Tennessee Titans (credit: gettyimages.com)
The Titans hired veteran NFL coach and former Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt to the same position with Tennessee on Jan 14th. They had just parted ways with a cornerstone of the franchise in Mike Munchak and specifically wanted more in terms of QB development from either former 1st round pick Jake Locker or 6th round pick Zach Mettenberger. Whisenhunt had a history with QBs such as Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner, and Phillip Rivers and the Titans are banking on that experience rubbing off the position in Nashville.
Unfortunately injuries derailed another Jake Locker season and the Titans season overall. Locker opened the season with a strong victory of Kansas City and led the Titans in the first three games before an injury to his right wrist kept him out of week 4. He came back for week 5 before a right thumb injury sidelined him again. This left Charlie Whitehurst to lead the team between weeks 4 and 7. Finally, the team was forced to pull the redshirt off their late round QB, and started Mettenberger from week 8 until 14, when even he suffered an injury. Mettenberger’s strained AC joint cost him the final three games of the season, giving more reps to Whitehurst.
All of this leaves the Titans in a quandary. They have expressed a desire to continue forward with Mettenberger at the helm, explaining they have seen enough in practice and his 313 regular season snaps to feel confident that there is enough present to work with. However, the team sits in the 2-hole in the 2015 NFL Draft, waiting for the Buccaneers to make a decision that will leave either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota available at the top of the 1st round. The question has become: Would you rather have Mettenberger and a litter of top 100 picks or Winston/Mariota? Only Whisenhunt and Ruston Webster know the answer to that question.
2015 Coaching Changes
The Titans made a change at in the decision making structure of their front office when they parted ways with former VP of Player Personnel Lake Dawson on January 30th. It remains an unknown what impact this may have on the evaluation and draft process, now that Director of College Scouting Blake Beddingfield has been elevated another rung.
There were really only two changes to the coaching staff this offseason. One was the result of Assistant WR coach Kevin Patullo going to the New York Jets as QB coach. Coach Whisenhunt selected Jason Tucker to fill that vacancy.
The other was the addition of Hall of Fame player and coach Dick LeBeau to the new position of Assistant Head Coach for Defense. This marks the 4th change in defensive structure/play calling, in as many years. 2014 DC Ray Horton has a 19 year direct history with LeBeau, first as a player and then as a coach. Many consider Horton a LeBeau disciple. The expectation is for LeBeau to be the primary play caller in 2015, despite the comment from Whisenhunt “It’s up to Dick, and Dick and Ray will work that out. But it’s all going to be up to Dick.” There are not the elements in the front 7 that immediately translate to a Two-gap system and, as such, it remains unseen what impact LeBeau’s addition will have from a personnel standpoint.
2015 Roster Changes (as of 3/4/2015)
When the Titans selected Taylor Lewan in the 1st round of the 2014 draft, many, including myself did a double take. Now with OT Michael Roos retiring, it makes more sense. Unfortunately, the decision to invest 4 years and $20M in Michael Oher did not pan out as Oher graded out negatively in all but one game before a week 12 injury ended his 2014 campaign. The team quickly parted ways with the veteran lineman on February 5th.
Injuries impact every franchise during the season, but Tennessee has a few injuries that will have some impact on their offseason decision making. Projected starting DC Blidi Wreh-Wilson is recovering from a shoulder injury that leaves him questionable for camp, RB Dexter McCluster (kneecap) and WR Justin Hunter (Spleen) may miss some or all of OTAs, and projected starting DS Michael Griffin (Shoulder/Knee) is not sure things for the start of training camp.
Bernard Pollard added another layer of intrigue when he asked to be released from his contract, expressing frustration with the organization, specifically after Lake Dawson was fired. The Titans responded to his request by releasing Pollard on March 2nd. Tennessee also has decisions to make on potential cap cuts Michael Griffin, Shonn Greene, and Kamerion Wimbley. These potential subtractions are hedged by an addition, as the team claimed OLB Jonathan Massaquoi off waivers from Atlanta.
These moves need to be spot on, as owner Tommy Smith expects the team to "be in the playoff race and to get there" in 2015.
With a projected $44.4M available in 2015 Cap Space, the Titans will need to decide on what to do with their own free agents which include:
UFAs: FB Jackie Battle, TE Chase Coffman, OLB Quentin Groves, WR Derek Hagan, DC Brandon Harris, P Brett Kern, DT Karl Klug, QB Jake Locker, LB Colin McCarthy, TE Matthew Mulligan, DE Derrick Morgan, OG Eric Olsen, QB Jordan Palmer, OT Michael Roos, C Chris Spencer, OL Byron Stingily, K Ryan Succop, OT Will Svitek, RB Leon Washington, WR Nate Washington, DS George Wilson
RFAs: LS Beau Brinkley, LB Kaelin Burnett, WR Kris Durham
ERFAs: TE Brett Brackett
Let’s take a position by position look at the Tennessee roster. Positions are ordered by overall need.