USA TODAY Sports
A little less than a year ago, I predicted how this team would be able to succeed in 2012. They did not, as we know. It's time to examine what happened (as if we have not done this enough).
On June 22nd of 2012 I analyzed the MCM meme of LWSS. I looked at what the letters truly stood for and how those were the requirements for success for the Tennessee Titans in 2012. Sure enough- all four of these elements were not achieved.
To quote myself:
Yes. It's not Locker. L stands for leadership in 2012. We have several very hard games this season. Thus, we need strong leaders out there to pull us through those games, making plays, and keeping everyone motivated if it starts getting a little rough. This is a tough schedule, and we have a very young team. This is where Hasselbeck is needed. Whether it be him under center or on the sideline helping young SkyLocker after a bad throw, the Hass is needed on our team- if not the most valuable player in 2012.
Also, we will need leadership on defense. It's time for three players to take that leadership card in 2012: Michael Griffin, Colin McCarthy, and Jason McCourty. These three men will need to make the plays down the field and set an example for how it needs to be done. Griff and Babineaux both are experienced safeties. They need to use that experience to keep the younger guys motivated during these tough games.
Strong leadership is beyond necessary for 2012 because of such a rough schedule.
As we know, the leadership was not there. The guys listed above may have offered leadership behind closed doors, but there are no tangible examples of the Titans' players doing so on the field. Colin, the one we hoped to be the leader for the defense, was out most of the season with injury issues. Griffin gave no reasons to believe that he is a leader, and J-Mac did not show the verbal leadership that we had hoped for.
W- Washington, Wright, and Williams
These three receivers have to step up in to 2012. Kenny Britt won't be playing at his best performance level in the first few games as he rehabs from surgery; thus, we need our other receivers to step up and be targets for our quarterback. They have to make the job easier for Kenny so he doesn't try to over do something and push his progress back. Also, they need to be there all season so that our quarterback can make great plays for all 16 games. No more inconsistency. It's time for the 2012 Titans to become that high-powered offense that we've been dreaming of.
Unfortunately, the inconsistency of the past re-appeared in 2012. After posting 1,023 yards from 74 receptions of 121 targets in 2011, Nate Washington only recorded 746 yards from 46 receptions of 86 targets. Although the average yards per reception increased in 2012, he had 7 drops, 13.21% of his targets (53/86 were considered catchable). Although those numbers aren't horrendous, they are much worse than Locker needed in 2012. His 13.21% drop rate is worse than Randall Cobb's 12.09% and Danny Amendola's 3.13% (2 drops on 64 catchable targets). Nate Washington was not awful by any means, but he was not the reliable receiver that we needed him to be in 2012. (Stats on drops are property of PFF)
Kendall Wright was not useful for Jake Locker, either. It was not his fault, but whoever decided to call 254 bubble screens and not use him as a deep threat. And what happened to Damian Williams? The only receiver to disappear worse than him was Lavelle Hawkins
The pass rush has to make plays this year. Our secondary is on a level that it hasn't reached in a long time. J-Mac and ATV are both Pro Bowl-caliber corners who can hold the fort down; nevertheless, let's make it easier for them to make plays. If Dave Ball, Kamerion Wimbley, Derrick Morgan, and Akeem Ayers make their way to the QB, he will throw bad passes... much easier for our cornerback tandem to pick off and take to the house. Quarterback pressure will bring fear to the defensive coordinators. We need this pressure in order to beat Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford this season.
With Dave Ball on the IR for the season with concussion issues, Karl Klug on milk carton, and Akeem Ayers not being used as a pass rusher for much of the the first half of the season, the Tennessee Titans did not have an effective pass rush for much of 2012. During the second half of the season, they started to become a threat for the opposing quarterbacks; however, it was a little too late. Wimbley recorded a measly 6 sacks in 2012, while Derrick Morgan only recorded 6.5 sacks (even though he had very good pressure throughout the season and succeeded against the run). This lack of sacks put too much pressure on the defensive backs, who struggled as a group.
The final key is to build off of last year. Despite a few missed field goals and low return yards, our special teams had a nice 2011 season. Brett Kern solidified his spot as the Titans punter for a while. In order for us to have a great 2012 season, he needs to continue pinning the offenses behind the 20. Pinning Andrew Luck and Blaine Gabbert behind the 20 in LP Field will throw their composure out the window; thus, leading to the downfall of the Colts and Sparklekitties.
Next, we need Mariani to return more. He needs to try to get the ball at least to the 50 on every return. Obviously, that's unrealistic, but it should be his goal. We need it close so that Locker or Hasselbeck will not have far to go in order to score. We have to try and make it as easy for the quarterback as possible.
Finally, we need Bironas to continue to be the best kicker in the league- the true Captain Clutch. If Locker's inexperience or Hasselbeck's not as strong arm prevents a touchdown, we need #2 to be able to kick that 60-yarder. We know he can.
With the exception of some great returns by Darius Reynaud while Marc Mariani was on IR, Reynaud was not a special teams ace. He averaged 13.22 yards per punt return attempt in 2012, which is a bit of a skewed statistic after an 81 yard return. This is not a good number whatsoever; however, his kick return yards were 23.40 yards per carry, with two of them being for touchdowns. Darius Reynaud appears to be a better kick returner than a punt returner, as he seems to not give the Titans a great field position on offense.
Brett Kern was not kicking near as many into great position for the defense in 2012, but only five of his punts touchbacks, which is a good statistic.
Rob "Gunfingaz" Bironas did not have a good season like we needed. After making 29 of his 32 attempts in 2011, Robby B missed 6 of 31 attempts in 2012. Half of his missed field goals were in losing games (both Colts games and the loss to Jacksonville). All three of those games were losses by less than a touchdown. Had he made those field goals, maybe they would have positively affected the game enough to have won.
I'm not blaming the failure that was 2012 on these players solely; however, had these things been accomplished, Jake Locker and the rest of the team would have been more able to succeed for a season better than 6-10.