During the offseason, the Tennessee Titans signed some experienced free agents who were expected to come and meet high expectations. The Titans’ staff sought after experienced running backs, offensive linemen, and defensive players to increase their chances for a more successful season. They wanted players to fit the model of their game plan, but in the end result, have these players meet the needs? In this article, we will take a look at a few of these free agent signees of the 2014 season, and determine if they were a bust or not.
Charlie Whitehurst (QB): 59/98, 764 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs
Experience: 8 years Contract Terms: 2 years, $4,250,000
The Titans leading passer this season is from a guy who has started in 7 games through a 9 year NFL career. Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
The reason Charlie Whitehirst is
in Tennessee is because of his bond with Ken Whisenhunt in the 2013 season, when Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator in San Diego. Whitehirst has spent most of his career
as backup quarterback to the Chargers’ Phillip Rivers. Whitehirst is now in his ninth season in the NFL. In those nine seasons, he has played in 17 games, and started in seven of them.
This season, Whitehirst’s three starts were the most in one season of his career. Those starts were not on purpose, but were an opportunity for Whitehirst. He received his opportunity when starting quarterback Jake Locker was injured after week 3, and Zach Mettenberger was too fresh off injured reserve for Whisenhunt to trust. This was Whitehirst’s moment in his career to prove he had more talent than to signal plays on the sidelines. He blew that opportunity, but not in a demoralizing fashion.
Like the other two quarterbacks that have taken snaps this season, Whitehirst did not have consistent protection surrounding him. If he had a strong offensive front, I could see Whitehirst playing a few more games this season, maybe winning a couple more.
His season highlight moment, maybe even of his career, came in a week 6 landslide victory over worst team in the AFC South; we are the second worst team in the AFC South. Not to downgrade the magnitude of his victory, Whitehirst did produce some descent stats in the Jaguars game. He completed 60% of his passes and threw for over 200 yards. No touchdown passes. But, could you really ask for more out of Clipboard Jesus?
After the loss to the Redskins, Whitehurst was 1-3 in his four game appearances, and Whisenhunt had seen enough. He was ready for the Mettshow. I don’t think it was his performance parse that caused Whisenhunt to pull Whitehirst. I just don’t believe Whisenhunt could trust a win out of him. So, he went with what the fans wanted, Mettenberger.
I was disappointed in the fact that Whitehirst did not seize the opportunity in front of him, but I don’t think the bust was entirely his fault.
Bust Level: Moderate
Dexter McCluster (RB): 25 carries, 81 yards, 3.2 average
Experience: 5 years Contract Terms: 3 years, $9,000,000
You know we were expect Dexter McCluster to be an explosive offensive weapon. Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Dexter McCluster came to Tennessee HIGHLY recommend from Kansas City. McCluster was suppose to add to the explosiveness and versatility in this offense that coach Whisenhunt had been looking for in his plan. That has not been the case for McCluster. He is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry on 25 attempts, and has yet to break one hundred yards in rushing.
If Whisenhunt is going to fit McCluster into the plan, he sure as hell better do it now, and quit toying with our emotions. If what McCluster has performed was the plan, then McCluster is a huge disappointment. But, like Whitehirst, I don’t think McCluster has had the weapons around him this season to make him successful. The offensive line isn’t helping create open lanes for the running backs. So, for McCluster to perform at his highest caliber, he will have to do it on his own.
Whisenhunt also has done a poor job this season in effectively rotating out the running backs. Shonn Greene is not meeting expectations this seasons. Bishop Sankey should get the ball more. Leon Washington should never touch another National Football League regulation football. Jackie Battle needs to be utilized on the goal line.. I believe this team has more weapons at running back than they can handle. But, it was the staff’s plan, and now they need to execute.
I don’t think McCluster has received enough help from the offensive line, nor has he received enough opportunities on the field. However, I do believe when McCluster has received the ball this season, it has been a less than mediocre performance.
Bust Level: Moderate
Al Woods (NT): 17 Total Tackles
Experience: 5 years Contract Terms: $4,000,000
Al Woods is somewhere in the middle. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The Titans’ signed Al Woods to fill depth in the defensive front. Many raised their eyebrows at his salary cap. For someone who recorded low stats in Pittsburgh, one could have only guessed a low range in pay. I for one believe Woods has been steady, and should continue to progress throughout the season. He has accumulated 17 total tackles, tying his career best in a season. However, Woods hasn’t really put much pressure on quarterbacks. I would love to see him finish the season with a handle full of sacks.
Bust Level: Low
Wesley Woodyard (ILB): 61 Total Tackles, 1.5 Sacks, 2 INTs
Experience: 7 years Contract Terms: 4 years, $15,750,000
Woodyard should have brought in leadership and experience, not liability. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Without a doubt, I believe Wesley Woodyard was the smartest choice this Titans staff made in the free agent signees. Woodyard came from Denver where he rotated out at inside linebacker. When Zach Brown went down early in the season, expectations rose for Woodyard to spend more time on the field. He has stepped up to that role and is currently ranked second on the team with 58 total tackles.
Woodyard is explosive in the pass rush, and is a threat in the air. Now, with the adding of rookie Avery Williamson, the two have been a dynamic force on the defense. I believe this is the strongest area on the Titans’ defense. If Woodyard continues the success he showed in the first half of the season, we could see a long future for Woodyard in Nashville.
Bust Level: Low
Michael Oher (RT): 6 sacks allowed
Experience: 6 years Contract Terms: 4 years, $20,000,000
Oher maybe one of the biggest disappointments of the season. Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Oher equals overpaid for poor production. Let’s face it, the Titans were signing for the name in this deal. They were signing for the once number one NFL Draft pick Michael Oher, not the Michael Oher who had shown inconsistences over the years. Anyways, the Ravens let Oher go, and we’ve learned the hard way.
Oher’s performance this season is nothing less than inexcusable. Oher has consistently allowed breaks in his side of the line, and has allowed six sacks to account for it this season.
Bust Level: High
Shaun Phillips (OLB): 18 Total Tackles, 2 Sacks, 2 PDEF
Experience: 11 years Contract Terms: 2 years, $5,000,000
Shaun Phillips was suppose to be a sacking machine and a leader, not a liability. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
When the Titans announced selecting 11 year veteran Shaun Phillips, Titan fans were expecting an experienced leader, a sack machine. Like Oher, Phillips has not lived up to expectations. If there is anyone who has been a total bust from the free agents of the 2014 Titans, it is Phillips.
Phillips went from having eight seasons where he had more than seven sacks, to having two sacks this season. If Phillips can not perform to the caliber of his previous seasons, his time with the Titans could be cut short.
Bust Level: High