Titans’ Sixer: Fisher could be making Bud’s choice too easy

December 5, 2010 1 comment

 The Titans’ “Sixer,” a six-pack of things I believe I learned about the team, after another ugly loss, the Titans’ fifth in a row. Herewith “the Sixer” on the 17-6 debacle against the Jaguars:

1. If the Titans’ locker room is only big enough for one of them, Vince Young’s injury might have given him the edge over Jeff Fisher. Take a look at last week’s “Sixer,” where I wrote that a nine-game losing streak is a very real possibility. Four games remain — two against the Colts, a home game against the Texans and a road game against the Chiefs. It’s doubtful the Titans will be favored in any. If this team goes from 5-2 to 5-11, it paves the way for Titans owner Bud Adams to part ways with Fisher and keep his beloved quarterback. Yes, the Titans have fought injuries and an uncommon amount of off-field distractions, but someone has to fall on the sword if this turns out as badly as it looks like it will right now.

2. This team has a dearth of offensive playmakers. The Titans haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in 13 quarters plus an overtime. Who on the offensive side of the ball strikes fear in an opposing defense? It used to be Chris Johnson. I’m not even sure he does anymore. Secondaries aren’t shaking in their Nikes over the likes of Nate Washington, Justin Gage or even Randy Moss. Isn’t it time rookie Damian Williams got a shot? The offense can’t be any worse. You know who the good teams in the NFL are nowadays? The ones who keep stockpiling offensive talent even when people think they have enough offense.

3. The safeties should burn the Jaguars game tape before Monday. Chris Hope and Michael Griffin didn’t play well on Sunday. Not that Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t make the entire Titans defense look like a Pee Wee team, but MJD plowed over Griffin in the first half and stiff-armed him to the ground in the fourth quarter so badly I had to look away as though I was watching the LT-Theismann replay. Hope, as good a guy as there is in the locker room and a standup guy, missed a couple of tackles badly, including one where David Garrard basically shrugged him off on his way to the end zone.

4. The defensive front seven should burn the Jaguars game tape before Monday. The Jaguars rushed for 258 yards like they were Auburn playing LSU. LB Stephen Tulloch said, ““I’ve never been a part of something like that in my five years here. We have to dig deep and find out what’s going on because that’s not what this team is about.” Jacksonville blew the Titans off the ball on nearly every one of their 53 carries. Garrard gained 3 yards on a third-and-1 sneak in the second quarter. That pretty much says it all.

5. The offense should burn the Jaguars game tape … and the Texans game tape … and the Redskins game tape … you get the picture. Right now this team has a better chance to score on defense or in the return game than it does on offense. Marc Mariani has more touchdowns (one) over the past three games than Chris Johnson, Randy Moss, Nate Washington and Bo Scaife combined. It would be fair to criticize the play-calling, but see No. 2 (above). Who do you expect to make a big play? Here’s another ugly stat: The Titans’ time-of-possession deficit during their five-game losing streak is 190:35 to 116:08. THAT’S 74 MINUTES AND 27 SECONDS OVER FIVE GAMES. THAT’S A GAME-AND-A-QUARTER. THAT’S INSANE. Sorry, thought that deserved all caps. Didn’t want anyone to miss it.

6. Faith Hill must have known something. Check the blog from Friday. She picked the Jaguars to win in The Tennessean on Thursday after picking the Titans to win the past 27 in a row. Did she get to somebody? Have inside information?

Categories: Uncategorized

Faith Hill jumps off Titans bandwagon

December 3, 2010 1 comment


Where’s the faith, Faith?

 

For the first time since she began picking NFL games in The Tennessean at the start of the 2009 season, country artist Faith Hill has picked against her hometown Titans.

 

Hill had picked the Titans to win their past 27 consecutive games before her surprise choice of the Jaguars this Sunday at LP Field. The newspaper runs her picks along with those of columnists David Climer and Joe Biddle and beat writers Jim Wyatt and John Glennon on Thursdays. 

 

Just last week Hill picked the Titans at Houston while all four of the other panelists chose the Texans. The Texans won 20-0.

 

Efforts to reach Hill via her New York publicist were unsuccessful.

 

At best Hill’s choice this week is a curious one. Yes, the Titans are mired in a four-game losing streak, but they beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville 30-3 on Oct. 10. And it looks increasingly like quarterback Kerry Collins will return to the lineup after missing the past few games with a calf injury.

 

Hill went 171-86 last season, beating all of The Tennessean cognoscenti despite picking the Titans to win 16 in a row. According to Tennessean sports editor Larry Taft the week’s games are e-mailed to Hill’s publicist on Mondays and returned to the sports department via e-mail on Wednesdays.

 

“I don’t have a clue as to why (she picked the Jaguars),” Taft told Sportsinthe615. “We never ask.

 

“But it adds a lot of oomph for us to have her picks. It has an impact for us.”

 

Taft said as far as he knows Hill makes the picks herself, and he believes she takes it seriously.

 

“She’s very competitive,” Taft said. “She’s always interested in how she did the week before.”

 

We’ll see if the Franklin resident and country star knows something the others don’t. Hill is in last place this season with a 99-73 mark. Wyatt leads at 109-63. He’s picking the Titans.

Categories: Uncategorized

Titans’ Sixer: Losses mounting, and no relief in sight

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

The Titans’ “Sixer,” a six-pack of things I believe I learned about the team, after another ugly loss, the Titans’ fourth in a row. Herewith “the Sixer” on the 20-0 whitewash by the Texans:

1. I’m starting to fear for Jeff Fisher’s job, and it doesn’t seem fair. This comment isn’t necessarily related to Sunday’s effort by his team, which certainly was less than stellar. This goes to all of the trouble all week with Vince Young and the involvement of Titans owner Bud Adams. There are a couple of things of which I’m certain about this franchise, and one is that the owner, for whatever reason, is a VY guy. Yes, he has been a Fisher guy for a lot of years, too, but he stepped in and told Fisher to draft Young and now he has told Fisher to mend the fences with his mentally fragile signal-caller. Seriously, Bud? Listen to your coaches and your front office. Listen to every analyst on every network. Your “chosen” QB undermined his coach and cursed at him in front of your whole team. Is there anybody in your company who could do that to you and get away with it? Yeah, I didn’t think so. But Fisher has to swallow all of this and go to war with the guy? Too much for anybody to swallow. Maybe Adams uses a nine-game season-ending losing streak (let’s face it — it’s a REAL possibility) to dump Fisher. It’s the only way I can see VY back in a Titans uniform in 2011.

2. I haven’t seen the Chris Johnson of 2009 since Week 3 against the Giants. In the past eight games CJ has two runs longer than 30 yards. Two. Last year he had three games in which he had two 30-plus yard runs. There was a run Sunday against the Texans where he started right, saw too many defenders, and looked to reverse left. It looked like nothing but daylight awaited. It was exactly the kind of run where everyone stands on their feet, sure CJ is about to gallop for a score. Instead, Houston LB Brian Cushing caught him from behind. No way that would have happened last year. It seems like every away game I watch on TV I hear the network analyst say, “Johnson looks a bit slower, he doesn’t have that same burst.” I had a high enough draft pick in two fantasy leagues to take CJ. I passed for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers both times. Feeling pretty good about that.

3. Cortland Finnegan as instigator is way overrated. Am I supposed to be impressed that Finnegan got under Andre Johnson’s skin to the point Johnson lost his cool and got tossed from the game (and quite possibly the next one)? The Titans were losing badly at the time, and Finnegan got tossed, too. Am I supposed to believe this gives Finnegan some pyschological edge over Johnson? It doesn’t. Check the stats. Johnson has had some monster games against the Titans. The two will meet again at LP Field on Dec. 19. Finnegan confuses chippiness with greatness. Greatness is when your play speaks for you.

4. Randy Moss’ 2011 audition tape is headed straight to DVD. What I’m saying is this: If Moss has something — anything — in the tank he better start showing it because he’s on the verge of playing himself out of the league.  In his past 15 games across three franchises Moss has one catch of longer than 37 yards. And that was last season. For the sake of comparison he had eight receptions of 40-plus yards in 2007. Moss isn’t exactly going to transition into a go-over-the-middle, get-the-tough-yards receiver. Is he a Hall of Famer? Without question. In his prime he was absolutely phenomenal, maybe the best deep-ball threat ever. But he’s 33, and from the looks of it his prime is in the rear-view mirror and it ain’t exactly driving like Jimmie Johnson to catch up.

5. Rusty Smith didn’t get a lot of help. There isn’t a QB on God’s green earth who can lead the Titans to a victory when Chris Johnson carries seven times for 5 yards. I’m not even sure the ol right-hander in the sky his own self could have pulled off that miracle. Yes, Smith has to be better than he was on Sunday. But he’s not the first rookie to throw three interceptions in his first NFL start. Turns out another QB in the division had three in each of his first two starts. Guy by the name of Peyton Manning. Right now Smith is throwing to spots, and he’s not exactly paying complete attention to the defense. That comes with time. But there are moments when he makes some throws and you just go, “Yeah, OK, I can see why they like him so much.”

6. The Titans are who we thought they were. If you go back and check predictions for the 2010 season, you’ll find the majority of prognosticators saw the Titans as a middling, non-playoff team. When they were 5-2 we all were Googling recipes for crow because a lot of us were going to have to eat a fair portion. Now they’re 5-6 and 8-8 looks like a pipe dream.

Categories: Uncategorized

Titans’ Sixer: Thumbs down for VY

November 21, 2010 5 comments

The Titans’ “Sixer,” a six-pack of things I believe I learned about the team, after another ugly loss, the Titans’ third in a row. Herewith “the Sixer” on the 19-16 stinker against the Redskins at LP Field:

1. Whither Vince Young. Is VY the future of the franchise at QB? If he does, in fact, have season-ending surgery on his right thumb, which Jeff Fisher said is a possibility, he will have appeared in just 53 games out of a possible 80 since coming here in 2006. Whether by injury or coach’s decision, that’s not a great track record. Meanwhile, he’s in a division where Peyton Manning has started 200-plus in a row, and even David Garrard has started 46 of the past 47. No one knows what the pain is like in a torn flexor in their throwing thumb unless they’ve had one. But everyone in the West stands at LP Field watched Young take snaps and make practice tosses on the sidelines after the injury. The appearance of being soft is an all-too-close cousin to actually being soft. Jeff Fisher said afterward that even if Young doesn’t have surgery he’s no longer the starting QB. Thus completes a precipitous fall from grace.

2. Thank God Dallas Clark is out for the year. The Titans still have two meetings with the Colts coming up, and the way they have covered opposing tight ends for the past few weeks Clark would have been checking off incentive bonuses left and right. You know Dolphins TE Anthony Fasano had a career-best 107 yards last week. On Sunday, Redskins TE Chris Cooley didn’t catch a ball through three quarters. But between the fourth quarter and overtime he riddled the Titans for seven catches for 91 yards. As much as anyone Cooley pushed Tennessee to its third consecutive loss.

3. The pass rush continues its downward spiral. Yes, the Titans registered three sacks Sunday, but two were more or less falldowns or slips by Donovan McNabb, especially Jason Babin’s first-quarter sack. McNabb simply got stepped on by one of his offensive linemen on that one. The Redskins lost two offensive linemen to injury during the game, and still the Titans managed only one legitimate sack of McNabb. The guy had a lot of time to throw, which also has been contributing to what tight ends have done to the Titans (see No. 2 above). McNabb attempted 50 passes, and to post only one legit sack is disappointing to say the least.

4. Is Randy Moss here to catch passes or not? The most interesting thing to watch during the game was how Young and Smith treated Moss. Young virtually ignored the Titans’ most recent acquisition; Smith immediately threw his first two passes to him. One almost was picked off because Moss stopped on a route; the other was a touchdown bomb that was called back for interference on Moss. Here’s my thing: If the corner is off 5-10 yards, just take the snap and throw it to him. It keeps him happy, gives him a chance to make a play, keeps the defense honest. Try it.

5. Marc Mariani is gold. The Titans deserve a lot of credit for plucking the rookie wide receiver out of Montana in the seventh round. Can you guess the only player in the league this season with a punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown? Mariani. The Titans stunk in the return game last season. They were awful. This kid has made them as dangerous as just about any team in the league. His 87-yard punt return against the Redskins was the second-longest in franchise history, and his 98-yard kickoff return against the Broncos was the Titans’ first KO return for a TD in nine years. Interestingly, though, the Titans have lost both games in which Mariani had a return for a score. Hmmm. Mariani is silver?

6. The lack of discipline is disappointing. Babin is a great guy and he has been a huge acquisition, but his personal foul on a second-and-22 in overtime was a game-changing blunder. He’s way smarter than that. Then LB Will Witherspoon got called for a blow to the helmet of McNabb. Later on the same drive rookie CB Alterraun Verner got hit with an illegal contact foul. Three penalties for 35 yards and three automatic first downs on the Redskins’ final drive in overtime. That’s downright ugly.

Categories: Uncategorized

Titans’ Sixer: Rolling Moss gathers almost no receptions

November 15, 2010 8 comments

The Titans’ “Sixer,” a six-pack of things I believe I learned about the team, is back after a bye week. Herewith “the Sixer” on the 29-17 debacle in Miami that dropped the Titans to 5-4:

1. If this is why the Titans claimed Randy Moss they shouldn’t have claimed Randy Moss. Four targets? One catch? Really?!? It was difficult to tell how much his presence related to Chris Johnson posting 117 yards and averaging a whopping 6.9 per carry. That’s kind of what we’ve been waiting on from CJ. But I hope Bud Adams isn’t paying Moss $3 million for eight games just to be a decoy. Throw him the damn ball. CBS analyst Dan Fouts kept saying Moss was open. He even went so far as to say he couldn’t believe Vince Young ignored him on one third-quarter throw when he apparely was lonely and waiting.

2. The secondary is becoming a primary concern. Since Week 3 against the Giants the Titans have yielded 311.6 passing yards per game. That’s HORRENDOUS. Somehow the Titans are 4-3 in those seven games, so we all mostly brushed off the big yardage totals. But when a QB who just got benched (Chad Henne) and an emergency QB (Tyler Thigpen) combine to pass for more than 300 yards, it’s time to get seriously worried. Throw in the fact you haven’t had either meeting with Peyton Manning or the pass-happy Texans and Andre Johnson just yet and this team has some things that need to get fixed fast.

3. It’s fair to be worried about the QB position. Young has played well all season, but it just feels like this high ankle thing is gonna drag on for a while. Kerry Collins came in with a bad middle finger on his throwing hand and left with a calf injury. Before the calf injury his passes were well off target, perhaps because of the torn tendon in the finger. Compound it with the calf injury and who knows how much time he’ll miss. I think Rusty Smith has a ton of potential, but if you believe you’re a playoff team you don’t hand the keys to a rookie you took in the sixth round out of Florida Atlantic.

4. QB pressure in need of pulse check. The defensive line, with the help of some timely blitzes, had terrorized opposing quarterbacks through the first five games. The Titans had 22 sacks after the first handful of games, their fastest start since 1979. They have only five sacks in the past four games. Yes, teams are learning to get rid of the ball quickly against this defense. Yes, the Dolphins are one of the best in the league at protecting the quarterback. But you can see the result of not getting pressure; the secondary is getting riddled by guys named Tyler Thigpen. Guess who’s No. 1 in fewest sacks allowed? The Colts, whom the Titans still have to face twice.

5. The coaching staff wasn’t sharp against the Dolphins. Jeff Fisher sounded almost relaxed earlier in the week when he heard Henne wasn’t starting. His candor about the Dolphins switch almost shocked me. It didn’t take long to see why he didn’t want to see Henne. And how does Anthony Fasano have a career day against you? Oh, right, because a lot of QBs and receivers are having career days against you at the moment.

6. Making the playoffs almost assuredly will take winning the division, and winning the division almost assuredly will take a sweep of the Colts. With the loss Sunday the Titans fell a game behind the Colts in the AFC South.  If you read Nos. 2-4, how do you feel about this team busting out the broom on Manning & Co.? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Editor’s note: For some god-forsaken reason I can no longer use Pic App photos on the blog. Or if I can I’m not sure how. If you have any suggestions as to how to use Pic App or for another place to get free images, please post in the comments. Thanks.


Categories: Uncategorized

The Moss Gamble: Can the Titans make it pay off?

November 3, 2010 2 comments

I advocated the Titans’ signing of Randy Moss in this space a couple of days ago.

But holy cow, I never thought they’d actually do it.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=Randy+Moss&iid=10117399″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/10117399/minnesota-vikings-practice/minnesota-vikings-practice.jpg?size=500&imageId=10117399″ width=”234″ height=”189″ /]I mean, let’s face it: It’s a brassy move. The guy alternately is a Hall of Fame receiver and a Hall of Fame pain in the ass. Part of what got him unceremoniously run out of Minnesota after they traded a freaking third-round pick for him was his over-the-line dressing down of the guy who caters for the Vikings.

NFL coaches have egos the size of Albert Haynesworth. Jeff Fisher has to believe he can keep Moss in line and focused on football. He is aware others have tried, with varying degrees of success.

I’m sure the Titans are thinking Moss can draw double coverage and help keep safeties out of the box, thus opening more room for Chris Johnson to roam. Whether or not Moss’ skills have eroded there still isn’t a team in the league that will single-cover him. They know if they do he’ll kill them.

But will Moss come here to play, or will he simply continue a descent that will see him with no place else to go after one more misstep?

Here are four reasons this will work, and three reasons it won’t:

WHY IT’LL WORK

1. This is a good locker room for Moss. Moss and Chris Johnson have the same agent, Joel Segal, and Johnson said he had been stumping to bring in Moss with Segal and with Fisher. S Michael Griffin was the first to tweet in favor of Moss coming in, and when the Titans actually did claim him Griffin tweeted, “Welcome Randy Moss to the Titans. Prayers answered.” Kerry Collins, who played with Moss with the Raiders in 2005, had high praise for Moss. “I like Randy,” Collins said. “Randy, when I was with him, was a professional. He’s a smart guy, obviously extremely talented. Defenses pay a lot of attention to him. So from that standpoint he’d be a great addition.”

2. The Titans are throwing the deep ball. Another thing I never thought would happen. But Vince Young is a much better in the vertical game than he is throwing short passes. And Collins and Kenny Britt showed what they can do against the Eagles. It used to be a running joke that no free-agent WR would entertain the thought of coming to this franchise. Not so at the moment.

3. Fisher will handle him well. Moss, for all his faults and failings, hasn’t gotten in a lot of trouble off the field, whereas Fisher’s last real problem child, Pacman Jones, couldn’t stay out of trouble off the field. Moss has caused problems in many a locker room, but not even Haynesworth caused divisiveness here. I’m sure the coach has done his due diligence on this one and believes Moss will understand he’s running out of options.

4. The Titans’ remaining schedule is a receiver’s dream. The Titans have eight games remaining; five are against the 10 worst pass defenses in the league.

WHY IT WON’T

1. Who stands up to Moss in this locker room? There are a lot of impressionable guys here. This is a young team, especially at receiver where there is a second-year player and two rookies. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a guy here who could put Moss in his place if necessary, and I certainly can’t think of one on the offensive side unless there’s a chance it’s Collins.

2. The running game returns. If he’s being honest, Fisher would rather run 35 times and throw 15 than vice versa. If Moss really does create more room for Johnson and the running game gets going, will Randy be happy simply winning but not catching passes? His track record if it goes like that isn’t good.

3. Fisher won’t handle him well. Moss is going to come at Fisher in ways he probably never has even considered. The guy is three handfuls and Fisher has only two hands.

Categories: Uncategorized

Moss isn’t a perfect fit anywhere, but Titans should take a long look

November 1, 2010 1 comment

Every writer, blogger, fan, sports anchor and/or talk-show host  in every NFL city will ask the question over the next 24 hours, until we find out which team, if any, claims Randy Moss on waivers.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=randy+moss&iid=10098241″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/10098241/ravens-moss-warms-gillette/ravens-moss-warms-gillette.jpg?size=500&imageId=10098241″ width=”234″ height=”314″]Why not “Team X” for the erstwhile Mr. Moss?

Even Jeff Fisher admits it’s a hot topic.

“I would venture to say that every head coach, or maybe 30 head coaches in this league are having discussions about it right now,” the coach said. “We might have a 30-second conversation or we might go to the midnight hour.”

So here’s the case for the Titans to man up and take the chance. Crazy move? Yes. Any crazier than drafting Pacman Jones No. 6 overall? Not even close.

1. Kenny Britt is hurt. Jeff Fisher said Britt’s hamstring injury, suffered in the first quarter on Sunday against the Chargers, would keep the second-year wide receiver out for “an extended period of time.” At the moment Britt leads the Titans in receptions (23), yards (434) and touchdowns (seven). Whether the quarterback is Vince Young or Kerry Collins, Britt’s size and speed are needed for this offense.

2. Moss isn’t done. All this talk of Moss not having much in the tank is ludicrous. The guy has 22 receptions for 313 yards and five touchdowns, and that’s while pretty much despising everyone around him. Those numbers would rank second, third and second on the Titans.

3. The vertical game is working. In recent weeks Mike Heimerdinger has gone all mad bomber in his play-calling, and lo and behold it has been working a lot of the time. Britt has seven receptions of 20-plus yards and Nate Washington has six. Seven Titans have at least one catch of 25 yards. With teams stacking the line of scrimmage to keep Chris Johnson from running wild, the Titans are taking shots down the field. This franchise isn’t the unappealing destination for a receiver that it used to be.

4. Moss and Britt are physical doppelgangers. Britt is listed at 6-3, 215. Moss is 6-4, 210.  They’re big targets who especially make their presence felt in the red zone. What if Moss took Britt under his wing and actually tutored him about the game? If Fisher and Heimerdinger managed to get Moss to buy in and mentor Britt the reward could be just as scary as the risk.

5. It would only help Chris Johnson. There’s no way opponents could walk a safety into the box with Moss AND Britt on the field at the same time. ‘Dinger might actually be able to use a four-wide receiver set more than once every autumnal equinox.

6. It’s the bye week. What better time to integrate Moss into your offense than your bye week? He gets time to study and meet everybody, and the coaches get a chance to explore the possibilities.

7. The players already are clamoring for him. CJ and Michael Griffin have tweeted they would support the signing of Moss. Any questions?

Categories: Uncategorized