While assessing potential draft picks is on center stage this week at the NFL Scouting Combine, there’s also an opportunity for Titans general manager Ruston Webster to work on deals to extend players who are scheduled for free agency.
The GM, who is in his third year in the role, said it is important for the Titans to identify the strongest areas in the field of draft-eligible prospects, think about who may or may not be returning and keep in mind players from other teams who may become available through free agency next month.
He said the assessments that team personnel make this week will help guide the Titans through that process, and the results of free agency will likely influence decisions in May’s NFL Draft.
Last offseason the Titans added offensive weapons through free agency (TE Delanie Walker, RB Shonn Greene) and the draft (WR Justin Hunter).
Webster was asked Thursday during a media session about Walker and Hunter and how they will fit in new coach Ken Whisenhunt’s plans.
“I think Delanie (infographic) will be in a similar role this year, and he was really good for us on third down, he’s a good matchup in those situations. Delanie is a very competitive guy and he really stepped up for us,” Webster said. “I would say Justin (infographic), for somebody that came in, is an improving player. He flashed. He made some big plays, had some big games for us. And he’ll just continue to develop and get better. He has a boatload of talent.”
Tennessee has six draft picks (one in the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds) after trading its 2014 third-round spot and its 2013 second-round selection to San Francisco to move up from the 40th to the 34th overall spot to take Hunter. Webster was also asked if he wished the Titans still had a third-round pick this year.
“Well, I’ll always wish that, but it has nothing to do with Justin Hunter,” Webster said. “I think Justin really flashed and came on. What I was really impressed with Justin was he got a little banged up during the late part of the season and played through it. He blocked and did all those things that we kind of demanded of him, more than just being a big threat as a receiver, and then he stepped up and had some big games for us and helped us win a couple, so I think the future is bright for Justin.”
Tags: Delanie Walker, Justin Hunter, Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
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New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt repeatedly expressed his belief in the value of competition on Tuesday.
Whisenhunt spoke with “The Wake-Up Zone” on 104.5-FM in Nashville during an hour-long radio interview and then attended lunch and dinner events for about 5,000 Titans season ticket holders at Music City Center that featured question-and-answer sessions with “Voice of the Titans” Mike Keith.
A 12th-round selection (313th overall) in the 1985 NFL Draft by Atlanta, Whisenhunt said he was given an equal opportunity to make the Falcons’ roster as players who were picked ahead of him or were due more money. After four seasons, he went to Washington, and some of his coaching philosophy is built on what he experienced as a player with the Redskins.
“The thing about Washington, they had had success before I got there,” Whisenhunt told the lunch crowd of about 1,700. “They had a system in place with how they operated and their players had bought in, ‘This is our culture,’ and that’s what we have to establish here: the culture of how you work in the weight room, how you handle yourselves in meetings and what you do on the football field, and a big piece of that, a big part in Washington was competition.
“We had guys competing for jobs, because to me, it’s about playing the best players,” Whisenhunt continued. “It’s not about who makes ‘x’ amount of dollars or who got drafted in the first round. Let’s play the guys that are going to win for us, no matter how they got to our team. When you do that, it installs a culture of, ‘This is how we’re going to work. This is what we’re going to do every day.’ If you don’t do that, you’re not going to be with us. Our goal should be to represent our fans and our city the right way and we’ll have success.”
Whisenhunt, Titans general manager Ruston Webster and members of Tennessee’s personnel department and coaching staff have convened in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, the annual assembling of all 32 NFL clubs and more than 330 top prospects.
In addition to gathering information on players’ physical attributes, their health and performances in drills, the Titans will try to discover the passion and competitive spirit in the 60 prospects that they’ve scheduled for interviews.
The draft, which is scheduled for May, has shrunk to seven rounds, with teams having the opportunity to sign undrafted, NFL-eligible players as free agents. Tennessee currently has six spots (first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds) in this year’s draft, so the Titans want to be effective in the use of those choices, but Whisenhunt said every Titans player at training camp this summer will be extended the same opportunity he received.
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans
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New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt was able to share his background and philosophy with Titans fans during lunch and dinner events at a Season Ticket Member Bash on Tuesday.
Whisenhunt participated in question-and-answer sessions led by “Voice of the Titans” Mike Keith, and amid sharing some of his on-field principles, the culture he wants to build for the team and city and the enjoyment he’s already experienced from returning to Nashville, where he got his first coaching job (1995-96 as an assistant at Vanderbilt).
The lunch crowd of about 1,700 people in the shimmering Music City Center’s Grand Ballroom gave Whisenhunt a standing ovation to welcome him and applauded heavily when Keith pointed out that Whisenhunt selected the Titans among the reported opportunities of other available head coaching jobs.
“I’m really excited to be here, and I think that speaks for itself,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s a great city, just look at where we are in this venue, what a fantastic venue, what a great city!”
More recent trips to Nashville have been as an assistant coach with Pittsburgh (2001-06), the head coach of Arizona (2007-12) and as San Diego’s offensive coordinator last season.
“I remember coming in here as an opponent and the fans and their support and how tough a place it was to play,” Whisenhunt said. “I’ve always been impressed by that, so one of the things that excites me is having that environment here, getting our fans behind us.”
About 3,500 Titans fans attended the dinner program, and Whisenhunt said during a media session said it was important to him to attend both events before heading to Indianapolis to be in place for the start of the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday.
Whisenhunt, a native of Augusta, Ga., said his past time in Nashville, combined with the immediate common ground he developed with Titans general manager Ruston Webster and the faith he has in the Titans’ ownership group were major selling points.
Titans President and CEO Tommy Smith and Co-Chairs Susie Adams Smith and Amy Adams Hunt traveled from Houston for the lunch session that was also attended by Webster, board member Kenneth Adams, IV and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean at the sparkling convention center that opened in May 2013.
“A lot of it starts with the (Adams family). I really believe the ownership is a big piece of it. I can’t tell you how excited I am to work with Tommy Smith and work with the ownership of this team,” Whisenhunt said. “The other piece that I think is important, obviously, is Ruston. I think the support we have with each other, the belief we have in the way we’re going to do things is a big piece of it, and wanting to win. Like I said, from Mr. Smith, I sense he wants to win and wants to build a team that’s a consistent winner. It’s my job to help that process, and I’m excited about having that opportunity.”
Tags: Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans
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One way or another, ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. believes South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney will be in the AFC South next season.
Kiper, an NFL Draft expert, held a conference call Thursday in which he said he expects Houston to select Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick or Jacksonville to do so with the third pick in the 2014 NFL Draft this May. Click here for the draft order for the first round.
“They’re both teams in the AFC South and both need to get heat on (Colts QB) Andrew Luck,” Kiper said. “He would have been the No. 1 pick obviously had he had the great year, which he did not have for a variety of reasons, which it would probably take us 20 minutes to get into that, but the fact that he was concerned about getting hurt, had that cheap shot against him in the North Carolina game, kind of all contributed to that, but he’s No. 1 on my big board, and a lot of pro teams still have him No. 1. I think he goes No. 1 to Houston or 3 to Jacksonville, or maybe if St. Louis wants to move out of 2, somebody may trade up to get him.”
St. Louis has the second pick via Washington from the previous trade that the Redskins made to pick Robert Griffin III in 2012.
The Scouting Combine will be later this month in Indianapolis, offering team executives, scouts and coaches an opportunity to interview and evaluate the invited participants and shape each team’s plans for the draft. Kiper said he expects the top offensive tackles to receive grades that could be higher than last year’s prospects, and he expects there to be a strong consensus on Clowney’s numbers, as well.
“Clowney is going to be a guy that everybody is going to have a high grade on, and in this league, you have to get after the quarterback and he can do it,” Kiper said.
As for potential pro quarterbacks he might be chasing, Kiper said it’s “too early to speculate on which quarterback is going to be the hot guy at quarterback because the combine and pro days are going to be critical to” (Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater).
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Tennessee Titans
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This time around, he wants others to include a plan for safe travel in their preparations of watching Super Bowl XLVIII.
Not long after Walker and the 49ers finished just short of the Ravens in New Orleans, Walker was struck with a much tougher loss. His aunt and uncle, Alice and Bryan Young, were killed when their vehicle was struck by a drunk driver.
Walker has since dedicated his energy and spare time to preventing other tragedies by partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to lobby for legislative changes in Tennessee, raise money and awareness for the program and continuously stressing the importance of having a designated driver.
Walker worked his way around Radio Row at the Super Bowl XLVIII Media Center in New York on Wednesday in a shirt with the MADD logo on it. He had a full day that included multimedia interviews and a dinner with officials from MADD.
“I’m here because of MADD, which everyone knows my auntie and uncle were killed by a drunk driver last year after the Super Bowl,” Walker said. “We’re here to spread a message to have a plan before you go out. We just want everybody to be safe.”
That means planning ahead to prevent drunk driving on a day that so many gather to celebrate football with friends and family.
Walker said it was difficult to compare the experience of preparing to play in the game and participating in a media spree like Radio Row.
“Being in the Super Bowl is exciting, and I’m excited for these guys, the Seahawks and Denver. It’s an experience that you’ll never forget,” Walker said. “Being here though, is different. It’s exciting but different at the same time. You get to see the back end of it, instead of seeing the football, you get to see all the media, some of the Hall of Famers, some old, some new. It’s a good experience. You get to get your voice heard and spread a message.”
Tags: Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
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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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