As we close in on training camp next week (yes NEXT WEEK!), we approach the end of the 49ers longest run of AFC South opponents. They play Jacksonville 3 weeks later, but I think most of us will agree that this stretch against Houston, Indy and Tennessee is one of the tougher stretches of the season. Tennessee put together some very impressive football last season and will certainly be a tough matchup for anybody once again.
The Titans started the 2008 season on quite a roll behind the aged Kerry Collins. At the same time, their 10-0 start did not ring quite like the Patriots own undefeated start the season before. The Titans were a very talented team, but once they lose the goose-egg, things sort of spun away the rest of the way. They closed 3-3 and following a bye were upset at home by the Baltimore Ravens.
The 2008 Titans built their solid regular season thanks to a fifth ranked defense built in part on Albert Haynesworth's walk year performance. On offense, Kerry Collins led an adequate passing attack that was supported in large part by the "smash and dash" RB duo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White. The offense was ranked 16th, with an 8th ranked rushing attack.
The Titans rolled out 11 draft picks this past April and grabbed a whole assortment of players on offense and defense. They used their #1 to grab WR Kenny Britt in hopes of building up a blah passing attack. While Collins had some ok receivers, the leaders were TE Bo Scaife with 58 receptions, and Justin Gage with 651 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Titans also signed Nate Washington in free agency who they will insert into their starting lineup. Of course, if the rushing attack remains the same, who needs receivers?
A rather interesting draft choice was the addition of Michigan State RB Javon Ringer in the 5th round. Adding him to that rushing attack will certainly make for an interesting group in the backfield.
On defense, the Titans added DT Jovan Haye in free agency and Sen'Derrick Marks in the second round of the draft. In case you wonder why I mention these additions, check out the biggest Subtraction (in more ways than one) below. Additionally, the team added a potential third corner in Ryan Mouton out of Hawaii.
Obviously the biggest loss was Brandon Jones. Ok, maybe not. The biggest loss was of course Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth was one of the best defensive tackles in the league last season and now he is plying his trade in Washington thanks to some
tampering good negotiating tactics by the Redskins. Even if his performance spiked because it was his walk year, he was still a talented guy and the Titans will certainly miss him.
They did, of course, also lose Jones to the 49ers. Most fans do not see this as much of a loss, but we'll see what Jones can bring to the table. If he can do more than Bryant Johnson, that would certainly be a start. Other than that, they lost Chris Simms, who was replaced by Patrick Ramsey. The only reason this could be of concern is if Collins gets hurt and Vince Young doesn't have his head together.
2009 Questions & Answers
One big question is how they'll deal with no longer having Albert Haynesworth on the line. The team was 4th against the pass and 6th against the run (per FO) and losing their leading sack man can't help. Jacob Ford finished right behind Haynesworth with 7 sacks in his first full season of play (2nd overall). He missed his rookie season with a torn achilles tendon, but definitely showed some promise in year two.
The question that gets the national media in a bit more of a tizzy is what will happen with Vince Young. At this point, Kerry Collins would appear to be the clear cut starting quarterback. Any thoughts on how long it will take (if at all) for Vince Young to get back in the drivers seat? Building around a strong rushing attack is certainly a step in the right direction. In the meantime, I'm very curious to see what 36-year old Kerry Collins will do in his secon season as starter. After his two seasons in Oakland, Collins sat on the bench for two years in Tennessee before last season. Will he put together another solid campaign in 2009?
@ San Francisco
Both ProfessorBigelow and I marked this up as a loss and part of a losing streak for the 49ers. We'll know what's up with the Titans defense at this point sans Albert Haynesworth. One of the questions is what kind of production can the 49ers get from their offensive line against the Titans front 7. If they can get some push for the running game and give Hill/Smith some time, maybe the 49ers can do some damage. It may not be enough, but it would certainly make it more competitive.
In terms of the 49ers defense versus the Titans offense, it will come down to stopping Johnson, White, Ringer, etc. It's hard to really respect the Titans passing game, so one would imagine they stuff the box against the run and leave the secondary on an island against the receivers. In the end, I think this is a hard one to call. The 49ers could pull the upset but it will be rather tough. The 49ers could sneak out a win or get blown out. I think it's closer to an upset (meaning a close loss), but I really don't know. Not a surprise at this point I suppose.