The Titans ended the year 7-9 which is obviously disappointing from a playoff standpoint, but how well did each position fare in 2013? I don’t think it is debatable that the Titans roster improved in 2013 from the 2012 season. All you have to do is take a gander at my post on compensatory picks to see how the 2012 Titans fare versus the 2013 version. So without further ado, here are my positional grades. Feel free to post your own in the comment section.
Jake Locker was off to a great start and was putting up career numbers before his season ending injury. Locker’s last game put a hit on his numbers but he finished with a career high 60.7 completion percentage. He went 111 of 183 for 1256 yards, 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, signed in the offseason, took over and did a commendable job in replacement of Locker. However, he turned the ball over too frequently and the Titans lost some games because of it.
On December 16, 2013, the Titans signed former Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson. Wilson could be in the mix to compete with Locker going into the 2014 season.
Running back: C-
Chris Johnson managed another 1000+ rushing year at 1077 yards but it was the second worst career performance for the 28 year old running back. In 2011, he rushed for 1047 yards while averaging 4.0 yards per carry, a long run of 48 and 4 touchdowns. In 2013, his long run was 30 yards and he averaged 3.9 yards per carry and scored 6 touchdowns. The Titans franchise running back is scheduled to earn $8 million dollars in 2014 and count $10 million against the cap. It is widely expected the Titans will release him during the offseason.
Shonn Greene was signed during the offseason but never got a chance to really show what he can do due to injuries and game situations. The Titans far too often were playing catchup in games. He finished the year with 77 carries for 295 yards and 4 touchdowns and missed 5 games due to injury. He averaged 26.8 yards per game.
Jackie Battle was signed at the start of training camp and was active every game. He finished the year with 36 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry.
Easily the most disappointing position on the team though linebacker certainly comes close. I will get to that later however. The Titans spent a lot of money on left guard Andy Levitre in the offseason with some mixed results. He did end the season as the #10 ranked guard per Pro Football Focus and you could clearly see him settle in as time went on.
It didn’t help him that the Titans first had under performing Rob Turner at center and then were forced to turn to rookie Brian Schwenke. Schwenke battled injuries but was still an upgrade over Turner. I would like to have seen the Titans stick with Fernando Velasco at center and see how the line performed.
Right guard Chance Warmack took a lot of lumps his rookie year and is clearly more polished as a run blocker than a pass protector. He too got better as the season progressed. He needs to spend his offseason studying film and learning defensive line tricks to improve his game. Could stand to get in the weight and conditioning program a bit more too. The talent is there just needs refining.
The tackle situation is easily the most unsettled as right tackle David Stewart battled injuries all year and will likely be released in the offseason. Mike Roos remains solid but will turn 32 in the 2014 season.
The Titans had their first 1000+ receiver since 2004 when both Derrick Mason and Drew Bennett did it. Wide receiver Kendall Wright finished with 94 receptions for 1079 yards. Wright caught Wright’s great year didn’t stop there either.
With his 1st catch earlier, Kendall Wright became the 1st #Titans player to record 90 catches in a season since Derrick Mason (96) in ’04.
— Tennessee Titans (@TennesseeTitans) December 29, 2013
Nate Washington was solid too and finished with 58 receptions for 919 yards and 3 touchdowns. Amazing to think the Titans almost had 2 1000+ receivers in a year when they went 7-9. Again, turnovers killed them. Kenny Britt’s meltdown continued and he finished the year as an afterthought. Rookie wideout Justin Hunter showed flashes but has to be more consistent. He needs to get in the offseason program, get stronger and work on his hands.
I debated this grade a lot because outside Delanie Walker the tight end position was a big disappointment. This could easily be a B since Craig Stevens really struggled and had some injury issues. Second year tight end Taylor Thompson didn’t get a lot of chances but didn’t do much with what he got. Walker was fantastic and finished with 60 catches for 571 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Jurrell Casey’s breakout year made this grade so high. Casey made the second team All Pro and was simply fantastic all season. He finished the year with 55 combined tackles, 10.5 sacks, 4 tackles for a loss, 2 passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Sammie Lee Hill battled an injury, started slow but came on as the season went on. Antonio Johnson was good in rotation. Mike Martin is really coming on but lost playing time and was inactive a couple of games. Strange.
Derrick Morgan once again had a good year though his numbers were down from 2012. The Titans experimented at right defensive end which I think contributed to Morgan’s numbers. The combo of Ropati Pitpoitua and Kam Wimbley was okay but not great. Interesting that the Titans started playing Wimbley more down the stretch. He barely saw the field early on. Lavar Edwards battled some injuries and didn’t have much impact.
This could have easily made the most disappointing position except the Titans didn’t throw a ton of money at Moise Fokou. Akeem Ayers ended the year on a pretty good note. There, that’s my positive. Oh, we did get to see Zaviar Gooden after he recovered from his hamstring injury. He acquitted himself well in limited playing time but Zach Brown didn’t like losing playing time to him. Oh the drama! Fokou and McCarthy performed decently but the Titans need an upgrade at middle linebacker.
Easily the best position group overall was the secondary as a whole, but I chose to separate them out. Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty combined for one of the best cornerback tandems and outside of the Denver Broncos game virtually shut down most receivers. The Titans only gave up 6 touchdowns to wide receivers this year. Verner made the second team All Pro list
What a difference a year makes especially when you are talking about the Titans safety position. A liability in 2012, in 2013 the safety position was a strength of the team. The addition of Bernard Pollard was the best offseason decision and it paid dividends. Michael Griffin returned to form playing primarily at free safety. The Titans did switch Pollard and Griffin up at times. George Wilson was another great offseason addition who played a lot of special teams and well on defense when called upon.
Rob Bironas finished the year strong but missed 4 field goals during the season. Mr. clutch he isn’t anymore though he is still good. He connected on all of his extra points.
Kern was just okay this year. I don’t think you can really go by net punting average so much as you go by where they were placed. The vast majority of his punts were downed inside the 20 yard line while 7 went out of bounds. He had one blocked. He had 35 returned and 2 went into the end zone. He also fumbled a snap.
This grade would be worse except the Titans added Leon Washington Week 13 and he did a good job in the return game. Damian Williams did fine after the Titans released Darius Reynaud but got hurt. Reynaud was pretty terrible and made some major gaffes, including backing into the endzone for a safety in the season opener against Pittsburgh.