The Tennessee Titans were able to close out the season with a 16-10 win over the rival Houston Texans, and the Texans loss seals their status as the team with the No. 1 draft pick in 2014. Meanwhile, the Titans narrow victory means that not only did they have a pretty sloppy game overall, but they also have a lower draft pick. This is a team with plenty of questions heading into the offseason, as Mike Munchak will most likely be fired today, Chris Johnson could be a cap casualty, and they still need to find a franchise quarterback for themselves. Below is a review of five performances of note from yesterday’s game.
1. RB Chris Johnson
In what may have been his last game in a Titans uniform, Chris Johnson ran all over the Texans defense despite being stifled by J.J. Watt on a number of occasions. CJ2K finished with 127 rushing yards and a touchdown on 27 carries for one of his best performances of the season, and he’s never had less than 1,000 rushing yards in year. However, he’s going to make $8 million in the offseason, and that’s far too much for a player who has been good-but-not-great during these last two seasons. He has clear talent and is arguably the best skill position player on the team (Kendall Wright vs. Chris Johnson for me), but $8 million is an awful lot of money for a team that needs to re-sign Alterraun Verner (well they don’t “need to”, but they should) and find/pay a franchise quarterback. Johnson isn’t willing to take a paycut, and that’s probably going to seal his fate. That said, I hope Titans fans enjoyed yesterday’s game, because Johnson is an amazing player to watch when he’s at his best.
2. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
There is little doubt that Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the game, but there’s a reason why he’s a backup. He turns the ball over too often, and his inaccuracy mars his rocket arm. Fitzpatrick finished with a poor game against a Texans defense that he should have done better against, as he averaged just 6.9 yards per attempt and threw an interception. He wasn’t terrible, but it was a subpar performance from a subpar quarterback. The biggest position of need for the Titans is definitely at quarterback, and they have a tough decision to make on Jake Locker, who has a very expensive team option. What they can do is decline the team option and sign him to a cheaper deal if they believe he can be a franchise QB (jury’s still out on him), but they could also make a run for Jay Cutler or draft a QB.
3. Pass Defense
Before the game, I highlighted the battle between the Tennessee Titans cornerbacks and the Houston Texans wide receivers as the matchup to watch for the closest, and it’s safe to say that the Titans won. Andre Johnson and standout rookie DeAndre Hopkins combined for just 84 receiving yards, and both Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty played shutdown football out there. Verner deserves a big contract, as he was an obvious Pro Bowl selection this season. Both he and McCourty have always been solid, but Verner broke out in a big way this year. The Titans defended eight passes in total, and they picked off Matt Schaub twice. Schaub averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt, and what was likely his final pass with the Texans ended up as an interception. A fitting end? False, because he did an awful lot for that organization, and his prime was when the Texans finally started having success.
4. WR Kendall Wright
There are many great slot receivers in the NFL today, and one of those great slot wideouts is definitely Kendall Wright, who free-wheels his routes. This is a guy who can get open with ease and make damaging plays after the catch, and the next Titans quarterback is going to have an awfully good time throwing it to Wright, who is a true weapon. He received seven targets yesterday and turned in a solid five receptions for 50 yards as the team’s leading receiver. He finished this season with 94 receptions and over 1,000 yards, and he’s quietly turned into one of the game’s best and most reliable receivers. And with Justin Hunter showing promise and Nate Washington stretching the field (Washington nearly had 1,000 this year), the Titans have a great group of pass-catchers. Oh, and I can’t forget about solid TE Delanie Walker either.
5. RB Shonn Greene
While Chris Johnson had no problem running it on the Texans, Shonn Greene sure did. Even though his yards per carry averages are always going to be low as the short-yardage back, I’m sure he would have liked to gain more than ten yards on six rushes. Greene is going to stick around as the team’s No. 2 RB, but he hasn’t been impressive at all this season. If the Titans elect to cut Johnson and save some cash, then they had better use that money on fixing up the running back position, too, and find an adequate replacement for Johnson. Greene only got the job done on one run yesterday, and that’s not good enough.