The Titans enter the 2011 draft in makeover mode. They’ve publicly parted with onetime franchise quarterback Vince Young, also bidding farewell to coach Jeff Fisher and both of his coordinators. Replacing Fisher is Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fame guard from the organization’s Houston days. As a former lineman and line coach, Munchak figures to stay the course with a run-first philosophy on offense. But his biggest need is obviously in the pass game.
QB: Young will be released or traded after the draft, the former scenario appearing far more likely since “V.Y.” is due $12.75 million in 2011, a sum no other team will be willing to pay. Kerry Collins, who has 28 starts over the past three seasons, is a free agent entering his age-39 campaign. 2010 sixth-round pick Rusty Smith clearly isn’t ready. The Titans have shown a ton of pre-draft interest in Jake Locker, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick. Locker is a dark-horse possibility for the No. 8 pick. Tennessee may have to trade back into the late first round for Kaepernick or Dalton.
OG: For a guy talked up as having potential to become one of the “top offensive linemen in franchise history” last summer, left guard Leroy Harris has been a major disappointment and is now a free agent. Controversy regarding Tennessee’s decision to not re-sign Kevin Mawae was exacerbated by replacement center Eugene Amano’s struggles. Overall, the 2010 edition of interior run blocking was the worst we’ve witnessed in Nashville in quite some time. Tailback Chris Johnson felt the effects, his yards-per-carry average tumbling to a career-low 4.32. Johnson averaged a full yard better in his first two NFL seasons combined.
S: It’s going to be hard for the Titans to justify keeping strong safety Chris Hope. Turning 31 in September, Hope is due a $6.5 million salary, picked off one pass in 16 starts last season, and is mediocre at best in coverage. Underrated 2010 sixth-round pick Robert Johnson and special teamer Nick Schommer are in-house options to replace Hope, but neither is proven. At free safety, inconsistent former first-rounder Michael Griffin enters a contract year.
DL: Tennessee does not lack talent on the defensive line, but there are underlying question marks. Formerly the team’s top interior tackle, Tony Brown’s knee problems have become chronic, and 2010 first-round pick Derrick Morgan is coming off a torn left ACL. While starting left end William Hayes is a sound run defender, nickel rusher Jacob Ford’s contract is up. 2010 sacks leader Jason Babin, another free agent, may not return as the Titans look to get bigger at end. Tennessee is commonly linked to Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley in mock drafts.
Tennessee has average talent at worst. At best, this is an above-average roster. As is always the case, it can get a lot better in a hurry if the Titans find a viable replacement for Young. There is at least passable talent in place at most every other position.