Answering Michael Lombardi’s questions about the Titans

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Before the draft, Michael Lombardi of National Football Post gave every team 5 questions they needed to answer entering into the NFL draft.  It’s now been 2 months since Lombardi posed his list of 5 questions about the Titans, so I thought I’d take a look at how well his questions had been answered, whether as part of the draft or otherwise.


1.  Losing Chris Carr might not seem like much, but he averaged 28 yards on kickoff returns and 10 yards on punt returns.  Who will handle these jobs?
This is still a good question.  The Titans actually signed Mark Jones shortly after Lombardi posed this question, and he seems like as good an answer as any to this question.  Will he be both punt and kick returner?  Maybe-I’d put him as the favorite as the kick returner, with punt returner more of an open question.  Replacing Carr as a punt returner is easier to handle-per Football Outsiders’ stats, the Titans were below average on punt returns last year.  One Adam Jones, who was an outstanding punt returner, is available, I’ve heard.

2.  Will the addition of Nate Washington allow the Titans to make big plays down the field and improve their passing game?
Well, we’ll see.  Drexel recently wrote about a possible change in the Titans’ offensive philosophy.  I’d characterize it a little differently-Fisher isn’t changing his philosophy, but he has a level of trust in Heimerdinger’s ability that he didn’t really have in Chow.  And, while the Titans didn’t handle Chow’s firing well, Heimerdinger’s impact in his first year was apparent and positive.  How much the acquisition of Washington will add to the Titans’ big play ability is a question we won’t be able to answer until games start in September.

3.  Who will be the new Albert Haynesworth?  No one player is going to replace him, but who will be the player to create mismatches?
Well, there’s only one Albert Haynesworth, and maybe only a couple players in the NFL who could play at the level he was at most of last year.  None of them is walking through that door.  The Titans have, however, invested more in defensive tackles than they have in the past.  Fingers crossed, 2009 should also see a return to health for Kyle Vanden Bosch, which would be a great help in and of itself.  With the additions at defensive tackle and strong years from KVB and the rest of the ends, the Titans could see something like they had in 1999 and 2000-a defense with solid lines and strong edge play.  While lacking the dominant presence of Haynesworth, the Titans should still be a good defensive team in 2009.

The one thing I will be interested to see is how much pressure Chuck Cecil brings-Gregg Williams was a blitzer with the 46 scheme, whereas Jim Schwartz preferred to rush the front four only.

4.  Who will be the third corner?  Nick Harper is getting older, and this means a third corner might have to be a second corner at some point during the season.
I wish I knew the answer to this question.  This is what I wanted the Titans to spend their first round pick on.  Well, I have bad news: the most likely third corner looks like DeMarcus Faggins.  Yes, alas, that one.  Maybe it’ll be Cary Williams.  Maybe it’ll be this year’s 3rd round pick Ryan Mouton.  I’m really mistrustful of all of these answers.  Hopefully I’m wrong-I’ve been wrong plenty of times before, but I remember Chris Carr getting beat badly last year when Harper was out and I suspect we’ll be seeing something similar at least once this year.

5.  The Titans will need to add more speed and youth to their linebacker corps.  Who will fill that role?
While I generally like Lombardi’s work, I’m kind of confused by this question.  The Titans have a couple of pretty decent starting outside linebackers in Bulluck and Thornton.  Yes, Bulluck is on the older side for a Will and doesn’t have the speed he did as a younger player, but outside of when he was injured, he still looked pretty good to me.  Thornton is also a player to keep an eye on, but he’s not bad either.  Plus, Stephen Tulloch started in the middle the last dozen weeks of last season because he was a youth and speed upgrade over Ryan Fowler.

If Lombardi is instead talking about linebacker depth, I’m not hugely concerned-the Titans did take Gerald McRath in the 4th round, plus Stanford Keglar is entering his second year, while Josh Stamer and Fowler are still around for depth and experience.  Is there a clear-cut great option if Bulluck or Thornton suffers a major injury and misses a good deal of time?  Not that I see.  But, that sort of depth is a luxury in today’s NFL, and no team has it across the board.

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Do you like Lombardi’s questions?  Do you like my answers to his questions?  What about the other issue, the big questions facing the 2009 Titans that Lombardi didn’t address?  What’s the unknown unknown that could derail the Titans’ season?

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One Response to “Answering Michael Lombardi’s questions about the Titans”

  1. Bob Loblaw Says:

    Hey Tom, nice article.
    3 – I’ll say Griffin. He really stepped up last year, and if he’s up to playing a lot of cover 1, and I think he is, the Titans will have a good deal of flexibility in terms of doing different things to compensate for losing Albert.
    4 – I have to agree with you, but hope you are wrong. Fisher’s penchant for playing veterans is well known to us all. (Remember Lamont Thompson?) More disconcerting than the prospect of Faggins seeing game action would be what that might imply about Cary Williams et al.
    I would like to know if Harris will be given the opportunity to compete for the starting LG spot. He has played well when called on whereas Amano has been nothing better than serviceable. To me, he is the weakest link among the starters.
    Tom, something you might know, how can the Titans be so confident that Haynesworth will garner a 3rd round compensatory next year? If you match up the acquisitions and losses, the most comparable higher end contracts end up being B. Jones (5/16) v J.Haye (4/16) and Haynesworth (7/110) v Washington (6/27). Is Haynesworth’s contract simply so large that Washington’s doesn’t touch it in the compensatory formulation?

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