Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 9/1/12

The Titans have been a franchise mired in mediocrity since 2008.  They have been 8-8, 6-10, and 9-7 and have not been able to capture the love of the viewing public since Eddie George and Steve McNair were doing their magic.  Running back Chris Johnson did his best to put Tennessee back into the public eye when he threatened to break the all-time single season rushing record but fell short.  Last year the Titans ended up tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for the wildcard spot but lost a tiebreaker due to the Bengals beating them in Week 9.  Houston is clearly the class of the division but Tennessee has made a few inroads and is slowly chipping away at the cement blocks that separate the two franchises.  This year the Titans have decided to go with 2011 1st round draft pick Jake Locker as their QB over the grizzled veteran Matt Hasselbeck.  There will be moments of pride and moments of shame for fans of this team as Locker gets his feet wet in his first full season behind the line of scrimmage.  It will be up to LT Michael Roos, LG Steve Hutchinson, C Fernando Velasco, RG Leroy Harris and RT David Stewart to keep Locker from the injury list.

Left Tackle Michael Roos was selected in the 2nd round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Titans.  He is an impressive physical specimen at 6’7 and 320 pounds and has the leverage to block pass rushers off. He was absolutely taken advantage of in 2010 as he surrendered 10 sacks.  It was like someone flipped on the light switch for him in 2011 as he cut that number down to 2.  He is a better pass protector than run blocker so he has to improve in that area.


Left Guard Steve Hutchinson was a 1st round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks back in 2001.  He has been a multiple Pro Bowl participant but is nearing the end of his career and that could be cause for concern.  He definitely knows how to play the position and if anything he will be a great resource for the younger generation.  He has only allowed 5sacks in the past two seasons while being penalized only 4 times.


Center Fernando Velasco was selected as an undrafted Free Agent by Tennessee in 2008.  He is being thrust into the position due to the season ending triceps injury that regular Center Eugene Amano has incurred.  In his last 16 games, Velasco has not allowed a sack and won’t hurt the O-Line because he has experience at Center.


Right Guard Leroy Harris was a 4th round draft choice of Tennessee in 2007.  He is a bit light for the position but makes up for it with pure power.  He shuffles well and has a vicious punch.  In the past two years Harris has allowed 6 sacks but has been flagged 12 times for various infractions.  He is a better pass blocker than run blocker as well.


Right Tackle David Stewart was taken in the 4th round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Titans.  He is another huge Tackle and along with Roos, they make formidable bookends.  In the previous two seasons he has allowed 7.5 sacks while being penalized 8 times.  He knows that he has to get a better push to get his running backs more yards.  He was only the 27th most effective RT for run blocking in 2011.


Now to analyze the numbers…..


The Titans ranked 32nd in the NFL in Total Run Blocking allowing Chris Johnson, Jamie Harper and Javon Ringer to run for 3.78 yards per carry.  They were stopped at/or behind the line only 24% of the time which was 3rd worst in the NFL and well below the NFL average of 19%.  They did, however, get first downs on 3rd/4th down runs 72% of their attempts which ranked 3rd in the league and well above the 62% NFL average.  They averaged 27th running off the LT position, 27th behind the Left Tackle, 31st behind the Center/Guards, 28th behind the RT and 24th running outside the RT.  Those numbers just don’t get it done.  Chris Johnson had a bad season and that would have contributed to the lack of decency you see here, but some of the blame must land on the Offensive Line.  The Titans ran the ball 344 times last year and I would watch for those numbers to rise depending on the effectiveness of Johnson and whether the Titans can get leads.  From a Fantasy perspective, the Offense runs through Johnson (punny…I know).  He is a first round talent but I don’t see the desire to run between the Tackles and when he stops to try to dance outside, he is quickly swallowed up.  He is going in the 1st round in just about every draft you see, but I don’t see him rewarding you with CJ2K numbers in 2012.  I tend to believe that he will get CJ1.25K numbers and that is what you should expect.  His backups are still Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper, neither of which was able to take the bull by the horns when Johnson was ineffective last year.  Avoid these two guys.  So, I may be in the minority when I say that Johnson is only worth an RB2 spot and should be drafted accordingly.


The Titans ranked 2nd in the league in Pass Protection allowing Hasselbeck and Locker to be sacked on only 4.2% of their dropbacks which was well better than the NFL average of 6.7%.  The Line is so good at clogging up the paths the pass rushers use to get to the QB, that they have clogged up the paths their own running backs want to use.  Hasselbeck has a pocket presence that allows him to make concise reads and deliver the ball quickly to his receivers.  Locker is more of a scrambling QB who can make accurate throws while being chased out of the pocket.  The ability of these two QB’s have a pronounced impact on the Offensive Line.  From a Fantasy perspective, Locker has the nod as the starter and is slightly intriguing as he has the tools but isn’t seasoned enough for my cautious liking.  He is not a starter on your roster but is a decent guy to stash on your bench.  Hasselbeck is nearing the end of his career and will not be a Fantasy starter again and is able to be plucked off the waiver wire in most leagues.  The receivers are Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright.  Britt only received a one game ban for his DUI charge he incurred in July so he will be in your sights come draft day.  Washington performed well when Britt was injured last year and is a decent pick.  Wright is a rookie drafted this year who has the ability to separate from DB’s and will develop into a decent route runner.  Tight End Jared Cook is the enigma.  He has bodybuilder size with hops and speed.  In a 3 game stretch last year he pulled in 21 grabs for 335 yards.  He will be a vital part of the offense in 2012.  So to summarize, Britt is sneaking back up everybody’s draft boards and should be taken in round 6 or 7.  Washington should be drafted in the same ballpark.  Wright should be targeted in late rounds.  Cook should be a starter in most leagues but is not well known enough.  Draft him as a starter and you will be pleasantly surprised.


Thanks to www.footballoutsiders.com for the statistics


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