of
their first five games last season and in eight overall in allowing
a franchise-worst 471 points.
”We want to take it to the next level,” receiver Kenny Britt
said. ”We don’t want to be one of them mediocre teams out there
not making the playoffs every year.”
Here are five things to watch as the Titans try to reach the
playoffs for the first time since 2008:
LOCKER’S TIME: This is a make or break season for the No. 8 pick
overall in 2011 because if he doesn’t succeed, Munchak may not be
around either. The Titans cut veteran Matt Hasselbeck in March
turning the offense, and the team, over to Locker. He is fully
recovered from the dislocated shoulder that kept him out of five
games last season, and the Titans believe they have put enough
talent around Locker offensively so that the quarterback won’t have
to carry the team.
THE RUN GAME: Staying on the field longer means converting first
downs, something the Titans were ranked next to last in the NFL in
2012. They signed Shonn Greene to pick up the tough yards on third
down. Johnson was a little concerned early how they might work
together, but ”he sees what coach Munchak did with the offensive
line and the talent we’ve accumulated around him,” Loggains said.
”That’ll change anyone’s attitude.”
AGGRESSIVE DEFENSE: Too often the Titans found themselves
steamrolled by opponents in 2012. Williams, given a one-year
contract, has been pushing defenders to play hard and fast. Safety
Bernard Pollard was signed to bring his Super Bowl ring with
Baltimore to town, add his physical tackles to the run defense and
be an on-field leader. Gray will call the schemes trying to use
every player on the roster in different packages starting Sept. 8
when they open at Pittsburgh. ”There’s a lot of stuff that you
guys haven’t seen on film,” Gray said. ”We’re just waiting to
unveil it. We’re not going to show it in preseason.”
TAKING FLIGHT: This is the team’s best and deepest receiving
corps since moving to Tennessee in 1997. Britt’s troublesome knees
are healthy, and he’s motivated in the final year of his contract.
Kendall Wright led the team in catches as a rookie in 2012, and
they also drafted Justin Hunter with the 34th pick overall to add
to Nate Washington and Damian Williams.
TITAN TIME: This is the franchise’s 15th season as the Titans,
and they still rank seventh in the NFL since the start of the 1999
season in winning percentage with a 125-99-0 record. The schedule
isn’t easy with the first two games on the road before the home
opener Sept. 22 against San Diego. The Titans also visit Seattle
and Denver with a visit from San Francisco.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker