The Tennessee Titans offense received an overall ‘B-‘ in their Mid-Season Report Card yesterday. With plenty of playmakers, the offense has the ability to turn things around in the 2nd half of the season. Getting Jared Cook and CJ more involved should spell success, and hopefully Locker will return so we may properly evaluate the unit.
While the offense has shown glimpses of excellence midway through the season, the defense has been shockingly poor and inconsistent. Teams have run and passed the ball at will, and Titans fans are becoming increasingly frustrated with a team accustomed to hard-nose football. To improve one must know his weaknesses, and we have plenty to review in the Titans Mid-Season Defensive Report Card.
Overall Defense: D
This grade seems harsh, but after taking a look at the mid-season numbers, it may be too generous. The Titans rank near the bottom of the league in points allowed, passing yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, and nearly any other category you can imagine. Poor tackling, penalties, and mental mistakes have contributed to the issues, but the entire blame does not rest solely with the players.
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Defensive Coordinator: D-
Jerry Gray has failed in two major areas: getting to the quarterback and getting off the field. The Titans are ranked 31st on 3rd down and 28th in sacks, and the defense has yet to establish an identity. Gray’s famous “Ruby” package has generated a few turnovers, but he cannot consistently rely on it. His poor play calling has been surpassed by even worse personnel decisions. The Robert Johnson experiment at free safety was a failure, and Babineaux almost leads the team in tackles now. If Gray wants to keep his job, he must prove to the organization that he can make adjustments on the fly.
Derrick Morgan: B-
Drafted with the 16th pick in the 2010 Draft, Derrick Morgan was expected to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. A torn ACL prematurely ended his rookie season, and he spent most of 2011 rounding into form. Midway through 2012, Morgan appears much stronger than in the past. He has been a stud defending the run, and his strength and motor are evident throughout the game. While he’s only accumulated 2.5 sacks on the season, he dominated last week against the Colts and should continue to improve.
Defensive Tackles: C+
Sen’Derrick Marks and Jurrell Casey have handled the starting duties at tackle, with Klug and rookie Mike Martin in the rotation. Martin has really excelled, tallying 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 26 combined tackles, 2nd most among all Titans defensive linemen. With this much talent on the line, the Titans should be better against the run. However, they currently rank 28th in the league, allowing nearly 140 yards per game. Martin has easily outplayed Marks for the starting spot, and he also offers an interior pass rush that Marks cannot.
Kamerion Wimbley: C
The biggest offseason acquisition to the defense, Wimbley was signed to do one thing – sack the quarterback. Through eight games, he has 2.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. He did dominate last week against the Colts, but too often he is out of position and overmatched in the trenches. He played defensive end in college, but since being in the NFL has always played outside linebacker. Foreseeing a potential issue converting him to defensive end, the Titans signed coach Keith Millard, who specializes in rushing the passer. Wimbley has failed to live up to his contract so far, but he’s still got half a season to prove himself.
Akeem Ayers: A-
Ayers has stepped up big this year, and he currently leads the team in tackles. Recording 2 sacks and 4 passes defensed, he’s been utilized both in coverage and as a pass rusher. Only midway through the season, Ayers has nearly surpassed his tackle total from his entire rookie season. Gray must continue to feature his pass rushing ability, as the Titans are currently ranked 28th in total sacks.
Zach Brown: B+
Drafted in the 2nd round, Zach Brown had many doubters about his ability to play in the NFL. Draft analyst Mike Mayock said Brown appears to be “somewhat allergic to contact.” Well, Brown received the message and has played well enough to supplant Witherspoon as the starting weak-side linebacker. He’s track-athlete fast and flashes to the ball, racking up 3 tackles for a loss and 1 sack. As he matures he will improve in pass coverage, making him a dangerous matchup on the outside. The Titans have to be thrilled with the development of their young linebacker thus far.
Colin McCarthy: C+
McCarthy suffered an ankle injury in week 1 vs. the Patriots, causing him to miss four games. Without their most reliable run-stuffer on the field, the Titans have struggled to contain opposing running backs. McCarthy is also the defensive captain of the team, and his leadership and consistency were sorely missed. Last Sunday he tallied 11 tackles against the Colts, and hopefully he will improve the porous defense moving forward.
Jordan Babineaux: B
Why Jerry Gray benched Babineaux in favor of Robert Johnson, I’ll never know. The Titans had just resigned Babineaux this offseason after leading the team in tackles in 2011. Instead Gray went with Johnson at free safety and Griffin at strong safety, believing the rangier Johnson to be better in coverage and the stronger Griffin to be better in run support. There’s just one problem, well actually two problems: Johnson can’t cover and Griffin can’t tackle. Gray eventually figured that out, and now Babineaux is once again starting and racking up tackles.
Jason McCourty: B-
McCourty has been the most consistent player in the secondary this year, but that’s not saying too much. Signing a five-year deal worth $43 million, McCourty is expected to lock down each opponent’s top receiver. He has 2 of the Titans 6 interceptions, and he also leads the team with 7 passes defensed. McCourty made a crucial interception against the Bills that led to the game-winning touchdown. He’s our best man-to-man corner, but he needs to make a few more plays to earn a better grade.
Alterraun Verner: C
With Finnegan gone to St. Louis, Verner has stepped into a starting role. He has been a tackling machine in the secondary this year, but often for the wrong reasons. He is a bit smaller and slower than McCourty, so teams have keyed on him in the passing game. With his quickness and instincts, he would make for a fantastic slot cornerback in an ideal world. That aside, he’s still got great instincts and the best ball skills in the secondary.
Michael Griffin: F
This offseason the 27-year-old Griffin signed for $35 million over 5 years, making him a cornerstone of the secondary. The Titans essentially had to choose between Finnegan and him, and with Verner and McCourty excelling, the decision made itself. Griffin has always been a favorite Titan of mine despite his inconsistency, but his play so far in 2012 has been atrocious.
He started the season at strong safety while the Robert Johnson experiment was in effect. He struggled in run support, as well as against opposing tight ends. If the NFL kept an official statistic for missed tackles, he would be leading that category. He did just notch his first interception of the season against the Colts, but too often he is clearly beaten in coverage. His poor tackling and lack of playmaking give me no choice for his mid-season grade – F.
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