AFC SOUTH TENNESSEE 2014 STRENGTHS: • The depth and skill along the offensive line. Titans’ Offense Perhaps the biggest change to the offense in 2014 will be how new coach Ken Whisenhunt implements his system within the current crop of players on the roster. Just based on prior years, Whisenhunt has shown that he favors the passing game and has an aptitude for having a game plan that revolves around it. He will need to be very innovative this year. Gone is franchise stalwart running back Chris Johnson to the Jets after he led the Titans in rushing for the last six years. Trying to replace him will be second-round pick out of Washington Bishop Sankey. Last year Sankey broke Corey Dillon’s school record for rushing yards as he ran for 1,870 yards while also scoring 20 touchdowns despite playing behind an offensive line that was inconsistent at times. With an emphasis being put on the passing game, quarterback Jake Locker will have to show the form that made him the eighth overall pick in 2011. Locker was well on his way to improving upon his 2012 campaign when injuries interrupted his season and limited him to seven games. He finished the year with 1,256 yards through the air while also gaining 155 yards on the ground. Locker will hope to have the same chemistry with wideout Kendall Wright as former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. In his second season out of Baylor, Wright had a breakout year as he pulled down 94 passes for 1,079 yards. Another player that could have a major impact on the offense is free-agent acquisition Dexter McCluster. The Chiefs import is as flexible as they come, as he can be used both out of the backfield and in the slot as a wide receiver. The Ole Miss product utilizes his speed and shiftiness just as well as a punt returner and is a threat to take one back for a touchdown any time he touches the ball. Offensive Player to Watch Without Fitzpatrick to back him up, the pressure is all on Locker’s shoulders to lead this team back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season. He will have to play like he did at the start of last season, where he led the team to a 3-1 2014 WEAKNESSES: • Lack of depth at the skill positions. TITANS record despite being knocked out of the game against the Jets on September 29. In those games, Locker threw six touchdowns with no interceptions. Upon his return from injury he threw only two touchdowns and four interceptions. Whether it’s Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, the player that shows up under center will determine the Titans’ season. Titans’ Defense The 2014 offseason will be marked by the departure of Alterraun Verner to Tampa Bay. Among the candidates inhouse that are looking to replace the Pro Bowl cornerback are Coty Sensabaugh, Tommie Campbell and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Whoever wins the spot vacated by Verner will be playing alongside Jason McCourty, who has started every game he has played in over the last three seasons. There is talent within this group, but there is a lot of inexperience as well. The secondary will take a hit after losing a player of Verner’s caliber but will hope that additions along the defensive front will take the pressure off of the back end. One of the veterans that the team brought in is linebacker Shaun Phillips. While he just turned 33 in May, Phillips has shown in recent years that he has a lot of football left to play in his 6-3, 255-pound frame. He is coming off a year where he had ten sacks for the Broncos. The pressure that he provides off the edge will surely free up defensive lineman Jurrell Casey to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks after he broke out for 10.5 sacks in his third year in the league. The Titans will look for the same production out of Casey, especially now with another edge rusher on the roster. Phillips is not the only player that the Titans plundered from the Bronco defense in free agency this year. Inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard makes his way to Tennessee after six seasons in the Mile High City. Over the past two seasons, Woodyard has combined for over 200 tackles. Affectionately known as “The Lumberjack,” the Titans hope he can lead a young group of linebackers while holding the fort until less experienced players, Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers, find their way.
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