Much like the division-rival Colts, the Titans
saw their Super Bowl hopes crumble thanks to the Super Bowl Champion Patriots, but just barely, losing to them by a mere field goal in the Divisional
Round. Now, led by indestructible QB Steve McNair once again, the Titans hope to exceed their 12-win season from a year ago. The question is, can
Tennessee withstand the blows they took this off-season?
On offense, the Titans will be without fan-favorite RB Eddie George, who has been with the organization his entire eight-year-career. While he starts
a new life in Dallas, inexperienced RB Chris Brown will be his replacement, and even though it's only his second year, he's got loads of potential,
often flashed this pre-season and during his minimal playing time in 2003. The Titans will also miss WR Justin McCareins, who was second on the team
in catches with 47. On defense, Tennessee should suffer without DE Jevon Kearse and DT Robaire Smith, both of whom helped create the NFL's top-ranked
defense against the run last year. With all these losses, though, the Titans can still be pretty good. They still have co-MVP McNair, WR Derrick
Mason, and a solid defense to boot, so while they may not take out the Colts this year, they can certainly go to the playoffs for the third-straight
Steve McNair (QB, 10th year, 6'2", 235 lbs); Derrick Mason (WR, 8th year, 5'10", 195 lbs); Kevin Carter (DT, 10th year, 6'5", 295
lbs); Keith Bulluck (LB, 5th, 6'3", 235 lbs); Samari Rolle (CB, 7th year, 6'0", 180 lbs)
Ben Troupe (TE, Rookie, 6'4", 265 lbs); Antwan Odom (DE, Rookie, 6'4", 270 lbs); Antowain Smith (RB, 6'2", 235 lbs, signed
from New England)
Eddie George (RB, signed with Dallas); Jevon Kearse (DE, signed with Philadelphia); Justin McCariens (WR, traded to New
Brad Hopkins (OT, 12th year, 6'3", 305 lbs); Chris Brown (RB, 2nd year, 6'3", 219 lbs); Tyrone Calico (WR, 2nd year, 6'4",
220 lbs); Albert Haynesworth (DT, 3rd year, 6'6", 320 lbs); Tank Williams (S, 3rd year, 6'3", 223 lbs); Lance Schulters (S, 7th year, 6'2", 205 lbs);
Andre Dyson (CB, 4th year, 5'10"
The Eddie George era has finally ended in
Tennessee after the veteran was released during the off-season, and while the Titans will miss his leadership skills, his production was clearly on
the decline. Second-year player Chris Brown only has 56 carries under his belt, but the Titans saw enough in him to hand him the starting job this
year. He appears to have the skills to be an effective between-the-tackles runner and he has decent receiving skills, but his inexperience could be a
problem against the blitz. Veteran Antowain Smith provides some insurance as the backup. His skills have slipped considerably and he would likely be
adequate at best if forced to start, but he gives the team a veteran presence to fall back on if the youngster doesn't pan out or suffers an injury.
After Smith, there is very little depth at the position with guys like undrafted rookies Jarrett Payton, and Vick King fighting for playing time.
Derrick Mason (95 receptions, 8 TD) returns to the fold, but the trade of Justin McCareins to the Jets means Drew Bennett (32 receptions, 4 TD) and
Tyrone Calico (18 receptions, 4 TD) must step up into the Nos. 2 and 3 spots, respectively. Special teams ace Jake Schifino looked to be set as the
team's fourth receiver, and Darrell Hill and Eddie Berlin were vying for a spot on he roster. The retirement of longtime tight end Frank Wycheck makes
Erron Kinney (41 receptions, 3 TD) the unquestioned starter, and second-round pick Ben Troupe (Florida) should be able to contribute if he can shake
off a poor training camp. Shad Meier (13 receptions) and undrafted free agent Dwayne Blakley (Missouri) were getting most of the second-team reps in
Head coach Jeff Fisher is probably one of the most underrated coaches in the league. Regardless of free agent losses and injuries, he always seems to
field a competitive team. The offense will be fine without the presence of Eddie George. In fact, in my opinion, the running game will be more
explosive with Brown in the backfield than the aging veteran whose skills have obviously slipped significantly. The losses of Smith and Kearse on the
defensive line creates a bit of a concern, but Carter’s versatility should help ease the transition. Their secondary looks outstanding, which could
become a critical factor for years in a division with quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Byron Leftwich, and David Carr. So overall, the Titans appear
ready to compete for the division crown and they have the talent to be a legitimate contender again. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see this team
make another run deep into the playoffs... even without Eddie.
[Edited on 13/9/04 by TRD]