32 teams in 32 days: Tennessee
Expected W-L (based on PF/PA): 8.1-7.9
Franchise record: 350-368-6 (.488)
Playoff record: 14-18 (.438)
Last five seasons: 39-43 (.476)
Best game of 2007: Week 1, 13-10 win at Jacksonville. The Titans really didn't have a more impressive victory than this one, remarkable since they ended up making the playoffs.
Strength: Pass rush/secondary. The Titans put a lot of heat on the opposition, leading to a remarkably low 4.8 adjusted yards per pass attempt number and 22 INTs to boot. They had 40 sacks as a team and a Defensive Passer Rating of 74.4.
Weakness: Red-zone offense. Tennessee moved the ball fairly well, but had to settle for 39 field goal attempts to just 28 touchdowns. Their total of nine passing TDs belongs in the dead-ball era of the 1970s.
Most underrated player: Strong safety Chris Hope. The Steelers used him at free safety, but he's been a rock at SS since signing with Tennessee after the Pittsburgh Super Bowl victory. The Steelers have clearly missed him, while Tennessee has developed one of the best secondaries in the NFL with him. Hope missed the last five games of the season and had neck surgery in the offseason.
Unit on the rise: Offensive line. Tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart both got All-Pro votes, and C Kevin Mawae and RG Benji Olson are solid veterans. The Titans have always had good blocking, even in their down years, and whether its Jacob Bell or Eugene Amano at LG, the Titans should be even better in 2008.
Youth/experience: 15 of Titans' 22 most regular starters in 2007 were 27 or younger. Eleven of the 22 were in their first three seasons in the league.
2007 Draft grade: C-. Free safety Michael Griffin was an impact player, but none of their other nine draftees started a game or was even a key reserve -- quite a poor showing considering the overall youth of the team.
2008 Draft picks: 1st (22), 2nd (55), 3rd (86), 4th (121), 5th (152), 6th (184), 7th
General Draft strategy: The Titans have had extra draft picks in each of the last four drafts, and lots of them – 44 picks overall (28 originals), a majority of which were on the 2007 roster. Six of their last seven No. 1 picks have been for defense.
Coaching: They fired OC Norm Chow in favor of Mike Heimerdinger, the man who ran things from 2000-04 under Jeff Fisher. Clearly, Chow and QB Vince Young weren't on the same page, and Heimerdinger could bring improvement. Fisher and DC Jim Schwartz have been together for almost a decade, and the Titans have one of the most cohesive and well-established coaching staffs in the league.
Overview: Tennessee was significantly worse than their record (8.1 expected wins, 10 actual wins) in 2007, but better than it should have been based on talent and experience. With an estimated $25-30 million available in free agency, the Titans should be active – although they didn't re-sign key FAs like G Jacob Bell and DEs Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy. The Titans should have one of the best defenses in the NFL next year, but the offense is miles away. They re-signed possession WR Justin Gage, and LenDale White (3.67 YPC in 2007) was a workhorse at RB, but are still woefully lacking in skill position players. While Vince Young's numbers were indefensible (71.1 passer rating, nine TD passes, 4.2 YPC) no QB in the NFL had less to work with. Defenses keyed on Young every week, and the rest of the Titans could do little to help. If the Titans can land one impact offensive player in the draft or free agency, they have the pieces on defense and on the line to repeat as a playoff team in 2008.
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