The New Year is finally here. For most people that means making resolutions, looking back on the past year and looking forward to all that can be accomplished this year. For National Football League fans it means the playoffs are here and depending on whom your team is you are either preparing for your team to try and make a run in the playoffs or wondering how your team is going improve over the offseason to hopefully make the playoffs next year. If you have read the sport section in the All State at all last semester you know that I am a Titans fan and just like many others there are numerous questions that run through my mind about how the team can improve and make it to the playoffs. After looking over the roster, stats, personnel and projected draft boards I am going to address the five pressing questions that Titan fans are wondering about their teams as they watch from the outside looking in at the NFL playoffs.
1. Should Mike Munchak be given one more year as Head Coach?
This is a question that a lot of Titan fans are asking themselves after this season. His record over his first three years is 22-26, which is middle of the road at best. A coaching cliché is you never use injury or youth as an excuse of not achieving your goals but a case can be made for Munchk. This past season the Titans started 3-1 before Jake Locker goes down with a hip injury that changed the entire trajectory of the season. Many believe that Munchak has the Titans moving in the right direction and I tend to agree. With the new ownership this can open the door for the Titans as an organization to turn the corner. With Houston and Jacksonville rebuilding after a down season the Titans have a chance to make the right moves in free agency and the draft to compete right now and Munchak, with his background as a Hall Fame Offensive Lineman, can help lead the Titans back to the playoffs.
2. Draft picks or Chris Johnson? Which is better for the future?
This is a very tricky question to discuss. On one hand Johnson is only the sixth player in NFL history to gain 1,000+ yards in their first six seasons in the league. On the other hand Johnson averaged a career low 3.9 yards per carry (lowest since 2011) and the second lowest yards per game average (67.3) of his career. There is no lying that Johnson has the ability to score a touchdown every time he touches the football. You can count one hand the running backs in the league that can do that, Johnson included. The argument against Johnson is the ability of teams to find serviceable running backs for a much lower price tag then Johnson has, which is an average of 9.3 million over the length of his contract. The only running back that has a higher salary than Johnson is Adrian Peterson. To put it in further perspective Johnson is paid more than Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte and rushing title winner Lesean McCoy. I personally feel that the Titans could trade Johnson and receive draft picks (possibly first or second round picks) and find a serviceable back to compliment power back Shonn Greene. Mid-round draft prospects at the running back position that could fit the Titans system are Rajion Neal, Dri Archer, Andre Williams or Ka’Deem Carey.
3. Is Jake Locker the franchise quarterback?
Patience is what is needed when it comes to discussing this question. Jake Locker has been in a Tennessee uniform now for three complete season. In those three seasons he has only started 18 games due to injury and youth. That is a very small sample size to judge someone especially with the way he started the 2013 season. Through the first four games Locker six touchdowns, no interceptions and his team was 3-1. After injuring his hip Locker wasn’t the same quarterback so many speculated that he rushed back from the injury and that hampered his play. Also the Titans have one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league in Ryan Fitpatrick who filled in for Locker and kept the Titans competitive in almost every game. If the Titans do consider possibly drafting a quarterback there are options in the later rounds to find a steal. Steals in this draft could include Jimmy Garoppolo, Connor Shaw and Tajh Boyd could be available in later rounds. Rumors have also circulated that the Titans could be interested in soon to be free agent quarterback Jay Cutler but the Bears just locked him up for seven years. If the Titans want to move forward from the Jake Locker era there are options but I feel that Locker still has the potential to be the man in Nashville.
4. What moves in free agency could help the team?
Looking at the overall season stats the Titans ranked 14th in total defense but 22nd in total offense. Upgrades on the offensive line and wide receiving core are the top priorities for the Titans moving into the offseason. Trading or releasing Chris Johnson would give the Titans more room to play with in the offseason and the ability to retain expiring contracts of players that the organization can build around, like soon to be free agent Alterraun Verner. The Titans defense, for the most part, is young and showed flashes of greatness and what it could be at times this past season. If the Titans can somewhat keep it intact over this offseason and upgrade on the offensive line and wide out position the Titans could really challenge the Colts for the AFC South in 2014.
5. What positions should be addressed in the draft?
Reading over what the “experts” are predicting the Titans to do in the draft it makes you wonder if the team will take an offensive line with their first round draft pick two years running. I tend to agree with them in this instance because the Titans need upgrades at their bookend positions on the line. The Titans could be in line to draft another lineman from Nick Sabans’s NFL development team, I mean the University Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio. Kouandjio is the third rated offensive tackle on ESPN’s draft board and is projected to be there when the Titans pick at number 11 in the draft. It is hard to deny the ability of anyone who has played for a team that year in and year out is the front runner for the national championship. The upside for what I have seen and read about Kouandjio is that he is far from reaching his ceiling as a player. It doesn’t hurt either that if drafted by the Titans he would be coached by two Hall of Fame offensive lineman in Bruce Matthews and Mike Munchak. In the later rounds of the draft the Titans can look to draft at positions such as running back (if Johnson is traded or cut), quarterback (if it is decided that Locker is not the long term solution at the position) and wide receiver (if Locker is the long term solution and adding to his weapons becomes a priority). After the team that was put on the field this year struggled at times on offense that side of the football should be focal point for the Titans heading into the 2014 NFL Draft.