I would like to start off by apologizing for my absence over the past week. It has been particularly crazy at the Practice and I am essentially now doing two people's jobs. While the promotion has been a welcome one, catching up on all the work left little time for my traditional writing schedule. That aside, things are about back to normalcy now. Moving on.
This is the NFL we are talking about, so naturally we will talk about the QB position first. Titans fans were very much divided entering the year with Jake Locker under center. While most of MCM has been in strong support of the young signal caller, the majority of media and a good chunk of fans around the league were unconvinced that he was the answer. Ryan Fitzpatrick fell well short of expectations when called upon and while Locker was far from perfect over the first half of the season, outside of his two game injury, I think I would be remiss if I did not say that he has surpassed expectations of just about everyone who's watched him play. Those who look at stat sheets may see an Alex Smith type, check-down happy QB, but to those who have watched every snap of his this season so far, he has been stretching the field more and more with each passing week and really sparked this offense at times. He will need to do more to improve the consistency of the offense overall though. I think being matched up against some less impressive defenses than the team has faced coupled with some improvements in the ground game will help in those regards.
Running Back/Full Back
While I will not go into depth on the issue since it remains MCM's biggest powder keg next to Locker's supposed lack of the elusive "it" factor, I will remark that the season has been a big disappointment as far as the running game is concerned. From the backs, it has been frustrating due to a multitude of factors: unimaginative play-calling, wrong reads, and injury to name a few. Both Chris Johnson and Jackie Battle have been playing on the back foot with the suspect play of the interior offensive lineman, but a good portion of the blame falls squarely on their shoulders. With Schwenke in the lineup at Center against SF, it seemed to give the backs a better chance to get going, though a gameplan that fell apart quickly limited those opportunities. On a lighter note, FB Collin Mooney has been great so far this year, and has separated himself as a strong lead blocker. I think the run game will improve, but I do not envision it being at the level Titans fans expected when the year began.
For much the same reasons as the failure of the running backs, the line has been disappointing. Levitre didn't look worth the cash, and Warmack didn't look worth the draft spot, but it entirely too early to judge this group. The rethinking at Center seemed to help things along, and it will be worth watching how they respond in the season's second leg. It is a shame they have struggled to get the running game working, because they have pass protected pretty well all season long. The hope is that, after a brutal early-season stretch, they will be rejuvenated over the course of the BYE week and things will be adjusted by the coaches. They have a lot to prove in the season's second half.
Wideout has been a stable group this year with one big exception. Washington looks youthful and reliable as ever, and Kendall Wright is blossoming at this point. Both Hunter and Williams have made big contributions when called upon as well. Despite No.18's much-discussed struggles, this group has exceeded expectations in my mind. And I say this not simply in regards to Titans Nation, but on a league wide basis. Those who have had the chance to watch these guys work this year are definitely re-adjusting their opinions of this stable of wide receivers.
Delanie Walker...err I mean Tight End
The Titans entered the year with a trio of physical Tight Ends who were maulers in the running game, and had the ability to go and run patterns in the passing game. While I remain loyal to Taylor Thompson, he and Craig Stevens have been invisible this year, and I mean invisible, as in ZERO catches between them. Whether this falls upon the coaches who don't value TEs in the passing game, or on the players' inability to justify targets, I don't know. What I do know is that Walker and Locker have a definite chemistry between them, and despite a few ugly tipped balls, the former 49er has been a welcome addition to a Titans team that was begging for consistency at the position. While expectations have not been at-all scraped with this TE group, I am happy with Walker's contribution, and feel he will be a big par of this offense for years to come.