Couldn't agree more. Berman is one of the top 10 (wait...let's double check ESPN's roster...), top 5 talents ESPN has. In fact, I propose a White House petition to bring back, back, back, back, back the Berman/Jackson NFL Primetime.
QB Patrick Ramsey, WR Nate Washington, DT Jovan Haye, OLB Rocky Boiman, CB DeMarcus Faggins, KR Mark Jones.
WR Kenny Britt, DT Sen'Derrick Marks, TE Jared Cook, CB Ryan Mouton, LB Gerald McRath, OT Troy Kropog, RB Javon Ringer, CB Jason McCourty, WR Dominique Edison, G Ryan Durand, S Nick Schommer.
QB Chris Simms, WR Brandon Jones, WR Justin McCareins, WR Roydell Williams, WR Chris Davis, OT Daniel Loper, DT Albert Haynesworth, CB Eric King, CB Reynaldo Hill, KR Chris Carr.
2009 Tennessee Titans Offense:
It's rare that I don't lead with the quarterback position when talking about a team's offense, but this is one of those occasions. And my reasoning should be obvious - Chris Johnson.
The Titans saw their scoring average increase from 18 points per game in 2007 to 23.4 in 2008. Their flashy new rookie runner made a huge difference; Johnson rushed for 1,228 yards, caught 43 passes for 260 receiving yards and scored 10 total touchdowns. Johnson also gave us glimpses of what's to come when he completely ran circles around the Ravens in the playoffs (72 rushing yards on just 11 carries, and a 28-yard reception) before getting hurt.
In a quote from my 2009 Fantasy Football Rankings section, Jeff Fisher alluded to what we can expect from Johnson in 2010: "We didn't get as much done with him as we wanted because it was his first year and he was learning. We're going to expand on what we did with him. Any time you get someone with his ability, you want to create mismatches and move him around." AFC South defenses have to be cowering with fear.
Johnson is especially dangerous because he has the luxury of running behind arguably one of the top offensive lines in the league. Left tackle Michael Roos had my vote as the top player at his position in 2008; in 16 games, he allowed just one sack. Right tackle David Stewart, a monstrous run-blocker, surrendered just two sacks of his own, and was whistled for only two penalties. Center Kevin Mawae, a future Hall of Famer, didn't give up any sacks, but was missed in the playoff loss to Baltimore. Overall, the Titans permitted only 12 sacks on the year, which is an astonishing number.
Thanks to Johnson and his formidable offensive front, Kerry Collins was the ultimate game-manager. Collins completed just 58.3 percent of his passes and maintained a laughable 6.4 YPA, but he took care of the football, which is all the Titans asked of him. In 15 games, Collins committed only eight turnovers. Vince Young, meanwhile, had two in his only start.
Speaking of Young, the only way he sticks around beyond the 2009 campaign is if he takes over for an injured/struggling Collins and performs really well. Young is due $11.75 million in 2010, which would be way too much for a backup quarterback. If he doesn't play or struggles in relief, he'll be cut after this season.
Neither Collins nor Young has much to work with. Justin Gage led the team in receiving yardage (651) but caught only 34 passes in 12 games. The Titans signed Nate Washington to a 6-year, $27 million deal to play across from Gage. Washington had a solid 2008 campaign with the Steelers (40 catches, 631 yards, 3 TDs), but $27 million seems like a lot to pay someone who has just seven career starts under his belt. Rookie Kenny Britt will also be in the mix. I like Britt coming out of a school that ran a pro-style offense, but he's only 20 years old. I'm not confident that Britt is ready to contribute this season.
At tight end, Bo Scaife led the squad in receptions with 58, for 561 yards. With Washington, Britt and rookie Jared Cook in the mix, Scaife will get less targets.
2009 Tennessee Titans Defense:
If you ask NFL fans to name the most dominant defensive force in the league the past two years, the answer you'll hear most is Albert Haynesworth. In 2006, Tennessee surrendered 25 points per game. In 2007, Haynesworth emerged - perhaps due to the fact that it was his contract year - and helped the Titans yield just 15.3 points per game in the 12 contests he played. In the four he missed, the squad permitted 28.5 points per game.
The Titans franchised Haynesworth a summer ago, so he was forced once again to try hard for an entire season. Tennessee consequently was even better on defense this time around, giving up just 14.6 points per game. They also ranked fourth versus the rush (3.5 yards per carry allowed) and second against the pass (6.0 YPA). The Titans notched 44 sacks, paced by Haynesworth's eight.
Unfortunately, the Titans low-balled Haynesworth in free agency. The monstrous defensive tackle then proceeded to sign a $100 million deal with the Redskins.
Daniel Snyder definitely overpaid for Haynesworth, but it'll be the Titans who will pay the price in 2009 (awesome play on words, I know). With Haynesworth gone, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon Kearse and the rest of the defensive line will no longer have the luxury of getting consistent one-on-one matchups. Meanwhile, age will also hinder the two defensive ends. Vanden Bosch turns 31 in November and is coming off an injury-plagued 2008 campaign. Kearse, 33, is playing on his last legs.
If Vanden Bosch and Kearse struggle, as expected, the Titans will be in trouble in terms of getting to the quarterback because there isn't much behind the two ends. Dave Ball, who had four sacks in 2008, is coming off his second back procedure in five years. Nickel rusher Jacob Ford notched seven sacks last season, but he'll also find things more difficult when he's double-teamed. Last, but probably least, William(s) Hayes had one sack as a rookie, so he's a bit of a wild card.
Meanwhile, the Titans could be in more trouble at defensive tackle. Current starters Tony Brown and Jason Jones are severely undersized, weighing in at 285 and 275 pounds, respectively. Brown has played extremely well the past two seasons, but could struggle without Haynesworth occupying two blockers. As a rookie, Jones started in place of Haynesworth against the Steelers, and somehow recorded 3.5 sacks in that contest. However, the fact remains that Pittsburgh didn't know who the undersized Jones was. The Eastern Michigan product could eventually be moved to defensive end, depending on how quickly second-round rookie Sen'Derrick Marks can move up the depth chart. Jovan Haye, who has never done much in this league, will also be in the mix.
Haynesworth's absence will also have a ripple effect on the back seven. Tennessee's secondary has been considered among the NFL's elite the past two seasons, but how will it perform without consistent pressure from the front four? I still like Cortland Finnegan, easily one of the top five corners in the NFL, and free safety Michael Griffin, who qualified for the Pro Bowl in 2008, thanks to seven picks. However, it can't be ignored that starting corner Nick Harper turns 35 on Sept. 10. He'll be a huge liability in coverage this season. It also doesn't help that the Titans have very questionable depth behind Harper. At strong safety, Chris Hope isn't anything to write home about, and he could also see a decline in productivity in 2009.
The linebacking corps is a bit of a concern as well. Strongside linebacker David Thornton is still very effective, but while weakside linebacker Keith Bulluck has been one of the better players at his position over the years, he's now 32 and wasn't nearly as dominant a year ago. In the middle, the job's up for grabs between Stephen Tulloch and Ryan Fowler. The coaching staff likes Tulloch, who started as a mere 23-year-old for the Titans in 2008.
2009 Tennessee Titans Schedule and Intangibles:
For years, Tennessee had maintained one of the preeminent home-field advantages in the NFL. They were 59-37 at Adelphia Coliseum prior to the 2004 season. However, the Titans are 21-20 at home since that year (7-2 in 2008).
Rob Bironas became a rich man an offseason ago, and he definitely deserved it. In 2007, Bironas hit on 35-of-39 field-goal attempts, but more impressively was 4-of-5 from 50-plus and 9-of-10 from 40 to 49. Last season, Bironas was 29-of-33, including 15-of-19 from 40-49 and 1-of-1 from 50-plus.
Craig Hentrich had a meager 42.8 punting average, but that's because he placed 27 balls inside the opposing 20.
Kick returner Chris Carr, who maintained an outstanding return average of 28.1, signed with the Ravens. Tennessee's new return man will be Mark Jones, who averaged 11.4 and 24.0 yards on punt and kickoff returns, respectively, with the Panthers a year ago. The Titans didn't give up any touchdowns on special teams.
The Titans will be tested early. They start at Pittsburgh. In Week 2, they host an improved Texans squad. They then have two road games (at the Jets and Jaguars) before hosting the Colts in Week 5. A Sunday later, they get to travel to New England. Fortunately, things get easier after the Week 7 bye; the Titans get Jacksonville, Buffalo, Arizona, St. Louis and Miami at home, and the 49ers on the road. Tough contests (at Texans, at Colts, vs. Chargers, at Seahawks) are also sprinkled in, however.
2009 Tennessee Titans Analysis: I think anyone who expects Tennessee's defense to retain its dominance is in for a rude awakening. It's hard to imagine the Titans' stop unit being just above average, but that's the likely scenario with Albert Haynesworth in Washington.
The decline of the defense will also impact the offense; without as many leads, Kerry Collins will be asked to win games instead of just to manage them. He turns 37 during the regular season and hasn't maintained a YPA greater than 6.5 since 2005, so that could be too much for him to handle. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked at all if Vince Young supplants Collins in the middle of the year and leads a winning drive against a mediocre opponent (Jacksonville in Week 8?)
The Titans are one of the more overrated teams in the NFL right now because everyone is underestimating the loss of Haynesworth. You can probably make a good amount of money betting against them in the first few weeks of the season.
I thought the Titans don't take receivers in the first round? What happened? I'm so confused. I'm convinced someone kidnapped the entire front office.
I'm not bashing the Kenny Britt pick at all. I like it. I was just shocked by it.
With Albert Haynesworth gone, Tennessee had to find a defensive tackle early in the 2009 NFL Draft. They did just that, grabbing Sen'Derrick Marks in the second round.
The Titans also came away with some great value picks, including Jared Cook, Gerald McRath and Troy Kropog. Like many teams in the bottom of each round, the Titans somehow obtained better talent than the teams atop the order.
Grade given on 4/27/09: A
2009 NFL Draft Picks:
30. Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
So much for not drafting receivers. The Titans gave Nate Washington a good amount of money, so they must think that Lavelle Hawkins is a bust. I'm not a big fan of taking second-round wideouts in the first round, but I'm not going to bash Tennessee after imploring them to take one last year. (Pick Grade: B)
62. Sen'Derrick Marks, DT, Auburn
Some teams don't understand that it's vital to have as much talent as possible on the defensive line. The Titans do, and that's why they have a successful organization. Sen'Derrick Marks is solid value and fills a need at a position of high value. (Pick Grade: A)
89. Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina
I can't believe Jared Cook fell this far. The Titans are getting unbelievable value here, and they've obtained a potential upgrade at a position of need. (Pick Grade: A)
94. Ryan Mouton, CB, Hawaii
I thought the Titans would address the corner position earlier than this. They had to find a successor for Nick Harper. However, Ryan Mouton is a bit of a reach. (Pick Grade: C)
130. Gerald McRath, LB, Southern Miss
I mocked Gerald McRath to the Titans. With Keith Bulluck leaving soon, they'll need someone new to step in. McRath is great value here. (Pick Grade: A)
135. Troy Kropog, OT, Tulane
With Daniel Loper gone, offensive tackle was a need for the Titans. Troy Kropog is solid value at the bottom of Round 4. (Pick Grade: A)
173. Javon Ringer, RB, Michigan State
Javon Ringer is going to have trouble finding playing time in Tennessee. He'll have to hope that LenDale White eats himself out of the league. In terms of draft value, this was a great choice. In terms of positional value, not so much. (Pick Grade: C)
203. Jason McCourty, CB, Rutgers
As I said on Houston's page, if you're trying to knock off the Colts, you need corner depth. Nick Harper is likely playing his final year in Tennessee, so Jason McCourty may contribute in 2010. (Pick Grade: B)
206. Dominique Edison, WR, Stephen F. Austin
I don't know if receiver is a need anymore, but Dominique Edison is solid value here. (Pick Grade: B)
239. Ryan Durand, G, Syracuse
I'm a fan of adding offensive line depth, even if you don't get much draft value out of it late on Sunday. (Pick Grade: B)
242. Nick Schommer, S, North Dakota State
Not much value here at all, but it's late in the seventh round. (Pick Grade: C)
There's nothing more disappointing than finishing a regular season with the NFL's best record and then losing in the first game of the playoffs. However, it was pretty predictable; I had the Ravens as my January NFL Pick of the Month because Jeff Fisher foolishly didn't play his starters in Week 17. Tennessee was consequently flat and turnover-prone versus Baltimore. I'd like to say that Fisher will learn from his fatal error, but Tony Dungy never has.
Titans cut WR Chris Davis
Titans sign OLB Rocky Boiman
Redskins sign WR Roydell Williams
Titans sign QB Patrick Ramsey
Titans sign CB DeMarcus Faggins
Ravens sign CB/KR Chris Carr
Lions sign OT Daniel Loper
Titans re-sign P Craig Hentrich
Broncos sign QB Chris Simms
Titans sign WR Nate Washington
Titans sign DT Jovan Haye
Lions sign CB Eric King
49ers sign WR Brandon Jones
Titans re-sign QB Kerry Collins
Redskins sign DT Albert Haynesworth
Titans re-sign FS Vincent Fuller
Titans franchise TE Bo Scaife
Titans re-sign K Rob Bironas
Cornerback: Nick Harper turns 35 in September. Tennessee's top reserve corners are all free agents. This is the team's greatest position of need; unless the Titans sign someone, one of their first two picks will be dedicated to drafting a corner. Drafted Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty; signed DeMarcus Faggins
Wide Receiver: The Titans mysteriously refused to surround Vince Young with potent receivers. Maybe their tune will change now that Kerry Collins is the starter. As of this writing, I have Tennessee selecting Percy Harvin at the bottom of Round 1. Drafted Kenny Britt and Dominique Edison; signed Nate Washington
Weakside Linebacker: Keith Bulluck, 32 in April, is entering his contract season. He's not the dominant player he once was, so it's very unlikely Tennessee will extend or re-sign him. Tennessee may decide to start looking for his successor this offseason. Drafted Gerald McRath
Defensive Tackle: It doesn't look like the Titans will keep Albert Haynesworth. Jason Jones looked very good in reserve of Haynesworth, so the Titans will be searching for a solid rotational player at this position. Drafted Sen'Derrick Marks; signed Jovan Haye
Offensive Tackle Depth: If the Titans lose Daniel Loper in free agency, they won't have much behind Michael Roos and David Stewart. Drafted Troy Kropog and Ryan Durand
Punter: At age 38, Craig Hentrich needs to be replaced; he had way too many touchbacks (13) and consequently a low inside-20 percentage (31.0). Re-signed Craig Hentrich
Special Teamers: The Titans didn't give up any touchdowns on special teams, but they allowed a punt return average of 25. That's way too high.
2009 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Nate Washington, WR, Steelers. Age: 26. Signed with Titans (6 years, $27 million; $9 million guaranteed)
A potent deep threat for the Steelers, Nate Washington caught 40 passes for 631 yards and three touchdowns in 2008.
Jovan Haye, DT, Buccaneers. Age: 27. Signed with Titans
The Buccaneers need an upgrade at Jovan Haye's position. Haye can be a solid rotational player in this league, but his starting days could be over. Haye had six sacks in 2007, but couldn't manage one this year.
DeMarcus Faggins, CB, Texans. Age: 30. - Signed with Titans (2 years)
Rocky Boiman, OLB, Chiefs. Age: 29. - Signed with Titans
Patrick Ramsey, QB, Broncos. Age: 30. - Signed with Titans
Tennessee Titans Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 8): $31 million
Albert Haynesworth, DT. Age: 28. Signed with Redskins (7 years, $100 million; $41 million guaranteed)
The most dominating 4-3 defensive tackle in the game, Albert "The Hamstring" Haynesworth figures to cash in big time this offseason, given that the Titans can't franchise him. My only concern is that Haynesworth was merely playing for a contract these past two years.
Rob Bironas, K. Age: 31. Re-signed with Titans (4 years)
Arguably the top kicker in the NFL, Rob Bironas is 64-of-72 (88.9%) and 5-of-6 from beyond 50 the past two seasons.
Kerry Collins, QB. Age: 36. Re-signed with Titans
Kerry Collins just had a great year for the Titans, but the reality is that he'll be 37 at some point in the 2009 season. Expecting another solid campaign out of him is pretty risky. That said, the Titans don't really have a choice here; they can't go back to Vince Young at this point.
Bo Scaife, TE. Age: 28. Franchised by Titans
Bo Scaife actually put together a solid season, catching 58 balls for 561 yards and two touchdowns. All three of those numbers were career-highs.
Chris Carr, CB/KR. Age: 26. Signed with Ravens (2 years, $5 million)
A solid return specialist and a decent option for cornerbacking depth.
Daniel Loper, OT. Age: 27. Signed with Lions
One of the top backup linemen in the NFL. Daniel Loper can play tackle and guard.
Eric King, CB. Age: 27. Signed with Lions
A very good depth corner who broke his forearm in November.
Vincent Fuller, S. Age: 27. Re-signed with Titans
A young, capable backup safety. Has one career start.
Reynaldo Hill, CB. Age: 27.
Reynaldo Hill is an effective corner when he's not hurt. Unfortunately, he's not healthy very often.
Brandon Jones, WR. Age: 26. Signed with 49ers (5 years, $16.5 million; $5.4 million guaranteed)
A run-of-the-mill slot receiver; nothing more. Brandon Jones garnered 41 receptions and 449 yards in 2008 - both of which were career highs.
Justin McCareins, WR. Age: 30.
Craig Hentrich, P. Age: 38. Re-signed with Titans
Roydell Williams, WR. Age: 28. - Signed with Redskins
Divisional Rival History: Houston Texans: The Texans have existed now for seven years. In those seven seasons, they've only beaten the Colts once out of 14 times. It would have been twice if it wasn't for Sage Rosenchoker's epic self-debaclation. Indianapolis Colts: These teams have split their season series the past three years. Jacksonville Jaguars: If you watched old and improved NFL Primetime you might remember that Chris Berman always said, "The Titans know all and tell all at Alltel Stadium." That's definitely true; Tennessee has won four of the previous five in this heated rivalry.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2009 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)