New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said that he plans on calling offensive plays in 2014 “unless somebody tells me I can’t.”
Whisenhunt arrived at Saint Thomas Sports Park Tuesday and was introduced during a press conference with Titans President/CEO Tommy Smith and general manager Ruston Webster.
The former Chargers offensive coordinator (2013) and Cardinals head coach (2007-12) will be building his staff of assistants and welcome ideas from those coaches but prefers to call the plays. Smith said he likes that plan.
“I’ve never been opposed to ideas because they’re an important part of growing in this business. I’ve learned a lot from a lot of different people,” Whisenhunt said. “I think we have a good base system that we’re going to run offensively, but you always welcome input and you have a chance during (organized team activities) and training camp to try some of those things and see how you like them.
“Sometimes you just never know how it’s going to go,” Whisenhunt continued. “I mean, there have been run schemes that we’ve gotten into later in the season that have been outstanding that we didn’t think were big in training camp, so I think we have a base offense, we have a core offense that we’re going to run. I’ve had success with it in a number of different places with a number of different players, but as you get the opportunity to work with coaches that you think are good coaches, they have ideas and you’re always open to incorporating those ideas.”
Whisenhunt said the pace of his season ending with the Chargers Sunday, followed by his accepting of the job Monday and his arrival in Tennessee via Smith’s office in Houston Tuesday had been “kind of a whirlwind” that hadn’t allowed him to fully evaluate the Titans’ roster or study much on the AFC South.
He said he hopes the Titans’ offense of 2014 “will look a little bit like it looked this past year in San Diego.”
“We were pretty good. I think we are going to be versatile offensively. We will have a number of different personnel packages,” Whisenhunt said. “I think we will have some up-tempo components with it. A lot of it is going to be dependent upon our personnel and what they can handle. We are going to push them; that is where you have success when you do that.”
The Chargers finished the regular season fifth in the NFL in total offense with an average of 393.3 yards per game and led the league with a 49 percent conversion rate on third downs (101 of 206) as Philip Rivers completed 69.5 percent of his passes and threw for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns in garnering his fifth selection to the Pro Bowl. San Diego also ranked first in time of possession (33:35), which is a point of emphasis for Whisenhunt and Webster.
Tennessee improved in that category from last in the league in 2012 to 16th in 2013.
Whisenhunt, who is known in part for calling a well-executed trick play in Super Bowl XL that resulted in the only touchdown thrown by a receiver in Super Bowl history, said explosive gains can be good, but he wants Tennessee to keep the ball away from opponents.
“A lot of times where you are successful in this league offensively is getting those five- and six-yard completions or runs and keeping it in third-and-short and converting third downs because then you can sustain drives,” Whisenhunt said. “Sustained drives lead to possession time which depending on the type of game you are playing is a big piece of the puzzle.”
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans
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The Titans and the rest of the AFC South will have games against each team from the NFC East in 2014. That rotation benefitted the AFC West in 2013 as playoff teams Denver (4-0), Kansas City (4-0), and San Diego (3-1) nearly swept NFC East teams. Oakland (4-12) was 0-4 against the NFC East. Here’s a look at opponents that Tennessee sees once every four regular seasons (the schedule of dates will be announced in spring):
At Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles’ 2013 Finish (10-6); Points For: 442; Points Against: 382; Net (60); TDs: 53; Home: 4-4; Away: 6-2; Conf: 9-3; Last 5: 4-1
Eagles’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (2nd, 417.3 yards per game); Total Defense (29th 394.2)
Titans vs. Eagles Overall: (4-6); Most Recent: Titans 37, Eagles 19 at LP Field in 2010; Last time in Philadelphia: Titans 31, Eagles 13 in 2006
Early Outlook: Philadelphia experienced considerable improvement in 2013, going from 4-12 the season before to winning its division this past season. The Eagles were outscored 444 to 280 (164 points) in 2012 but outscored opponents 442 to 382 (60 points) in 2013 with Nick Foles quarterbacking in Chip Kelly’s fast-tempo offensive system. Foles recorded the highest passer rating in the NFL (119.2). Running back LeSean McCoy led the NFL with 2,146 yards from scrimmage and won the league’s rushing title with 1,607 yards.
Vs. Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys’ 2013 Finish (8-8); Points For: 439; Points Against: 432; Net (7); TDs: 51; Home: 5-3; Away: 3-5; Conf: 7-5; Last 5: 2-3
Cowboys’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (16th, 341.3 yards per game); Total Defense (32nd, 415.3)
Titans vs. Cowboys Overall: (6-7); Most Recent: Titans 34, Cowboys 27 in Dallas in 2010; Last time at LP Field: Cowboys 45, Titans 14 in 2006
Early Outlook: Dallas’ hopes of making the playoffs came down to the final week of the regular season in 2013, but the Cowboys finished 8-8 for their third straight season. Quarterback Tony Romo is recovering from back surgery. Romo finished eighth in the NFL in passer rating (96.7), which was boosted by his 31 touchdown passes. Dez Bryant finished with the eighth highest number of receptions (93) for 1,233 yards with 13 TDs.
Vs. New York Giants
Giants’ 2013 Finish (7-9); Points For: 294; Points Against: 383; Net (-89); TDs: 32; Home: 4-4; Away: 3-5; Conf: 6-6; Last 5: 3-2
Giants’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (28th, 307.5 yards per game); Total Defense (8th, 332.3)
Titans vs. Giants Overall: (5-5); Most Recent: Titans 29, Giants 10 in New York in 2010; Last time at LP Field: Titans 24, Giants 21 in 2006
Early Outlook: With the recent retirement of former Oilers offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, the Giants will have a new O.C. in place in 2014. Eli Manning will try to rebound from a season in which he had a career-high and league-worst 27 interceptions and a passer rating of 69.4 that ranked 35th in the NFL among qualifying passers. The Giants rushed for just 1,332 yards (fourth-lowest in the NFL) in 2013, and averaged 18.4 points per game (fifth lowest).
At Washington Redskins
Redskins’ 2013 Finish (3-13); Points For: 334; Points Against: 478; Net (-144); TDs: 39; Home: 2-6; Away: 1-7; Conf: 1-11; Last 5: 0-5
Redskins’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (9th, 369.7 yards per game); Total Defense (18th, 354.1)
Titans vs. Redskins Overall: (6-5); Most Recent: Redskins 19, Titans 16, OT at LP Field; Last time in Washington: Titans 25, Redskins 22 in 2006
Early Outlook: Washington will have a new coach because it did the opposite of Philadelphia, going from first in the division in 2012 to worst in 2013. Quarterback Robert Griffin III struggled through injury in his second pro season, and the Redskins went from outscoring opponents 436 to 388 (plus-48) to being outscored 478 to 334 (minus-144). Pierre Garcon led the NFL with 113 receptions for 1,346 yards. Although the Redskins’ offense ranked ninth in the NFL in net yards, it ranked 23rd in scoring (20.9 points per game).
Tags: Tennessee Titans
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Once again, the Titans will have home and road contests with teams in the AFC South (the schedule of dates will be announced in spring).
Vs./At Indianapolis Colts
Colts’ 2013 Finish (11-5); Points For: 391; Points Against: 336; Net (55); TDs: 40; Home: 6-2; Away: 5-3; Conf: 9-3; Last 5: 4-1
Colts’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (15th, 341.8 yards per game); Total Defense (20th, 357.1)
Titans vs. Colts Overall: (13-25); Most Recent: Colts 22, Titans 14 in Indy in 2013; Last time at LP Field: Colts 30, Titans 27 in 2013
Early Outlook: The past four meetings have been decided by a total of 21 points, but all have been claimed by Indianapolis on the Colts’ way to back-to-back playoff appearances. Indianapolis was able to get past injuries to WR Reggie Wayne, RB Vick Ballard and TE Dwayne Allen with a defense led by Robert Mathis’ league-best 19.5 sacks and by protecting the football. The Colts finished third in the NFL in turnover ratio at plus-13, while Tennessee was tied for 14th at even. Tennessee was minus-4 in turnover ratio in games against Indianapolis in 2013.
Vs./At Jacksonville Jaguars
Jaguars’ 2013 Finish: (4-12); Points For: 247; Points Against: 449; Net (-202); TDs: 25; Home: 1-7; Away: 3-5; Conf: 4-8; Last 5: 2-3
Jaguars’ 2013: Rankings: Total Offense (31st, 293.8 yards per game); Total Defense (tied for 27th, 379.4)
Titans vs. Jaguars Overall: (21-17); Most Recent: 20-16 in Jacksonville in 2013; Last time at LP Field: Jaguars 29, Titans 27 in 2013
Early Outlook: Jacksonville is scheduled to pick third in the NFL Draft in May and will be entering its second season under Gus Bradley. The Titans and Jaguars have split decisions in each of the past five seasons. The Jaguars encountered hits to their depth at receiver and have multiple young players on defense who are learning from Bradley’s defensive background.
Vs./At Houston Texans
Texans’ 2013 Finish (2-14); Points For: 276; Points Against: 428; Net (-152); TDs: 28; Home: 1-7; Away: 1-7; Conf: 2-10; Last 5: 0-5
Texans’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (11th, 347.3 yards per game); Total Defense (7th, 317.6)
Titans vs. Texans Overall: (15-9); Most Recent: Titans 16, Texans 10 at LP Field in 2013; Last time in Houston: Texans 30, Titans 24, in overtime in 2013
Early Outlook: Houston is scheduled to pick first in the NFL Draft in May and will have new coach Bill O’Brien leading the Texans in 2014. The coach, who was hired away from Penn State, will have a team that finished seventh in total defense but last in the NFL in turnover ratio (minus-20) and a roster that has several talented players that could be further boosted by the returns from injury of ILB Brian Cushing and RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
Tags: Tennessee Titans
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The Titans and the rest of the AFC South will have games against each team from the AFC North in 2014. Here’s a look at those opponents (the schedule of dates will be announced in spring):
At Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals’ 2013 Finish: (11-5); Points For: 430; Points Against: 305; Net (125); TDs: 54; Home: 8-0; Away: 3-5; Conf: 8-4; Last 5: 4-1
Bengals’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (10th, 368.4 yards per game); Total Defense (3rd, 305.5)
Titans vs. Bengals Overall: (39-32-1); Most Recent: Bengals 24, Titans 17 in 2011; Last time in Cincinnati: Titans 24, Bengals 7 in 2008
Early Outlook: Cincinnati will be entering 2014 after three straight trips to the postseason. The combination of QB Andy Dalton to WR A.J. Green, who had 98 catches for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns, will likely be a point of emphasis for the Titans’ secondary. Tennessee played at Cincinnati during the preseason in 2013, offering a glimpse of versatile running back Giovani Bernard on offense and a strong defense that finished third in the NFL in yards allowed per game in 2013.
Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers’ 2013 Finish: (8-8); Points For: 379; Points Against: 370; Net (9); TDs: 41; Home: 5-3; Away 3-5; Conf: 6-6; Last 5: 3-2
Steelers’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (20th, 337.5 yards per game); Total Defense (13th, 337.2)
Titans vs. Steelers Overall: (31-41); Most Recent: Titans 16, Steelers 9 in 2013; Last time at LP Field: Titans 26, Steelers 23 in 2012
Early Outlook: This will be the sixth straight year in which the former AFC Central rivals have met. The teams are 3-3, with Tennessee taking the past two. The Titans were able to open 2013 with a solid win at Pittsburgh.
Important things to watch for the Steelers will be the health of the offensive line, particularly at center where Maurkice Pouncey suffered a season-ending injury in the opener and former Titan Fernando Velasco was injured on Thanksgiving, and the age of the defense, which saw its rankings (usually in the top five or top 10) fall last season. The four players in the Steelers’ 2013 starting secondary have played 41 seasons in the NFL.
At Baltimore Ravens
Ravens’ 2013 Finish: (8-8); Points For: 320; Points Against: (352); Net (-32); TDs: 29; Home: 6-2; Away: 2-6; Conf: 6-6; Last 5: 3-2
Ravens’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (29th, 307.4 yards per game); Total Defense (12th, 335.5)
Titans vs. Ravens Overall: (9-8); Most Recent: Titans 26, Ravens 13 in 2011; Last time in Baltimore: Titans 13, Ravens 10 in 2008
Early Outlook: The Ravens will enter 2014 a little more refreshed but definitely not relaxed after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Baltimore narrowly missed out on the final spot for the AFC playoffs and a chance to defend its Super Bowl XLVII crown. The Ravens’ 29 touchdowns were just one more than what the Texans (2-14) scored and four more than what the Jaguars (4-12) did in 2013, which can be partially tied to Ray Rice dealing with a hip injury.
Vs. Cleveland Browns
Browns’ 2013 Finish: (4-12); Points For: 308; Points Against: 406; Net (-98); TDs: 35; Home: 3-5; Away: 1-7; Conf: 3-9; Last 5: 0-5
2013 Rankings: Total Offense (18th, 338.9 yards per game); Total Defense (9th, 332.4)
Titans vs. Browns Overall: (28-33); Most Recent: Titans 31, Browns 13 in 2011; Last time at LP Field: Titans 28, Browns 9 in 2008
Early Outlook: The Browns will have a new coaching staff in 2014 and their fourth head coach since Cleveland last visited Nashville. The Browns are 23-57 in the five seasons that have followed, but second-year pro Josh Gordon, a former teammate of Kendall Wright at Baylor, led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013. Gordon averaged 18.9 yards on 87 catches and had nine touchdowns, despite missing the first two games of the season and having three different quarterbacks last season.
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The Titans’ second-place finish in the AFC South will pit Tennessee against teams that finished second in the AFC East (New York Jets) and AFC West (Kansas City Chiefs) in 2014. (The schedule of dates will be announced in spring).
Vs. New York Jets
Jets’ 2013 Finish: (8-8); Points For: 290; Points Against: (387); Net: (-97); TDs: 27; Home: 6-2; Away: 2-6; Conf: 5-7; Last 5: 3-2
Jets’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (25th, 318.1 yards per game); Total Defense (11th, 334.9)
Titans vs. Jets Overall: (23-17-1); Most Recent: Titans 38, Jets 13 on Sept. 29, 2013
Early Outlook: The Jets have announced that coach Rex Ryan will be back for another year, and it will be the third season in a row that the Jets have traveled to Nashville. Tennessee has won the past two (14-10 in 2012 and 38-13 in 2013). As a rookie, Jets QB Geno Smith had the lowest qualifying passer rating in the NFL (66.5) in large part to his completion percentage of 55.8 and his ratio of 12 TD passes to 21 interceptions. If the Jets go with Smith in 2014, they’ll need him to boost those numbers.
Jake Locker had his best first half as a pro the last time the teams met. He was 18-of-24 passing (75 percent) for 149 yards and three TD passes (career-high passer rating of 130) before suffering knee and hip sprains early in the second half on a hit involving Jets DL Muhammad Wilkerson and LB Quinton Coples. Alterraun Verner had two interceptions of Smith and recovered a fumble forced by Zach Brown, and Karl Klug stripped Smith during a sack and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
At Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs’ 2013 Finish (11-5); Points For: 430; Points Against: 305; Net (125); TDs: 52; Home: 5-3; Away: 6-2; Conf: 7-5; Last 5: 2-3
Chiefs’ 2013 Rankings: Total Offense (21st, 337.3 yards per game); Total Defense (24th, 367.8)
Titans vs. Chiefs Overall: (20-27); Most Recent: Chiefs 26, Titans 17 at LP Field in 2013; Last time in Kansas City: Chiefs 34, Titans 14 in 2010
Early Outlook: The Chiefs will enter 2014 on the heels of their second playoff season in the past four after improving from 2-14 in 2012 when they had six Pro Bowlers to 11-5 in 2013 when eight players garnered selection to the all-star game. Quarterback Alex Smith and coach Andy Reid will be in their second season in Kansas City, and the Chiefs’ offense is likely to rely heavily on Jamaal Charles, who led the AFC with 1,980 yards from scrimmage. Charles had 1,287 yards on 259 carries (5.0 per attempt) and 693 yards on 70 receptions (9.9 per catch).
The Titans limited Charles to 37 yards on five catches, but the back managed 108 yards and a rushing TD on 22 carries when the teams met in October. Three Titans turnovers — a bad bounce off a punt that was recovered in the end zone and two interceptions — loomed large in that contest. Tennessee rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit with 17 straight points, including a 49-yard TD by Chris Johnson on a short pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was making his first start as a Titan in place of Jake Locker (hip and knee sprains), in the third quarter and a 9-yard run by Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter.
Both teams entered that game tied for the NFL lead at plus-9 in turnover ratio, but Kansas City finished second in the NFL at plus-18 and Tennessee fell to a tie for 14th at even in the final 12 games.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Jake Locker, Karl Klug, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
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Rob Bironas kicked a season-long 55-yard field goal as the first half expired to bring Tennessee within a point at 7-6 of Houston.
The Titans drove 58 yards on seven plays in 1:53 to cut into the Texans’ lead and will get the ball to start the second half.
The possession started at Tennessee’s own 5, and was started by a 23-yard run by Chris Johnson that put him over 1,000 yards for the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick connected with Kendall Wright on a screen pass that gained 34 yards, and the Titans overcame a holding penalty against Delanie Walker with a screen from Fitzpatrick to Johnson that gained 11 on third-and-20 to move the ball to the Houston 37.
Tennessee let the clock tick down to four seconds left in the first half before using its final timeout.
The possession followed a successful challenge by Titans coach Mike Munchak of a play that was originally ruled a completion from Matt Schaub to DeAndre Hopkins. After review, officials determined the pass had been broken up by Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner, and Tennessee was able to force a punt two plays later.
The Titans’ first field goal made it 7-3 with 9:45 remaining in the first half. Bironas capped a seven-play, 32-yard drive with a 42-yarder. The drive started at the Tennessee 44-yard line and included a 13-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Wright and runs of 9 and 4 yards by Johnson.
The possession was slowed by an illegal shift penalty, but Fitzpatrick’s 9-yard pass to Walker on third-and-13 moved Tennessee back to the 24.
Tags: Alterraun Verner, Chris Johnson, Kendall Wright, Rob Bironas, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
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Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey’s third pro season ended a game before he wanted.
Casey suffered a knee injury last week that will sideline him for today’s season finale against the Houston Texans at LP Field.
Casey said during the week that he wanted to rally and play because he had never missed a game. Casey was leading Tennessee with 10.5 sacks this season and nearly doubling the 5.5 he had in his first two seasons, and garnered consideration for the Pro Bowl.
Casey had 90 tackles (49 solo), 10 quarterback pressures, three tackles for loss, three passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery this season.
The Titans plan to start veteran Antonio Johnson alongside Sammie Hill and use that combination in situations that are more likely to be runs, and mix in Mike Martin to defend situations that are more likely to be passes.
Tags: Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans
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Wright’s 2013 totals include 89 receptions, which ranks seventh in the NFL and fifth in the AFC. With one game remaining, he is 12 catches shy of Charlie Hennigan’s single-season franchise record of 101 catches, set in 1964.
While Wright may or may not seize the single-season record from Hennigan, the second-year receiver last week equaled Hennigan for another rare feat. He matched Hennigan by reaching the 150-reception mark in only his 30th career game. Hennigan accomplished the feat in 1961, and since that time, the closest player to tying the mark was Webster Slaughter, who needed 35 games from 1992 to 1993 to get to 150 receptions in an Oilers uniform. Slaughter, unlike Hennigan and Wright, did not begin his career with the Titans/Oilers but joined the club after six seasons in Cleveland.
Wright has played in all 15 games this season after missing one contest as a rookie due to injury. His 153 career receptions have produced 1,655 yards and six touchdowns.
Fewest games needed to reach 150 receptions, franchise history:
30 – Kendall Wright (2012-13)
30 – Charlie Hennigan (1960-61)
35 – Webster Slaughter* (1992-93)
* Slaughter had six previous years of NFL experience with Cleveland prior to his time with the Oilers. Hennigan and Wright played their first two NFL seasons with the Oilers/Titans.
Tags: Kendall Wright
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In his first season with the Titans and his eighth season in the NFL, Walker can become the only tight end in franchise history other than Titans Ring of Honor member Frank Wycheck to reach 60 receptions in a single season. Wycheck accomplished the feat five times from 1997 through 2001, including 70 receptions in both 1998 and 2000 to establish the record for Titans/Oilers tight ends.
Walker ranks 10th among NFL tight ends in receptions in 2013, despite missing most of one game (Dec. 1 at Indianapolis) and all of another contest (Dec. 8 at Denver) with an injury.
Most single-season receptions by Titans/Oilers tight ends:
70 – Frank Wycheck – 1998 (786 yards, 2 TDs)
70 – Frank Wycheck – 2000 (636 yards, 4 TDs)
69 – Frank Wycheck – 1999 (641 yards, 2 TDs)
63 – Frank Wycheck – 1997 (748 yards, 4 TDs)
60 – Frank Wycheck – 2001 (672 yards, 4 TDs)
59 – Mike Barber – 1980 (712 yards, 5 TDs)
58 – Willard Dewveall – 1963 (752 yards, 7 TDs)
58 – Bo Scaife – 2008 (561 yards, 2 TDs)
57 – Delanie Walker – 2013 (542 yards, 6 TDs) – 1 game remaining
55 – Erron Kinney – 2005 (543 yards, 2 TDs)
55 – Ben Troupe – 2005 (530 yards, 4 TDs)
Tags: Delanie Walker
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Bernard Pollard leads the Titans with 134 total tackles in 2013, according to the statistics compiled by the defensive coaching staff upon film review each week. The number also amounts to a career high for the eighth-year safety, who completes his first year in Tennessee this weekend.
Pollard’s 134 tackles put him in elite company among Titans safeties in the last two-and-a-half decades. Since the start of the 1990 campaign, the only Titans/Oilers safety to be credited with more total tackles in a season for the team was Michael Griffin, who notched 153 total stops in 2010.
Pollard has started all 15 games this year. In addition to his impressive tackle tally, he has contributed a half sack, two quarterback pressures, three tackles for loss, three interceptions, 11 passes defensed, a blocked field goal and a blocked extra point.
Highest single-season tackle totals by Titans safeties, 1990–present (from coaches’ statistics):
153 – Michael Griffin – 2010
134 – Bernard Pollard – 2013 (1 game remaining)
133 – Chris Hope – 2010
128 – Chris Hope – 2006
117 – Jordan Babineaux – 2011
116 – Blaine Bishop – 1998
115 – Blaine Bishop – 1999
112 – Blaine Bishop – 1994
111 – Marcus Robertson – 1994
109 – Blaine Bishop – 1996
Tags: Bernard Pollard
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