Jason Peters of Titan Sized was kind enough to answer some questions about the Tennessee Titans leading up to the New England Patriots first game of the 2012 regular season tomorrow. The Titans will be a tough task to start the season, because they are an underrated team with a load of explosive weapons on offense in Jake Locker, Chris Johnson, Nate Washington, and Jared Cook.
1. Jake Locker was my top rated quarterback in last year’s draft class leading up to the draft due to his physical tools, and I always thought the knocks on him coming out of college were overblown. I mean, he had a rough supporting cast in the 2010-2011 season, especially on the offensive line. The question is, what can Pats fans expect from Locker in this game? People are treating it like his debut when Locker already debuted last year and was solid. How does the absence of Kenny Britt affect Locker? Nate Washington is a great deep threat, and how much has Locker targeted Washington throughout the offseason?
From Jake Locker, Pats fans can expect to see a young, explosive talent beginning his journey to develop the confidence and experience necessary to be a top-tier talent in the league. This is not to guarantee upper-echelon success necessarily, but like yourself, I saw tremendous gifts in Locker coming out of Washington, and have seen him translate those gifts to brief, but demonstrable successes in the NFL. However, this will be his first NFL start, and I think the game has looked a little quick for him at times during the pre-season. Jake Locker will make a few plays that will leave people speechless, but he’s also going to make a few equally poor decisions that will have some questioning his football IQ.
The other thing you can expect as a result of Jake Locker’s presence on the field is much more of a spread offense attack. Expect more single-back runs from CJ than in years past, and while you can expect to see the fullback on the field for a handful of plays, the Jeff Fisher days of Power I formations will be long gone. Three receivers and a tight end should become standard, though if Taylor Thompson develops earlier than expected, you can bet on seeing two tight end sets with more regularity.
2. Chris Johnson is the star of this offense, and he looks poised for a monstrous bounce back season. Now the question is, is the offensive line headed for a better 2012 campaign after failing to provide sufficient blocking for CJ2K last year?
As much as I would love to say otherwise, it’s hard to say the offensive line will be dramatically improved from last year. It has become fashionable to hate on Eugene Amano around these parts (not entirely undeserved; he did play at a less-than-mediocre level), but for all of his struggles last year, the staff still saw him fit to start the season for us. His injury isn’t a huge blow, and a lot of people were actually somewhat pleased to have him off the field, but people also seem to fail to realize that Fernando Velasco isn’t any sort of upgrade at the position, at least not at this stage in his career. I am worried about his ability to go up against arguably the best 3-4 defensive tackle in the game, Vince Wilfork. He will have to get a lot of help from Leroy Harris (young, average at this stage) and Steve Hutchinson on the inside.
While the Titans have among the best pass-protecting offensive line in the game, we also have one of the worst run blocking offensive lines in the game. CJ is thankfully a back that can still produce fantastically behind a mediocre or worse line, but don’t expect anywhere close to 2,000 yards.
3. You guys got Jason McCourty but we have Devin. What type of coverage scheme will the Titans primarily run against the Patriots and how will the Titans utilize cornerbacks McCourty and Alterraun Verner? Those two make up one of the best young tandems in the NFL, but I want to know how they will be used (will they shadow an individual receiver, mix it up in zone etc.).
An interesting question, as no one really knows for sure. We have seen a lot of different schemes and looks, but we know that we haven’t seen a quarter of what defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has in store for opposing teams. However, based on everything that has been gathered so far, I believe you can expect to see a hybrid 4-3, with Wimbley dropping back 25 – 30% of the the time, while Ayers rushes off the edge. Also, expect a variety of looks from the secondary, including 3 safety sets
I suppose after typing all of this out, what you should expect is versatility of scheme. The Titans are deep at the defensive line position, and have recently increased focus on interior pass rushing from more athletic defensive tackles. Expect to see a heavy rotation of Klug and Martin on passing and rushing plays respectively, especially if recently promoted defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks is out due to injury.
4. One final question, who wins this game? Be very careful with your choice (I kid, I kid).
C’mon, man! You think I’m gonna predict anything less than 16-0? In all seriousness, I can’t in good conscience go against my boys, but I do think it will be close. Perhaps if I was an objective party, a gambler say, I might give the 5-6 points and take the Pats. But as it stands: Titans by 3 baby!
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