Behind Enemy Lines- Titans
1. Last week the Houston Texans were able to key in on Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson due to the lack of a threat in the passing game with rookie Rusty Smith. Obviously the Titans would rather have Kerry Collins under center on Sunday, but what percentage of health do you believe Collins would have to be at to get the starting nod over Smith?
Andrew Strickert: Probably not much, maybe even 50% healthy would be good enough for Collins to get the starting nod. Jeff Fisher has demonstrated a lot of faith in Collins over the years and also has a long history of not trusting rookies at any position. Collins practiced on Wednesday, although he was limited, and I expect him to start unless he has a setback.
2. With the exception of last week, Titans running back Chris Johnson is having another great season. Although his lofty preseason goal of 2,500 yards rushing won't be met and he isn't anywhere near his 2,000 yard pace of a season ago, he's still a Top-Five back in terms of yardage. What do you make of the drop in numbers from 2009 to 2010? Is it the offensive line, teams keying in on Johnson more or lack of a consistent passing attack?
AS: As is often the case with situations like this, it's not just one thing and is mostly a combination of all the above. More than anything, it's teams keying on CJ, as you mentioned, stacking the box with eight and sometimes nine men, and trying to deny him the edge. Another thing that's contributed to the dropoff is CJ himself. On occasion, he seems to be looking to break a long one, rather than taking the available yardage. Instead of getting what he can, he sometimes waits for something that doesn't develop.
3. The Titans are second in the NFL in sacks, and the Jaguars offensive line is beat up. Tennessee had just two sacks in the previous meeting, but hit Jaguars quarterbacks eight times and knocked out quarterback David Garrard. How much extra attention (i.e. max protect schemes) will be necessary to keep Jaguars quarterbacks healthy?
AS: I wouldn't worry about that this time around, especially on the interior. The Titans' defensive line is also banged up so we could be looking at two lines that are pretty evenly matched. DT Tony Brown, who was the best defensive player for Tennessee last season, has been bothered all year with a bad knee. He tried to play last week but was only able to go for one series.
It will be difficult to get a good push up the middle without Brown and DT Jason Jones, the Titans' other good interior pass rusher, who's also injured. DT Sen'Derrick Marks isn't that much of a pass rusher yet and he's also injured. The Titans will have to rely on journeymen DTs Jovan Haye and Marques Douglas, with help from DE Dave Ball who may have to move inside on occasion. The Titans' best pass rushers are defensive ends Ball, Jason Babin and Jacob Ford, so if there is a pass rush it will come from them on the outside or from blitzes, but I wouldn't worry about Garrard having to contend with pressure up the middle. Also, the edge rush won't be as good if Ball has to move inside to DT.
4. Randy Moss hasn't made the immediate impact on the Titans that many were expecting. Is that due to the inconsistent play at the quarterback position or something else? It would make sense that he would be a big part of this week's game plan going against a very young and struggling Jacksonville secondary.
Titans fans are furious at the play calling, which has pretty much neglected Moss. He hasn't been targeted much at all, even against Houston, which has the worst pass defense in the league. Instead, reserve WR Justin Gage and backup TE Jared Cook have been getting the majority of the passes. Hopefully that will change this week, especially with Collins at quarterback. However, one good thing has happened, at least in his first two games. Moss has drawn double coverage or has at least forced opponents to keep from loading the box as often, which has given Johnson more room to run.
5. It appears that the Titans have come to an impasse in the relationship between Jeff Fisher and Vince Young. We know Fisher never really wanted Young and he's benched him at nearly every opportunity. What happens? Does the longest-tenured head coach in the league go? Does the former third-overall pick go? Is it possible that both are employed by the team next season?
Fisher and Young each have one more year remaining on their respective contracts. If one of them leaves, it will obviously be owner Bud Adams' decision as to which one it will be. I expect President Steve Underwood, who acts as Bud's eyes and ears in Nashville, along with Fisher and GM Mike Reinfeldt, to sit down with Bud at the end of the season and present the case to him that the Vince Young experiment hasn't worked. Most observers predict that Bud's top three men will be in agreement about that and present a united front.
However, as my writing partner Tom Gower recently wrote in a Q&A exchange with the Houston Chronicle's Stephanie Stradley, "Bud Adams' ability to screw things up cannot be under-estimated."
In a recent article, I wrote about the last possibility you mentioned, that Fisher and Young will both be employed by the team next season - "Will Titans fans be stuck with both Fisher and Young?" You phrased it more kindly than I did and I fear that possibility may come to fruition.
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