Make or break. Put up or shut up. Step up or step off. Take your pick. Any way you decide to frame this topic, you are left with one unavoidable truth: There are a number of Tennessee Titans that must play their best this season, or it will most likely be their last one on the team. Without further rambling on my part, here are the three players that are most desperate for a good showing in 2012:
1. Michael Griffin.
We all know what he is capable of doing. We all know that he has the physical skills and talent to be a top safety in the NFL. Unfortunately, we also know that if Griffin’s play on the field can be summed up with one word, that word would be inconsistent. One week, he looks like one of the best safeties in the league, and the next week, he looks like he shouldn’t be starting for a local high school squad. He is going to make good money this year, getting the franchise tag, but that means he is on a short leash. There has been some talk that the Titans are interested in signing him to a long-term deal, but even if that happens, I am very confident it will be worded in such a way as to let the team off the hook if they decide to part ways with him after the 2012 season. Griffin needs to get back to his 2008 form, when he had 7 interceptions and 11 passes defended.
2. Sen’Derrick Marks
This is it for Marks. Either he demonstrates to the team why he deserved to be drafted in the second round, or he walks. Frankly, up to this point, Marks has been a huge disappointment. In fact, I would label him as a bust through three seasons. He has done very little to warrant his high draft pick. Marks needs to make a big impact on the defensive line in 2012 both in pressuring the quarterback and in stopping the run. They didn’t draft him to get double-digit sacks each season, but they sure didn’t draft him to only get 0.5 sacks either.
3. Chris Johnson
I know this might sound crazy, and I feel a little crazy writing it, but I truly believe that Chris Johnson is preparing to enter the most pressure-filled season of his career. He was awful in 2011. Not all of the blame is on him, but no one could watch him last season and honestly say he was running the ball with as much purpose, speed, or determination as he did in 2008-2010. He looked slow, indecisive, and somewhat apathetic. If he runs that way in 2012, he will be looking for a new job in 2013. The Titans aren’t going to keep him around if it becomes clear that he has lost a step and is no longer a weapon on offense. Why would they? He is too expensive to keep on the roster when he doesn’t produce more than 65 yards a game on the ground. You can find a running back in the 6th round of next year’s draft that will get you that, and it will save you a bunch of room on the salary cap.
There are plenty of other players that need to step up in 2012, but these three jumped out at me the most. If the Titans can get the best from these guys, then the season will be that much brighter. In the famous words of Andy Dufresne: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
Who do you think needs to step up in 2012?