Oct 28, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak watches his team play against the Indianapolis Colts during the second half at LP Field. The Colts beat the Titans 19-13 in overtime. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE
At 3-5 and midway through the 2012 season, the Tennessee Titans still do have a slim chance in a muddled AFC playoff picture. The team has played inconsistently thus far, blown out in four of the five losses, and losing the other in a painfully quick overtime. The three victories came by a collective seven points, not the average, but the combined total. Let’s be honest, our record could be much worse.
The Titans have been outscored 257-162, the biggest points differential (-95) in the entire NFL. The Titans have been outplayed for most of the season, and all three wins could have easily gone the other way. After a frustrating first half, the Titans must make adjustments in order to be competitive for the remainder of the season. To determine ways to improve the offense moving forward, let’s take a look at the Titans Mid-Season Offensive Report Card.
Overall Offense: B-
After adding veteran Steve Hutchinson and rookie Kendall Wright, the Titans offense looked primed to break out in 2012. Locker was named the starter, CJ was in training camp all offseason, and Britt was coming back from ACL surgery. With a solid offensive line and explosive weapons, the offense was expected to improve from last season. So far the Titans are producing nearly the exact same as 2011, ranking 16th in passing and 25th in rushing, and they often struggle to maintain drives.
Offensive Coordinator: C+
Chris Palmer has plenty of toys on offense: three solid receivers, an athletic tight end, and a blazing fast running back. The two offensive tackles are solid in pass protection, so the quarterback should have time to distribute the ball to the playmakers. This year the Titans have been good on 3rd down in general, but too often a drive has stalled from a series of questionable play calls. Palmer has shied away from attacking deep, and perhaps this is in response to losing Locker to injury. Nevertheless, Palmer must improve the production from this offense if the Titans are going to be competitive week to week.
Aug 17, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) watches from the bench during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Tennessee defeated Tampa Bay 30-7. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE
Matt Hasselbeck: B
Hasselbeck stepped in for the injured Locker and has played well. His 14 years of experience have allowed him to shake the rust off quickly, helping the Titans to back-to-back wins against the Steelers and Bills. He’s thrown 6 TDs and 4 INTs, but his biggest contribution has been his game management. He runs the West Coast offense efficiently, focusing on short to intermediate routes, but as a result the offense has lacked the vertical threat the past few weeks.
Jake Locker: Incomplete
Losing Locker in week 4 was difficult on many levels. He played lights out the week before against the Lions, and he appeared to be on the cusp of taking control of the offense. The recent news regarding his fractured non-throwing shoulder means that he’ll be on the sideline until at least week 12. His potential prevents me from downgrading him whatsoever, so his limited sample size draws an incompletion for now. Let’s hope he recovers in time to finish the season, gaining valuable experience down the stretch.
Chris Johnson: B-
Johnson came into the 2012 season after full participation in the offseason and with his “playmaker” contract. He then rushed for fewer than 25 yards in four of the first five games, prompting many critics and fans to question him on multiple levels. Johnson has since responded with nearly 400 yards in the past three games, and he seems to be hitting his stride midway through the season. His first few games were indeed despairing, but his potential and recent production help him maintain a decent grade midway through the season.
Kenny Britt: C
Britt returns to the 2012 season after having two surgeries on his right knee (ACL, MCL) and one on his left (scope). Britt’s setbacks during his recovery have hindered his progress so far this season, but the Titans will continue to increase his workload. Britt caught a huge touchdown against the Steelers, but he also looked a bit rusty. His slow start doesn’t doom his overall season, so look for Britt to improve in the 2nd half.
Kendall Wright: A
Wright was the third receiver of four taken in the 1st round of the 2012 NFL Draft, but midway through the season, Wright has more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than the other three combined! He’s been a consistent route runner with sure hands, and he has been targeted more than any other Titans receiver. If he continues to produce, Wright could post an impressive rookie season with over 80 receptions. Last week against the Colts he made a terrific 23-yard TD reception in the corner of the end zone, proving that he’s much more than just a slot receiver. The Titans drafted him to be a vertical threat as well, and Wright continues to justify his lofty draft position.
Nate Washington: B+
Washington has been the biggest playmaker on offense so far this season. He made an incredibly athletic 71-yard touchdown reception vs. the Lions in week 3, and he then topped that feat with a game-winning touchdown vs. the Bills in week 7. He leads the team in receiving yards and has three touchdowns, but he hasn’t been as involved as he should. His numbers are down from last season, clearly a product of Wright’s emergence, but Hasselbeck needs to get Washington more involved for the offense to reach its potential.
Jared Cook: B
Cook is on pace to match his production from last season, which is disappointing considering the preseason buzz about a potential breakout year. Fans aren’t the only ones disappointed, as Cook just allegedly requested to be traded. He is frustrated with his lack of involvement in the offense, and I can’t blame him. Cook has played fewer than half the offensive snaps in six of eight games so far this season, which begs serious questions about the organization’s long-term interest in him. He’s a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, but Chris Palmer seems hesitant to turn him loose.
Offensive Line: C+
The offensive line took a lot of heat early in the season as CJ consistently failed to make it out of the backfield. Leroy Harris looked completely overwhelmed, and David Stewart struggled with penalties. Recently the run game has started to gel, keeping pressure off of Hasselbeck. The Titans have given up 15 sacks so far, approximately the league average. If Roos and Stewart can remain healthy and Hutchinson anchors the middle, then Titans offensive line will continue to improve heading into the 2nd half of the season.
That wraps up the Mid-Season Offensive Report Card. It’s a bit of an unfair grading circumstance, as a healthy Locker would certainly impact the results. Hasselbeck has been a pro’s pro the entire time in Tennessee, and I respect his work ethic and leadership. But make no mistake, Locker is the future and is more capable of unlocking the vertical lanes of this offense. If he returns healthy in week 12, he will get some valuable experience in the remaining six games.
Feel free to comment with your own personal grades for any players. We’ll be looking at the Titans Mid-Season Defensive Report Card tomorrow.
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