The Tennessee Titans visit Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday to face the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC South Division matchup of 1-2 teams. Titan Red Zone Publisher Greg Arias answers five questions about the Titans.
1. What's going on with the Titans? They looked so impressive in Week 1 at Kansas City, then the last two weeks have been disappointing to say the least. Can you put your finger on what it is?
I think this is a team still searching to find an identity on offense. They played so well against Kansas City and the fan expectations increased immediately, but as we have seen Kansas City has struggled. It's hard to tell at this point just where the Titans offense stands as Ken Whisenhunt has called out the entire receiving corp and Justin Hunter in particular, who have all disappeared in the last two weeks. The offensive line, which was thought to be a strength coming into the season has also had some issues, though it played much better overall against Cincinnati. Jake Locker is still the biggest question mark for this team as he is in a contract year and while it looked like his accuracy issues were fixed during the preseason, they have returned over the last two weeks and with the injury and his status for Sunday in doubt, his future here past this season is likely also in doubt right now.
2. Jake Locker is banged up, and aside from giving an update on his status for Sunday (I'm expecting he will play), do you think he's the long-term answer at quarterback for the Titans?
Jake Locker is the exact type of person any NFL team would want as its quarterback in that he is a great guy in the locker room and is very involved in the community. He's always a pleasure to talk to even when he is struggling or injured, but when you look at his overall numbers on the field they are disappointing, and there are the injury issues. He is also not the prototypical Ken Whisenhunt quarterback. Certainly this season is make or break for Jake with the Titans, and his latest injury has held him out of practice on both Wednesday and Thursday this week, so it will take a major turnaround for this offense this season for me to think Jake will be back next season. Fans are enamored with rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who is the prototypical Whisenhunt type and the natives are getting restless with the offensive struggles. If it continues and this team has a losing record at midseason, it is quite possible that we see Mettenberger get a chance to show what he can do.
3. Ken Whisenhunt has been around the NFL and seems to be well-respected by others in the media. What has he been like in Tennessee, and perhaps more importantly, what has been his blueprint for success or common perspective offered about rebuilding the Titans?
Things have changed dramatically around St. Thomas Sports Park with the arrival of Whisenhunt. He is changing most everything and it is a different organization from top to bottom. He is well-respected around the league and while it is a welcome change in terms of breaking the mold of Jeff Fisher, it has taken some getting used to by the players first and foremost. The attention to detail we see in practice and the pace with which the team works is probably the most evident change. I'm not sure what exactly his blueprint is since he is working with a majority of players held over from the previous staffs, but he preaches accountability and offers and accepts no excuses. There were times under Jeff Fisher that it seemed like a country club atmosphere in the locker room. That is no more, as we now see players working on their IPad's watching film and studying as opposed to having PlayStations and loud music blaring from players' lockers, so the attitude here is definitely improved for the better.
4. Tight end Delanie Walker has been a solid player this season, although I realize he's got a shoulder injury. What's the latest on his injury situation, and is it fair to say he's been the Titans' best offensive weapon so far?
It is very fair to say he has been the Titans' top offensive threat so far. He was a vocal guy in the offseason with regard to things that went on inside the locker room and when you speak up you had better bring it to the field with you and Delanie has certainly done that so far. As to his injury, we really don't know which shoulder was injured because he looked and acted fine when we spoke with him Sunday following the game. He did not practice at all on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday so his status is definitely in question for Sunday.
5. While the offense seems to have pieces in place for success, be it some decent players up front on the O-line, some capable pass catchers and a few backs who can be productive, how would you size up what the Titans' defense brings on Sunday? Specifically, who are the playmakers and does Tennessee suffer from not having enough impact players on that side of the ball?
I think you hit the nail on the head when you said the Titans suffer from a lack of impact players. This defense, like the offense, has some pieces but is a work in progress at this point. Jurrell Casey is having a good year so far and has been a disruptive force but with the change from the 4-3 to Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme the lack of a dominant pass rusher who puts fear into the opponents means that more guys have to step up and make plays. We have seen guys like Karl Klug answer the call. He is having perhaps his best season so far, but the outside linebackers, which are supposed to be guys that are sack guys have been lacking at this point. If Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Shaun Phillips and company can produce some pressure on the outside and take away potential double teams on Casey then this defense can become much better, but so far we have not seen that consistently, even though the Titans rank fifth in the league in total yards allowed.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.