Titan Sized Report: Drawing Talent
On a day with 15-20 mph swirling winds and kickoffs sailing through the back of the endzones for both teams, special teams ended up playing a huge part in a close game. Here’s a quick review of the Titan’s Week 7 performance on special teams, including unit grades and selections of the “Titan” and “Terrible” player of the week.
Kick and Punt Coverage Teams – B+
The Titans again held a solid kick / punt returner, Jorrick Calvin (2 kick returns, 63 yards, 2 punt returns, 16 yards) in check all afternoon. With one exception. And that 41-yard return had more to do with the wind knocking a typically solid Rob Bironas kickoff out of the air. Tim Shaw (fumble recovery) and Lavelle Hawkins also collaborated to create a late turnover in the 4th quarter that finished off the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kick and Punt Return Teams – B-
Poor Marc Mariani never had a chance to return a kickoff, as most of David Akers’ kicks landing 2-3 yards out of the back of the endzone. With the few opportunities Mariani had in punt returns, he did a solid job (4 returns, 43 yards) and kept the Titans offense out of the shadow of their goal posts. There was a Jared Cook sighting on a kick return. It was nice to see him catch the football.
Kicker and Punter – A+
Rob Bironas (4-4, XPs, 3-3 field goals) and Brett Kern (4 punts, 48.0 yards per punt average) each had some nice kicks, courtesy of the wind or despite it. On one sequence in particular Brett Kern kicked back-to-back 68-yard bombs, after a Titan holding penalty forced him to reload from even deeper in Titan territory. Bironas’ big kick was a 41-yard kick across the wind that capitalized on a huge turnover the Titan defense created inside their own 5-yard line.
Titan Player of the Week:
Lavelle Hawkins (2 tackles) – Listed as one of the Terrible Players of the Week last week, Hawkins responded with a touchdown saving tackle and forced a fumble (although not officially given statistical credit) that put the final nail in the Eagle’s coffin on Sunday. Hawkins may have fallen off the wide receiver depth chart, but if he keeps playing like this on special teams, he will always have a uniform waiting on him.
Terrible Player of the Week:
Swirling Wind haunting LP Field – Dear Mr. Adams, will you consider closing in LP Field sometime in the near future? The open-ended stadium on the Cumberland River is beautiful, but sometimes not practical. With economic uncertainty and revenue sharing in jeopardy, a few extra seats may not be a bad thing either. Just a thought.
Overall Special Teams Grade – A-
In 2009, the Tennessee Titans special teams was almost as bad as the Titan defensive unit. In 2010, the special teams unit is rivaling the defense in creating big plays and setting up the offense to play heroes. Just look at the off-season additions’ contributions so far: Tim Shaw (6 tackles, rec fum), Patrick Bailey (5 tackles), Marc Mariani (1 Return TD, 28.0 yards per return). Drawing talent like this solely to play special teams is another mark of a playoff caliber team.