This week, we are joined by the boys over at Total Titans to help dissect this match-up. Want to know about Matt Hasselbeck's play? Chris Johnson's sluggish season? Strengths and weaknesses? The coaching job? Of course you do. If you want to read my responses to their questions, check out their site.
1)If you were the Bills offensive and defensive coordinator, how would you attack the Titans?
Offensive coordinators have done just about whatever they pleased against the Titans this year, so it's just a matter of personal preference. The Titans can't stop either the run or the pass very well. The one exception to this was the Steelers, who had difficulty running the ball, but that was primarily because of injuries on their o-line, both coming into the game and during it. One thing the Titans are particularly poor at is defending the pass to tight ends so Scott Chandler could have a career day if Ryan Fitzpatrick targets him about 8 times or so.
On defense, most teams have been successful setting the edge and not allowing Chris Johnson to get outside, where he is the most dangerous. Stop him and you are only left with defending the pass, which is easier now that Matt Hasselbeck has declined quite a bit from just a year ago.
2)Do you see a QB controversy developing between Locker and Hasselbeck?
No, while I've heard a few fans wonder if Hasselbeck should continue to start, Mike Munchak has said that Locker will be the starter again, as soon as he's healthy. Hasselbeck is clearly on the downside of his career, while Locker, a first-round draft pick, is the future.
3)Currently, your defense is ranked dead last in points given up. Why has your defense been so poor?
There are lots of things to point to, including DC Jerry Gray, who Bills fans are familiar with, but the easy answer, and the main problem, is the lack of a pass rush. The defensive ends aren't getting it done – former first-round draft pick Derrick Morgan has been a disappointment and free agent acquisition Kamerion Wimbley hasn't shown that he's the answer. Gray is reluctant to take anyone out of coverage to blitz and even the times he does blitz haven't produced results often enough. The Titans also wear down and get tired, which is another issue. They're last in the league in time of possession, with the defense on the field for over 35 minutes a game, which compounds the problem on both sides of the ball.
4) Chris Johnson…What is wrong with him?
Got a couple of hours? Just kidding… sort of. Some people say that since he got paid, he doesn't give the same effort after receiving his new contract last year. One thing that's for sure, he wasn't the same after his holdout. He was admittedly not in football shape at the start of that season, but that doesn't explain his problems this year. A big problem is that instead of taking what's there, and attacking to get it and possibly more, he dances around hoping to find a way to break a long run. My co-author Tom Gower broke down film of his 10-carry, 18-yard game against the Texans last year, concluding that "Chris Johnson is not currently anything close to a good NFL running back." Tom also analyzed the film of CJ's 11-carry, 4-yard performance in the season opener this year, complete with screenshots of each rushing attempt. I recommend both articles to those interested in the question, "What's wrong with Chris Johnson?"
5) Can you tell me someone who Bills fans should look out for as far as up and coming players go? Why?
Kendall Wright is leading the league in receiving by rookies. I like second-year LB Akeem Ayers, even though Jerry Gray does not use him enough the way many of us would like, as a pass rusher. Second-year DT Jurrell Casey has developed into a solid run-stuffer and I also like rookie DT Mike Martin so far. Second-year MLB Colin McCarthy suffered a serious high-ankle sprain that's kept him out of several games and should continue to hamper him for the remainder of the season, but he's a player to watch in the next couple of years. I don't know if a third-year man qualifies as up and coming, but CB Alterraun Verner, who's in his first full year as a starter, is a good player – good enough that the Titans were willing to let Cortland Finnegan leave in free agency.
6) What has Mike Munchak done for your team?
The main thing he's done, which happened right away, was to change the culture. That seems to have helped more last year than it has this season. On the field, it seems to me that he differs from Jeff Fisher in two respects. Munch acknowledges that this has changed into a passing league and he doesn't mind throwing the ball around. He also seems to be less conservative than Fisher was in one area. Munchak is more willing to go for it on fourth down in the red zone whereas Fisher was content to settle for field goals.