The Indianapolis Colts ran away with the AFC South and went to the AFC Championship Game but proved they are a flawed team with a great quarterback. The Houston Texans made great strides from their 2-14 2013 to get to 9-7. The Jacksonville Jaguars provided the Titans with one of their wins.
Making the All-AFC South Team was tough if you were a left tackle -- the spot was hotly contested between Anthony Castonzo of the Colts and Duane Brown of the Texans.
Far more positions were clear-cut -- Andrew Luck and J.J. Watt took zero thought and required zero discussion.
And some guys are here because they were the best of a weak field -- Brandon Brooks and Derek Newton were not particularly good. And the Texans get three offensive linemen not because they had a great offensive line, but because the three other teams had even worse offensive fronts.
Left guard was worst of all -- Colts reporter Mike Wells, Texans reporter Tania Ganguli, Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco and I determined that no one worthy of a spot.
Three Titans are on the team: Tight end Delanie Walker is paired with Coby Fleener as we went with two players at the position in our base set; Jurrell Casey got the spot opposite Watt in our base 3-4 defense; inside linebacker Avery Williamson is the lone rookie on the team.
Outside linebacker Derrick Morgan got strong consideration from me, but ultimately lost out.
I have no idea how this all division team would do against others, but I know Luck and Watt would be surrounded by far more talent and would be even better than they already are.
Walker set a franchise record for yardage by a tight end in 14.5 games for the Titans with Zach Mettenberger, Charlie Whitehurst and Jake Locker throwing to him. With Luck as his quarterback, Walker would lose some chances to Fleener, but Walker would make a significant contribution to a much-better offense.
Casey is the guy on the Titans defense who draws a double team, but with Watt rushing from the other side, Casey would get great matchups and do greater damage as a rusher.
Williamson was a very steady, increasingly good player as a rookie. Given a chance to play next to veteran D'Qwell Jackson with Watt, Sen'Derrick Marks and Casey in front of him and far better coverage behind him, he could really thrive.
It’s fun to imagine.
The Titans hope all three have a better cast around them in Nashville next season, not just on our little all-star team.
Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) are joined by two other NFL Nation reporters to discuss the big game.
Kevin Seifert (NFL Nation writer) takes us behind the multi-step process that goes into the pregame checking of football inflation, and the impetus behind the league allowing quarterbacks to play with their own footballs. He also chats briefly about the Super Bowl's head referee, Bill Vinovich, and what we might be able to expect from his mixed crew.
Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter) shares his thoughts on covering the Super Bowl after having been in the press box of each championship game since Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta in 1994.
Be sure to watch NFL Nation TV live on ESPN.com this Friday at 1 p.m./10 a.m. PT as we catch up with Legwold and ESPN Insider's Mike Sando, who will fill us in on the Hall of Fame selection process that will occur this weekend.
Also, be sure to give the show's podcast a listen following each taping.
Listen to this week's podcast here.
Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will be joined by EPSN NFL Insider Kevin Seifert and Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter).
Seifert, who has covered the world of NFL officiating with aplomb, will break down the process of inflating and inspecting footballs and how officials are involved in the process. He’ll also give us a scouting report on the officials assigned for Sunday.
Legwold, who covered the Broncos in last year’s Super Bowl, will then give us a day-by-day breakdown of the week and how teams attempt to stay focused with so many outside distractions.
Also, the crew will discuss the Pro Football Focus project that examined how many above-average players each NFL team was from contending for this year’s Super Bowl.
Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.
NFL Nation TV will have a second show this week on Friday at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT.
Devin McCourty from New England would be an incredible get and he and his twin brother, Jason McCourty, could play together. Here’s a list of safeties heading toward free agency.
Paul Kuharsky: I can’t pretend to be able to predict Bud Adams if he were alive. But the biggest thing about Vince Young for Bud was that he was from Houston and went to Texas. Jameis Winston is from Bessemer, Alabama, and went to Florida State.
@PaulKuharskyNFL if Bud was still alive, what would he do following this 2-14 season? Would he push for Winston like he did VY?— SenCyr (@senCyr) January 24, 2015
Leonard Williams is widely regarded as a top defender. But Greg Cosell of NFL Films said his initial review led him to think the USC end is not especially explosive. I think the Titans would be well-served by explosiveness out of that pick if it’s a defender.
Adrian Peterson, but I don’t see them chasing a guy who’s had the issue he’s had. And I don’t see them making one of their big moves at running back, though given the guys they’ve chosen to believe in, addressing the position -- again -- wouldn’t be the worst idea.
They lost cornerback Alterraun Verner to Tampa Bay in free agency last offseason, but added linebacker Wesley Woodyard and right tackle Michael Oher. (Quality of play isn’t a factor; contracts and playing time are.)
(Here’s Over the Cap’s projected compensatories.)
Odds are they won’t get a compensatory pick in 2016, either.
The list of players they could lose in free agency is an unimpressive one, with only one player -- outside linebacker Derrick Morgan -- qualifying as anything close to marquee.
The Titans have pledged to be active in free agency, and the odds suggest they will add more than they can lose.
Here’s Pro Football Focus’ breakdown of the Titans’ free agents.
Only four guys have significant positive grades. Two of them are the team’s punter and kicker and a third is left tackle Michael Roos, who’s recovering from significant knee surgery and said he’s contemplating retirement.
Oregon State’s Sean Mannion has a skill set that fits with Ken Whisenhunt's mindset, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.
Glennon looks at Mannion and the other quarterbacks playing for Whisenhunt at the Senior Bowl.
Whisenhunt says the players the Titans are coaching at the Senior Bowl have gotten better as the week has gone on, according to a video report with Mike Keith and Amie Wells of the Titans' website.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty showed off his skills throwing red zone one-on-ones, says Joe Fann of the Titans' website.
In a new write-up in which he adjusts his grades factoring in what guys did in their rookie season -- and despite the solid showing by first-year guys in Tennessee -- the grade stays the same.
You can read Kiper's re-grade here.
Without a team stepping forward to be spotlighted, the league and network can choose from teams that don’t meet exemption criteria.
That list, per Richard Deitch of Sports Illustrated: The Giants, Washington, the Vikings, the Buccaneers, the Rams, the Browns, the Texans, the Jaguars and the Titans.
The draft and free agency will have a bearing on all those team, of course. There may be a coach and/or GM who decides having cameras around and players watched extra closely will be good for their team.
There may be an owner who trumps his employees and raises his hand for the show, eager to be seen and/or get TV time.
While I didn’t find last season’s series on the Atlanta Falcons particularly interesting, I think a behind-the-scenes look at any team noteworthy. We get to things that are typically shielded from view.
For HBO and league purposes, the Titans would be the least interesting team on the list.
It might be good for Ken Whisenhunt, who people would see is more interesting than he typically appears publicly. But GM Ruston Webster is a very low-key guy, and the roster is filled with low-key players.
There would be an interesting storyline regarding Zach Mettenberger and whatever new quarterback comes in. We’d likely learn more about the close friendship between Taylor Lewan and Mettenberger.
How things work and unfold can be compelling, but lacking big personalities and big storylines makes it less likely to be good television.
The Titans simply don’t have storylines like Tom Coughlin trying to fix the Giants, Robert Griffin III trying to save his career in Washington, the Vikings presumably post-Adrian Peterson, the Bucs with the first pick from the draft, the Rams with their loaded defensive front, the Browns and Johnny Manziel or the Texans with J.J. Watt.
The Jaguars certainly rank at the bottom of the list too. But energetic coach Gus Bradley would make for good TV and prompts me to score even the Jaguars higher than the Titans.
Coming off a 2-14 season, the Titans have a lot of work to do. The additions they make will produce some quality storylines.
None of them will make the Titans the team the NFL and HBO want to feature.
The Titans need a big, physical receiver and Ken Whisenhunt and his staff are coaching two at the Senior Bowl, Michigan State's 6-foot-3, 193-pound Tony Lippett, and Washington State's 6-2, 219-pound Vince Mayle. The story from John Glennon of The Tennessean.
Deflating footballs is something Whisenhunt said he’s never even discussed, says Glennon.
In this mock draft from Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams is the pick for the Titans at No. 2.
To which I say: Greg Cosell of NFL Films said on my Nashville radio show that he’s not sure what Leonard Williams is, that he’s not explosive, that he’s not a 3-technique. To Cosell, Williams is a 3-4 defensive end. To me, a not-explosive defensive end isn’t going to be a big cure for the Titans' issues.
Former Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth pleaded guilty to reckless boating, says WVLT in Knoxville. (Hat tip to David Boclair.)
Tom Gower of Total Titans looks at the breakdown of running back carries against his preseason prediction.
Wednesday’s Senior Bowl report from the Titans website with Mike Keith, Amie Wells and Joe Fann. (Video.)
Kelly coached Mariota, the Heisman Trophy winner, at Oregon.
Mark Eckel of NJ.com has a source who told him the Eagles will try to move up to get Mariota, though they know it will be difficult.
Could this mean Philadelphia is a trade partner for the Titans?
The cost of jumping from the Eagles' spot at 20 to the Titans' spot at 2 could make it impossible. Eckel’s report acknowledges it would probably take two trades to get in range for Mariota.
If Tampa Bay doesn't take Mariota first overall and the Eagles wanted to move to No. 2 to select him, it would take a monster deal.
In 2012, Washington gave up the fifth pick in the draft, the 33rd pick in the draft, a 2013 first-round pick and a 2014 first-round pick to get the second pick from the Rams.
That was for a three-spot drop in the first round and a player, Robert Griffin III, generally regarded by the league as a can’t-miss talent.
Mariota won’t likely have as much pull/value.
But considering the haul the Rams collected for a small first-round drop, the Titans expectation for a move from 2 to 20 would be gigantic.
The old-school draft value chart (often called the Jimmy Johnson chart) should be getting deemphasized a bit in favor of new analytical charts like this one from Chase Stuart of Football Perspective.
“Teams generally stick to the Jimmy Johnson chart at the top of the draft, although that can change in years where the top picks aren't considered to be as valuable,” Stuart told me. “Remember, a No. 2 pick could be RG3 [trade everything!]or Luke Joeckel [trade nothing!].”
The entire draft order is not out, though the Titans should have 2, 33 in the second round and 66 in the third while the Eagles should have 20, 52 in the second and 84 in the third. From there picks will be influenced by compensatory picks that get splashed into the end of the remaining rounds.
I used the compensatory projections of Over The Cap to flesh out the full 256 picks.
By my estimate -- emphasis on estimate -- the Titans will have roughly 3,607 points on the Jimmy Johnson chart and the Eagles just 1,503.
Philadelphia’s entire draft would come up 1,097 points short of the value of the No. 2 pick (2,600) and no one in the NFL circa 2014 is giving away an entire draft plus in exchange for one player.
The package the Eagles would have to put together to get the Titans pick would be enormous, with implications into 2016 and probably 2017. It’s hard to imagine Kelly, no matter the degree of his affection for Mariota, would or could make the move if the quarterback is available second on April 30.
In the fantasy world where it happens, the Titans could obviously make such a deal and then trade back up to still get an impact guy closer to the top of the draft.
A trade from 1978 is hardly going to function as a model. But here is what the Oilers did to move from No. 17 to No. 1 back then to get Earl Campbell.
As we move forward, here are two good resources from Football Perspective for examining draft pick trades:
Jimmy Johnson Draft Pick Value Calculator.
Football Perspective Draft Pick Trade Calculator.
Tommy Smith's declaration that the Titans are not for sale leaves Tennessean columnist David Climer searching for indications it can work. "I'm struggling to find examples that things are markedly better than they were on Bud [Adams'] watch. The product on the field is at an all-time low. The level of complaints by fans about the game-day experience at LP Field is at an all-time high. Some point out that Smith has empowered a few key figures in the front office in ways that bottom-line Bud never did. Great. But show me where all this empowering has really changed things."
While the Titans' coaching staff is intact at the Senior Bowl, Ken Whisenhunt was unwilling to say they will move forward with the status quo, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.
A closer look at the edge rushers the Titans are getting a view of at the Senior Bowl, from Glennon.
Whisenhunt really wanted Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to join the Titans-coached team at the Senior Bowl, but the prospect passed, says Glennon.
To which I say: It makes perfect sense that Whisenhunt would want time with a top quarterback prospect. Don't read more into it than that.
Redrafting the 2014 first round, Taylor Lewan goes 10th to Detroit, and the Titans wind up with Kyle Fuller, the Virginia Tech cornerback who actually went to the Bears at No. 14. Read more on Doug Farrar's draft for Sports Illustrated.
A breakdown of field position for the Titans' 2014 offense and defense, from Tom Gower of Total Titans.
Senior Bowl takeaways from Joe Fann of the Titans' website.
I put them in rough order, but we certainly could have shuffle the list without much debate.
I know the suspense has been unbearable and it was impossible to predict the winner, especially with 11 other candidates off the board.
So here we go to No. 1.
Game: Bengals 33, Titans 7, Week 3 at Paul Brown Stadium, Sept. 21, 2014
Situation: Tennessee came into the game 1-1 with a win at Kansas City and a loss to Dallas in the books. We still had little idea about who the Titans really were as they got to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. The Titans trailed 3-0 late in the first quarter and the Bengals moved deep into Tennessee territory.
Play: Facing first-and-10 from the Titans 18, Andy Dalton took the shotgun snap, pitched the ball right to receiver Mohamed Sanu, and leaked out to the left as a receiver. "As soon as I released it, I was like ‘Uh oh,'" Sanu said. "Because they had a guy right there who we didn’t expect to be there." The guy was cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who’d seen the play in practice as the Titans prepared for the Bengals. They were well aware of Sanu’s propensity to be involved in trick plays. But Wreh-Wilson hesitated, unable to decide if he should go for the ball or crush the quarterback. In that pause, he failed to do either, allowing Dalton to catch it and head for the end zone and a 10-0 lead. "At the end of the day, I have to find a way just to eliminate the touchdown,” Wreh-Wilson said. “Deciding between making a play on the ball or the man, that’s where things got a little tricky for me. I was trying to pick a place to hit him where it would basically eliminate a penalty. When the ball was up in the air, I should have just hit him and that should have been the end of it. Hit him and eliminate the possibility of a run after a catch." His indecision in that moment serves as the top illustration from 2014 of just what the Titans were -- and weren’t.
Here’s a Twitter follower who suggested it:
@PaulKuharskyNFL Blidi not knowing if he should tackle or intercept the pass to Dalton. He did neither. That sums it up for me.— Paul Ruddy (@ParddyMa) Jan. 5, 2015
No. 2: Wesley Woodyard's penalty against the Jets
No. 3: Shonn Greene’s goal-line fumble in Baltimore
No. 4: The failed fourth-down sneak against the Browns
No. 5: Zach Mettenberger's pick-6 against the Steelers
No. 6: Pierre Garcon's 70-yard touchdown catch
No. 7: Mettenberger's second shoulder injury
No. 8: Bernard Pollard's dropped interception
No. 9: Mettenberger's bomb to Nate Washington
No. 10: Le'Veon Bell running out the clock
No. 11: Sammie Hill's field goal block against the Jaguars
No 12: Chris Spencer's false start on a kneel down
Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) are joined by four other NFL Nation reporters to discuss the recent hirings made by the teams they cover.
Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter) discusses the hiring of Gary Kubiak, minutes before Kubiak was introduced to media in the Mile High City. Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears reporter) chats about former Broncos head coach John Fox's recent hiring in the Windy City. Rich Cimini (New York Jets reporter) talks about Todd Bowles becoming the Jets' new head coach. And Bill Williamson (Oakland Raiders reporter) and Gutierrez break down the decisions that brought Jack Del Rio back to the Bay Area, and kept Jim Tomsula there.
Be sure to watch NFL Nation TV live on ESPN.com each Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, and give the show's podcast a listen following each taping.
Listen to this week's podcast here.
Inside linebacker Avery Williamson doesn’t think his fine rookie season assures him of anything going forward, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. "I feel like I have to come in and earn that spot back next year," Williamson said. "I am not going into next season thinking that is going to be my job automatically. That is why this offseason I have to put in a lot of work and be better."
The scoop on Senior Bowl prospects from ESPN’s Todd McShay. One of note who is on McShay’s most-to-prove is Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion. "Mannion has a prototypical frame for the QB position at 6-5, 220 pounds, and he has the arm to make all the throws," says McShay. "But he needs to be more consistent with his accuracy and his decision-making. He's coming off of a subpar senior season with a 15-8 TD-INT ratio. What I want to see out of him is how he handles pressure. Can he maneuver inside the pocket and make accurate throws on pressure drops?"
Phil Savage, who heads the Senior Bowl, visited with Mike Keith and Amie Wells of the Titans website. (Video.)