It’s a little disappointing that the Titans didn’t make the playoffs but it’s really hard to feel down about the Titans season. The Titans beat a few teams they shouldn’t have, lost to a few teams they shouldn’t have and accomplished a winning season without their star receiver and with Chris Johnson being less than impressive. Here’s a review of the Titans 2011 season.
The Titans got 1,000 yard receiver. On Sunday Nate Washington surpassed the 1,000 yard mark with 92 yards and 1 touchdown, bringing his season totals to 1,023 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns, both of which are career highs for him. Washington also was given a rushing touchdown on a pass that Hasselbeck threw to the side, which was ruled a lateral. The Titans hadn’t had a 1,000 yard receiver since 2004 when Drew Bennett surpassed the mark.
Jared Cook also posted career highs with 49 receptions for 759 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cook had a pretty inconsistent start to the season but really began to blossom in the last three games and may finally be maturing into the player the Titans saw when they drafted him.
In the final game of the season Donnie Avery finally saw significant play time, though it was due to an injury to Damian Williams. Avery recorded his first catch as a Titan after being catch-less since his addition to the team late in September. He played a key part in moving the ball against the Titans and may have done enough to earn him a new contract heading into the next season. It’s hard to say what the Titans WR position will be looking like heading into the 2012 season.
Chris Johnson got his money, but he didn’t really earn it this year. Johnson’s season totals ended at 1,047 yards rushing for 4 touchdowns. He also had 418 yards receiving. Those totals are far from the ones Titans have become used to seeing from Johnson, who made the Pro Bowl his first three seasons. Obviously Johnson didn’t make the Pro Bowl this season. His average for carries was 4.0 which is .8 lower than his career average. Hopefully we see a better season out of him this next year.
Matt Hasselbeck did about as much as the Titans could ask of him. He became the second Titans/Oilers quarterback to surpass 3,500 yards in a season with his total of 3,5 71 yards, 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He has been a great mentor for Jake Locker and a leader for an offense lacking such a presence. His play unfortunately fell of in the last few weeks due to wear and tear but he was able to cap it off with a solid game against the Texans in the season finale. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be the starter again next year or whether the reins will be handed over to the future of the Titans franchise, Jake Locker. Either way you look at it, Hasselbeck has been worth the money.
The Titans draft class may have been their best ever, having 8 of the 9 picks contributing (7 of those in a pretty big way). In Locker’s time on the field we’ve seen room for improvement but also a lot of promise. Locker shows the leadership and determination needed from a true franchise quarterback. He also showed his big arm and playmaking ability. Colin McCarthy dominated the MLB position. McCarthy nearly surpassed the other starting rookie linebacker Akeem Ayers tackling total, though McCarthy didn’t get significant playing time until week 6. Jurrell Casey dominated the line of scrimmage, recording 52 tackles, 2.5 sacks and both forcing and recovering a fumble. Karl Klug led the team 7 sacks in his situational role. Tommie Campbell had a kick return for a touchdown as well as some great tackles from the gunner position, though he was plagued with penalties towards the end of the season. Jamie Harper stepped up to replace and injured Javon Ringer, though he wasn’t exactly lights out (none of the RB’s were). Akeem Ayers did a good job of taking over the OLB position from day one, though it took a little while for him to get up to speed he really started to blossom towards the end of the season. It’ll be hard to find another draft class as productive as this one.
The Titans free agent signings were very hit or miss. Barrett Ruud was by far the biggest disappointment, making almost no plays at the middle linebacker position. Shaun Smith struggled with converting from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive scheme, eventually losing his starting position. Matt Hasselbeck shined early, though he faded as the season went on. Jordan Babineaux played well enough that he actually stole Chris Hopes starting position as strong safety. Donnie Avery didn’t record a catch until the final game, where his first catch also happened to be a touchdown. It was also his first catch since being injured in 2009. Daniel Graham has been a real pain. He caught one touchdown pass early in the season but has otherwise been pretty quiet, except for all the costly penalties he had. He may have been the worst free agent pick up.
The biggest struggles for the Titans came from the defensive ends. Derrick Morgan returned from a torn ACL but didn’t quite live up to expectations, though he was still haunted by injuries this season. He did show promise towards the end of the season. Hopefully that carries on into this next season and this offseason helps him recover all they way. Jason Jones first season at DE was a bit of a failed experiment. His stats actually fell off from when he was playing DT last year. It remains to be seen whether the Titans will resign him this year or let him go to free agency. The DE position will most likely be addressed in the offseason, whether via the draft or just free agency. The Titans have to get more production from that position.
Michael Griffin had an okay season if you look at the stats, but that’s not what game tape shows. Griffin was responsible for giving up some big plays. One such play was a touchdown to Reggie Wayne in the Titans loss to the Colts. Griffin had the angle and appeared to be in perfect position to pick the ball but instead watched as the ball fell right into Wayne’s hands. He also failed to tackle the Colts RB Brown as he pulled off an 80 yard touchdown that sealed the game. Griffin was blocked by the third string QB Orlovsky after Griffin had broken into the Colts backfield. He just doesn’t appear to have the same fire he did when the Titans drafted him and it’s disappointing. He has the skill set to be a great safety but he has to put forward the effort and it just hasn’t been seen this season. The Titans Defensive Coordinator Jerry Gray has called Griffin out a couple times this season. He may very well have played his last game as a Titan.
It was a good season for the Titans and they should go into this next season looking to make a big playoff push. Add a few key players in the offseason and give the team an actual offseason to adjust to things and you’ve got a dangerous team.