On the Defense
The Titans have had issues on offense this season, but the defense has been really good through the first two games. After shutting down a bad Steeler Offense in Week 1, they had the Texans nearly beaten in Houston’s own house, before the Texans rallied with some big plays to pull out an overtime win. So far this year, the Titans MIGYNHO is Zach Brown and no other Titan defender comes close in terms of importance and obscurity. (I think most of you have heard of Bernard Pollard, one of my other considerations.)
Why He Is Important
Last season, the Titans drafted Brown out of North Carolina in the second round. The 6’1", 244 pound Brown is freakishly fast for his weight, posting a 4.35 second time in the 40 during his college career, though that time "slowed" to 4.44 seconds at the 2012 Combine. He was also a starter for the UNC track team, posting a personal best 21.75 second time in the 200 meter (218.73 yards) dash. Usain Bolt (6’5" and 210 pounds) holds the record in this event at 19.19 seconds.
Brown converted his athletic gifts to an excellent rookie season playing left OLB in the Titans 4-3 base defense. Recording 68 solo tackles, with another 24 assists, he finished second on the team in that statistic. Brown also recorded 5.5 sacks, 5 passes defended and 3 INT’s, capping off his season with TWO pick 6’es in the Titans final game of the year.
In the first two games, he’s made 19 tackles, defended one pass, and gotten 2 sacks (both coming in the 1st game against the Steelers). He leads the team in tackles and is tied with two others for the team lead in sacks. If King Dunlap is not careful, Brown may be looking to take over as the Titans clear leader in sacks, as the Titans Defensive Coordinator Gregg "Bounty Program" Williams (reinstated from his "indefinite" suspension) has not been shy about blitzing his fastest linebacker on the field. Williams may also want to test the ‘Bolts RT (Fluker, Clary or Harris) in pass pro by lining up Brown over (?) on obvious passing downs.
In short, Zach Brown is a defense’s answer to any offensive system that tries to create match-up problems. He is big enough to cover Tight Ends, fast enough to stay with backs, and a good finisher. Brown was limited in practice this week with an undisclosed illness, so we may (hopefully) not see him at full effectiveness Sunday.
Alterraun Verner – CB: The Titans 4th Round pick in 2010 from UCLA has grown into a dependable and sometimes game changing performer. He leads the Titans with 5 passes defended to go along with 8 tackles so far in 2013. He also has 2 picks; one was returned for a TD against Houston last week.
He and Bernard Pollard are the best players in the Titans defensive backfield; the other CB, Jason McCourty and FS Michael Griffin present softer targets to exploit. The Titans need Verner to lock down the Bolts receiver he is matched up against, allowing Griffin or Pollard to help McCourty on the other side.
On the Offense
Beyond the usual suspects at QB and RB, the Titans offense is filled with guys you’ve never heard of. So far in 2013, these players have mostly demonstrated why you’ve never heard of them. The Titans do have some justified hope that two newer members of the team may soon be well-known. For now, the MIGYNHO for the Titans offense is 2nd year WR Kendall Wright.
Why He Is Important
When you are in the same division with Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, or even Cecil Shorts, having game breaking wide receivers is important, just to match the playmakers in your division. The Titans have matched the stellar receivers in the AFC South with… Kenny Britt and Nate Washington. Not exactly names that strike fear into the hearts of defensive backfield coaches or corners in the NFL.
Both of Tennessee's veteran receivers have had injury plagued, mediocre careers. Washington’s best season was a 74 reception 1,023 yard 2011 campaign. Washington has not any other season with more than 50 catches. Britt’s best season for receptions was 2012 (45) and for yards was 2009 (775). Kenny Britt, for reasons known but to God and Kenny Britt, went full blown prima donna last week, upping Wright's importance to the team.
Wright, RG3’s favorite target at Baylor, was the 20th overall pick of the 2012 draft. His 2012 was decent for a rookie; 64 receptions for 628 yards and 4 TD’s. He is currently listed as "probable" for Sunday, as the Texan’s Kareem Jackson put a lick on him last week that earned Jackson a $42,000 fine and concussed Wright. If we do not see him, the Titans will be missing their 2013 leader in receptions (9) and catcher of one of the two receiving TD’s the weak Titan’s offense has created so far this season.
Simply put, the Titan’s best offensive player (Chris Johnson) needs at least an adequate passing game to not have to rush against 8 or even 9 defenders in the box. This is where Wright could help and the Titan’s offense needs all the help it can get.
Delanie Walker – TE. I have to confess to a minor man crush on Walker from his time with the 49ers. Officially listed as their back-up Tight End (behind one of the best TE’s in the game, Vernon Davis), Walker was a 3rd down and Red Zone safety valve specialist. Playing some tight end, some fullback, some running back, and even split out as a wide receiver, he seemed to have a knack for making crucial plays during 49er wins.
Walker hit the FA market this season and jumped at the chance to become the starting TE for the Titans, who did not re-sign Jared Cook. So far this year, Walker has 4 receptions for 50 yards and the other receiving TD scored by the Titans. With the lack of receiving playmakers, Walker’s versatility, tough blocking, and clutch performances are vital for the Titans to have enough offense to stay in the game with what has been a good Charger offense.
More from Bolts From The Blue:
- Chargers-Titans Injury Report: Te'o doubtful, Butler and Fluker questionable
- The San Diego Chargers will win against the Tennessee Titans
- The San Diego Chargers will lose to the Tennessee Titans
- Five Titans Questions with Music City Miracles
- Gennaro-ly Speaking: Previewing Chargers-Titans with Tom Gower