Tennessee TitansRead the introduction here
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Cincinnati Bengals tomorrow
2011 Record: 9-7
Key Acquisitions: Zach Brown, Steve Hutchinson, Kamerion Wimbley
Key Departures: Cortland Finnegan, Daniel Graham, William Hayes, Chris Hope, Jason Jones
I picked this team to make the playoffs last year and nobody believed in them. I was nearly right and this team is basically the same as last year, but they will take a step back for one reason: Jake Locker. I do think that picking Locker was the best option for the future of the team, and they need to stick with him throughout the season. Chris Johnson is going to be much better this year, because nobody loses all of their talent in one year. Unless his name is Jason Bay. Kenny Britt has health problems along with legal issues, but he'll be good when he plays this year. The defense looks solid even though they lack a threatening pass rush. This team is young and impressive, but until Locker has a full season under his belt, I'm not ready to launch them into the playoffs just yet.
I am a huge fan of Locker, but he needs to go through the usual trials and tribulations of a young quarterback. While he has Matthew Hasselbeck to mentor him as he did last year, but there he hasn't had enough time. Aaron Rodgers had three years behind Favre, but one year on the bench won't do the trick. I think he's really good, but not just yet. Hasselbeck is a smart guy and probably a really good mentor, but Locker will be inconsistent, like a normal QB with minimal or no experience. He'll show improvement as the season wears on however.
CJ2K's holdout is the biggest reason why he was a complete failure in 2011. Missing all of training camps, especially with the lockout, was a terrible decision by him. He got better as the season wore one because he was starting to regain his form. He'll be in playing shape right from the get-go to start this season, so he'll be fine. He's too fast to be as terrible as he was last season.
As I said before, Kenny Britt will most likely be suspended for the beginning of the season, but he's a dynamic deep threat who knows how to use his size to his advantage. Nate Washington filled in for Britt last year as the #1 receiver and was surprisingly very good. I don't think anyone expected him to have much success as the top guy. Damian Williams has been inconsistent throughout his career, but he has shown flashes of brilliance. Kendall Wright is really fast and could have a very big impact on this team. He most likely won't get as much attention as someone with his skill level should, and he'll be a major deep threat.
Jared Cook was very good last year, and it seemed that the flashes of greatness that he had shown in previous seasons were signs of future success.
The offensive line is very, very good. Steve Hutchinson is a great left guard, and has been one of the best at his position for a very long time. Chris Johnson will fall in love with the holes created by Hutchinson. Michael Roos is a very good tackle, and so is his counterpart David Stewart, who is coming off of an injury riddled 2011 campaign, but he's healthy now and will be fine.
Derrick Morgan will be much better than he was last year because he's healthier. He'll attempt to form a very good pass rushing duo with Kamerion Wimbley. The team as a whole was terrible at getting after the QB last year, and while they added something in Wimbley, I'm not sure whether or not it is enough. Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy are both good young players. This is each of their second seasons, and both very fine last year. Will Witherspoon is a veteran linebacker who will do a nice job on the outside, as he has his whole career.
Cortland Finnegan is gone. Fortunately for Tennessee, Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty are both nice cornerbacks. Nothing spectacular, but they will do a very good job of slowing down receivers. Michael Griffin is a really good safety who is a black hole in the middle when he is at his best. He really knows how to force all plays to be down the sidelines, and with those two corners there, that will be hard for an offense to consistently do.
Rob Bironas will have another typical Rob Bironas season. He's going to be a really good kicker and he won't miss much of anything. There will be a few games that he wins for them by kicking so many field goals. Brett Kern was amazing at the beginning of his career, but he tailed off last year. Marc Mariani is an improving young return man who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2010. He has shown the ability to take it to the house.
8-8, 2nd in the AFC South