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Online Titans Lines & Predictions - Tennessee Future Odds - Free NFL Betting Previews

2006 Tennessee Titans Season Preview

2006 Titans NFL News - August 22nd, 2006
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2006 NFL Previews - By: Tony Moss For

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Jeff Fisher has to hear the whispers, the ones suggesting that his resume' will soon be printed and distributed to various potential employers.

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Of his NFL head coaching brethren, only the Steelers' Bill Cowher has presided over a longer current tenure than has Fisher, but that doesn't mean Fisher has the job security of his fellow mustachioed head man.

The Titans are 9-23 over the past two seasons, a far cry from the four playoff appearances in five years that the Fisher-led franchise managed between 1999 and 2003.

Tennessee fans who stood by their club during the "salary cap hell" era of the past couple of years are ready to see some results, though the offseason movements of the organization suggest they might have to wait a tad longer to see the Titans contend again.

The team jettisoned longtime QB staple Steve McNair in the spring, ushering in the era of Vince Young, who was drafted No. 3 overall out of the University of Texas in April. That selection had much to say about the franchise's direction, since it was widely speculated that Fisher and offensive coordinator Norm Chow, both of whom have USC ties and were believed to prefer Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart to Young, were overruled by owner Bud Adams and general manager Floyd Reese.

Leinart, it was said, was the more polished prospect of the two, while the undeniably talented Young might take longer to emerge as a credible NFL starter. Which means by the time the Titans are truly ready to win again, Fisher may have already suffered through a third straight losing season, and that could signal his departure from the franchise for which he has toiled for the last decade-plus.

The only way the whispers about the head coach's future will vanish is with victories, and one has to believe that, more than any other member of the Titans organization, Fisher is well aware of that situation.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2006 edition of the Tennessee Titans, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2005 RECORD: 4-12 (3rd, AFC South)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2003, lost to New England, 17-14, in AFC Divisional Playoff

COACH (RECORD): Jeff Fisher (97-85 in 12 seasons with Titans, 97-85 overall)



OFFENSIVE STAR: Chris Brown, RB (851 rushing yards, 21 receptions, 7 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Keith Bulluck, LB (138 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 INT)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 23rd rushing, 9th passing, 21st scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 22nd rushing, 17th passing, 29th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: Dallas (10/1), at Indianapolis (10/8), Houston (10/29), at Jacksonville (11/5), Baltimore (11/12)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Vince Young (1st Round, Texas), RB LenDale White (2nd Round, USC), WR David Givens (from Patriots), C Kevin Mawae (from Jets), LB David Thornton (from Colts), S Chris Hope (from Steelers)

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Steve McNair (to Ravens), C Justin Hartwig (to Panthers), T Brad Hopkins (released), LB Brad Kassell (to Jets), LB Rocky Boiman (to Cowboys), S Tank Williams (to Vikings)

QB: Though much attention will be heaped upon rookie Vince Young (1st Round, Texas), starting duties in Tennessee will actually belong to longtime backup Billy Volek (474 passing yards, 4 TD, 2 INT) until further notice. The 30- year-old Volek has actually been decent when he has played, including an eight-game stint as starter when Steve McNair was injured in 2004. Volek's 2006 showing will basically serve as a league-wide audition for 2007 and beyond. Fisher and offensive coordinator Norm Chow could try to sprinkle Young into the gameplan a bit in the early-going, and if the season begins to unravel, he'll have a chance to start. Matt Mauck (136 passing yards, 0 TD, 1 INT), who started last year's season finale against the Jaguars (a 40-13 loss) is in line to again hold the clipboard.

RB: There is controversy here, as incumbent starter Chris Brown (851 rushing yards, 25 receptions, 7 TD) expressed a desire to be traded after the team drafted LenDale White (2nd Round, USC) and retained the services of Travis Henry (335 rushing yards, 13 receptions) for another year. Brown has yet to play a complete NFL season, and his durability remains a major question mark, which helped prompt the selection of the 235-pound White. Henry was a disappointment in his first year as a Titan, missing four games after violating the league's substance abuse policy and never showing flashes of his former 1,000-yard form. Also included in the running back mix are holdover Jarrett Payton (105 rushing yards, 2 TD) and seventh-round draft choice Quinton Ganther (Utah), who are probably fighting for one spot provided Brown is not dealt. Payton, who can also back up Troy Fleming (10 receptions, 1 TD) at fullback, likely has the edge to his versatility.

WR/TE: The Titans were extremely young at wideout last season, with the natural inconsistency that derived from that youth prompting the team to obtain David Givens (59 receptions, 2 TD with the Patriots) via free agency in the offseason. Givens, who has also scored a touchdown in seven consecutive postseason games, started 22 regular season contests in two seasons for New England. His presence will help free up Drew Bennett (58 receptions, 4 TD) on the other side. Bennett lined up across from three different rookies - Brandon Jones (23 receptions, 2 TD), Courtney Roby (21 receptions, 1 TD), and Roydell Williams (21 receptions, 2 TD) - at various times last season, and while Jones was the best of the lot, none were awesome. Challenging that trio for time at No. 3 wideout will be Tyrone Calico (22 receptions), the former second-round pick who has endured constant injuries in three NFL seasons, and fellow holdover Bobby Wade (14 receptions with Bears and Titans), who is also dangerous in the return game. An offensive strength for Tennessee is at tight end, where Erron Kinney (55 receptions, 2 TD), Ben Troupe (55 receptions, 4 TD), and Bo Scaife (37 receptions, 2 TD) combined for 147 catches and eight touchdowns a year ago.

OL: Tennessee was young and thin across the line in 2005, and it does not appear that 2006 will bring much change in that regard. Left tackle Brad Hopkins retired in the offseason after 13 years on the job, and center Justin Hartwig, a three-year starter, departed via free agency. Moving into Hopkins' former spot is second-year-man Michael Roos, who did an adequate job at right tackle as a rookie and will now be charged with protecting his quarterbacks' blind side. In to man the center slot is ex-Jets Pro Bowler Kevin Mawae, who offers experience but is 35 years old and well past his prime. The new right tackle will be one of three '05 backups - Jacob Bell, David Stewart, or Daniel Loper - with Bell serving as the favorite as the preseason began. There will be no turnover at guard, as Zach Piller returns on the left side and Benji Olson the right. Both were 16-game starters a year ago. The losers of the right tackle battle will offer depth, as will center/guard Eugene Amano.

DL: Kyle Vanden Bosch (65 tackles, 12.5 sacks) came out of nowhere last season, making his first career Pro Bowl appearance following a four-year stint in Arizona that had produced a grand total of four sacks. The Titans need the end to prove that his '05 campaign was no fluke, and need Travis LaBoy (41 tackles, 6.5 sacks) and Antwan Odom (31 tackles, 2 sacks) to continue to complement him on the other side. Odom's 2006 season was placed in jeopardy by a knee injury sustained in the second preseason game, however. At tackle, Randy Starks (47 tackles, 3 sacks) and Albert Haynesworth (52 tackles, 3 sacks) would seem to be a stable duo, though Starks was arrested and charged with domestic violence during the preseason and Haynesworth struggled with a bad back. Jared Clauss (18 tackles, 0.5 sacks) and fifth-round draft pick Jesse Mahelona (Tennessee) could be pressed into service sooner than expected on the interior. Bo Schobel (10 tackles, 1 sack) will be among those adding depth at end.

LB: The Titans' most significant offseason addition on the defensive side of the ball was outside linebacker David Thornton (81 tackles, 2 sacks with the Colts), who should step easily into a unit that already includes talented holdovers Peter Sirmon (69 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Keith Bulluck (138 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 INT). Sirmon will be moving to middle linebacker to replace Brad Kassell (77 tackles, 1 INT), now with the Jets, and should fill the role adequately if healthy. Tabbed for backup duties will be holdovers Rob Reynolds (23 tackles), Cody Spencer (16 tackles), and Marcus Randall (3 tackles), who will have to beat out 2006 draft picks Stephen Tulloch (4th Round, N.C. State), Terna Nande (5th Round, Miami (OH)), and Spencer Toone (7th Round, Utah) in order to make the team.

DB: Fisher and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz need this unit to play much better than it did in 2005, when rookie corners Pacman Jones (53 tackles) and Reynaldo Hill (48 tackles, 3 INT) had their struggles. Hill, the team's seventh-round pick, actually outplayed Jones, the No. 6 overall selection for much of the season. Joining that duo in the secondary should be free safety and holdover Lamont Thompson (80 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and new strong safety Chris Hope (96 tackles, 3 INT with Pittsburgh), a 16-game starter with the Super Bowl champs last season. Andre Woolfolk (54 tackles, 1 INT) should again be the nickel corner. Vying to join Woolfolk in the reserve d-back ranks are holdovers Rich Gardner (11 tackles) and Donnie Nickey (11 tackles) along with 2006 draft choices Calvin Lowry (4th Round, Penn State) and Cortland Finnegan (7th Round, Samford). Vincent Fuller, a 2005 fourth-round pick who missed most of his rookie year with a broken right fibula, and Michael Waddell (27 tackles), who comes off an offseason knee injury, are also in the mix.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Rob Bironas (23-29 FG) is not a household name but did a serviceable job at kicker last season, and should return along with punter Craig Hentrich (43.2 avg.). Pacman Jones (9.4 punt return avg., 1 TD, 26.2 kickoff return avg.) will get the first crack at return duties, though Bobby Wade (9.6 punt return avg., 1 TD with the Bears) and Courtney Roby (22.5 kickoff return avg.) both have experience there as well, and will challenge. Ken Amato, who lost the final nine games of 2005 to a broken left fibula, will begin his fourth year as the team's long snapper.

PROGNOSIS: The first month of the season will offer an indication of where the Titans are going in 2006. If Fisher's team starts strong with Volek taking the snaps, the organization will probably take a serious swing at a wild card berth, which will set back Young's development but will offer some encouragement to a fan base that has seen just nine wins in two years. If, in a more likely scenario, Tennessee continues to struggle in September and early October, look for Young to be handed the reins of the offense in the interests of the franchise's future. No matter which course they take, the Titans shouldn't be quite as young or punchless in '06 as they were in '05. But they also can't be expected to contend with the Colts and Jaguars in the AFC South, which means a third straight losing season, along with a coaching change, is looming on the horizon.

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