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Offseason Primers: Tennessee Titans

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The word potential is thrown around in Fantasy Football and the NFL but if there ever was a team with potential in 2013, it's the Titans.

They have a former first-round pick at quarterback, a proven speedster and former first-round pick at running back, two former first-round picks at receiver, a member of the NFC Champion 49ers at tight end, an offensive line that includes two proven tackles and a highly-paid newcomer at guard, three young and athletic linebackers, three crafty veteran safeties, a nice mix of defensive linemen including two pretty good pass rushers, a Hall of Famer as head coach and a Hall of Famer as offensive line coach.

You'd think a team with this kind of talent would be 16-0, but they were 6-10 in 2012 and 9-7 without a playoff appearance in 2011. The Titans haven't made the postseason since 2008 and the thinking is that if they don't do it this year, there will be massive changes.

2012 Touches Leaders
696 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Chris Johnson 312 (276 car., 36 rec.) 44.8%
Kendall Wright 65 (64 rec., 1 car.) 9.4%
Nate Washington 46 rec. 6.6%
Kenny Britt 45 rec. 6.5%
Jared Cook 44 rec. 6.3%
Jake Locker 41 car. 5.9%
All Others 143 20.5%

That puts a lot of pressure on an offense that hasn't had much stability. Dowell Loggains is the new offensive coordinator after Chris Palmer faltered and was fired last year. He'll attempt to be the first play caller since Mike Heimerdinger's first run with the Titans to last longer than three seasons. The offensive line is getting yet another makeover, this time with Andy Levitre as the big-time free-agent signing (last year it was Steve Hutchinson, who stunk). Guard Robert Turner also joins the O-line.

Tight end Jared Cook vented over not being used enough and wanted the expensive wide receiver franchise tender this offseason. He didn't get it, leading to his departure to St. Louis. He was replaced by Delanie Walker. Matt Hasselbeck won't have the chance to pilot the offense if given the chance as he was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick as the backup to starter Jake Locker.

The defense made an attempt to get better by signing two veteran safeties to go with one of their own, suggesting some philosophical changes in their sub-packages. And the addition of a former starting tailback has raised plenty of questions about what's going on in Tennessee's backfield.

It has to be enough for this team as owner Bud Adams becomes more and more desperate to win as he gets older. Though they share a division with the equally-challenged Jaguars, they still watched as the Colts made an incredible turnaround in 2012 and the Texans dominated for much of the year. For the Titans to compete, the potential of all of their additions and former first-round picks must be met.

That would sure be nice for Fantasy purposes.

Chris Johnson -- Declining value

2012 Target Leaders
540 pass attempts
Kendall Wright 104 19.3%
Kenny Britt 90 16.7%
Nate Washington 89 16.5%
Jared Cook 72 13.3%
Chris Johnson 49 9.1%
Damian Williams 45 8.3%
All Others 91 16.8%

When Fantasy owners were fed up with Johnson last year, they could bench him. The Titans weren't able to do the same, but now they can (in theory). Coach Mike Munchak insists newcomer Shonn Greene will be part of the game plan beyond goal-line and short-yardage carries as the team moves to a two-back approach. The thinking is that Greene could get in for 10 touches a game with the potential to get a 50-50 split if Johnson starts slow for the third consecutive year. While that hurts Johnson's Fantasy value, you cannot ignore that he topped 1,400 total yards in each of his two production plagued seasons, averaging 91.9 total yards per game.

In that two-year span Johnson had at least 92 total yards 15 times (eight last year), making him nearly a 50-50 proposition to get at least mediocre Fantasy numbers. However, when he didn't get to those 92 total yards he went scoreless in 15 of 17 games, so he's far more boom-or-bust than top-shelf running backs should be. As for Greene stealing goal-line work, it's a non-issue. Johnson had just nine carries inside the 10 last year, converting only one score from 2 yards out in Week 17. Frankly you should only feel good about Johnson if you get him in Round 3, but if we're talking late Round 2 you're probably not hurting yourself too bad.

Kenny Britt -- Mid-round value

If Kenny Britt is ever going to turn his career around, this is the season to do it. He's healthy, he's shed all of his outstanding legal issues and he's entering a contract year, a virtual trifecta for him. If he buckles down and focuses on football he can more than outplay his draft average. Britt finished last year with three touchdowns in his last six games and three games with 10-plus Fantasy points in his last five, so there is some thought that he can still be helpful in Fantasy. Between his knees, his brain and his quarterback there's a lot of risk here, but it's not like he'll cost you a valuable pick on Draft Day. If you can sneak him onto your roster in Round 9 or later you're doing more good than harm.

Kendall Wright -- Late-round flier

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Jake Locker Undrafted
Chris Johnson 20-30 overall
Kenny Britt 95-105 overall
Kendall Wright Late-round pick
Nate Washington Undrafted
Delanie Walker Undrafted
Rob Bironas Final-round pick
Titans DST Undrafted

There's a fairly realistic chance Wright will start every game for the Titans opposite Britt, though that hinges on Nate Washington's status. If Washington agrees to a pay cut and has a good camp, Wright could get pushed to the slot and play around 60 percent of the time like he did last season. That wouldn't be good, but then again Wright has solid speed even though he didn't show it much last season and could play more on that merit alone. He also caught 61.5 percent of his team-high 104 targets, a way better percentage than Washington and Britt. Though he ended last season with a whimper (he had seven Fantasy points or less in each of his final nine games) he's got enough upside with more snaps in his future to warrant a late pick as a reserve receiver.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Cowboys bring back Phillip Tanner
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:59 pm ET) The Cowboys signed running back Phillip Tanner, who was released by the Colts a week ago. Tanner played for Dallas the past three seasons but got just 12 touches last year.

Josh Gordon gets one-year suspension
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:40 pm ET) Arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the one-year suspension for Browns receiver Josh Gordon.

"I'd like to apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Cleveland Browns organization and our fans," Gordon said in a statement. "I am very disappointed that the NFL and its hearing office didn't exercise better discretion and judgment in my case. I would like to sincerely thank the people who have been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging time, including my family, my agent, my union, my legal team, and the Cleveland Browns staff."

Gordon was suspended for a repeat violation of the league's substance abuse policy. He will be considered for reinstatement following the 2014 season, so the suspension might last less than a full calendar year.


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(12:29 pm ET) Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said "there's no doubt" he'll play in the season opener against Tampa Bay, reports the Charlotte Observer. Newton is nursing a hairline fracture in one of his ribs.

Gio Bernard, Jeremy Hill each projected with 200 carries
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(12:21 pm ET) The Bengals' official website was impressed with rookie Jeremy Hill's power running in the third preseason game. Writer Geoff Hobson opined "it looks like Giovani Bernard and Hill could both get about 200 attempts."

Bernard figures to be prominent in the passing game, while Hill is expected to get a lot of goal-line and short-yardage carries.


Kenny Stills considered questionable for Week 1
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(12:10 pm ET) Saints receiver Kenny Stills, who aggravated his quad injury in Saturday's game, is questionable for the season opener, reports ESPN.com.

Coach: Eddie Lacy could lead NFL in yards from scrimmage
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:53 am ET) Packers running backs coach Sam Gash said second-year back Eddie Lacy has a chance to lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

"He has the capability of being the leading rusher and maybe even combined yards if he catches a lot of balls," Gash told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I absolutely do think that.

"I think he's a bell cow. He's a big guy, and he's physical."

Lacy ranked 14th last year with 1,435 yards from scrimmage. He was removed in some passing and two-minute situations last season, but has been groomed to play in all situations this year, the paper said.


Browns 'baffled' and 'frustrated' by lack of Josh Gordon ruling
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:35 am ET) The Browns are "baffled" as to why arbitrator Harold Henderson has not issued a ruling on Josh Gordon's appeal, reports ESPN's Adam Schefter. Team officials are "frustrated over where it could leave them and Gordon."

If the superstar receiver gets a one-year suspension now, Gordon would miss all of 2015 training camp. "Browns sources said there would be an extreme amount of frustration in the organization over that ruling and why it has taken so long," Schefter wrote.

Gordon's appeal of his drug-related suspension concluded Monday, Aug. 4.

Adrian Peterson to be used differently
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:26 am ET) The Vikings want to get running back Adrian Peterson to the edge more often this season, "both to maximize his explosiveness and reduce the pounding on his body," reports ESPN.com. "He'll run out of shotgun sets and multiple-receiver formations more often."

The website said Peterson will get more usage as a receiver and that's "the most profound change for him this season."

Said running backs coach Kirby Wilson: "He's had good days, but there are some days when he's been spectacular in those areas. I'm excited to see what the new and improved Adrian Peterson is going to look like when the opener starts. I think this whole team is excited about what he could bring as a dual-threat player."


Zach Ertz buzz hitting new heights
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(11:10 am ET) Expectations continue to skyrocket for Eagles second-year tight end Zach Ertz. Tight ends coach Ted Williams was the latest to chime in, calling Ertz "one of the best route-runners I've ever seen."

"He takes a lot of pride in that," Williams added to Philly.com. "He has a lot of confidence. He's hard to defeat, because he doesn't take defeat very well. He feels, 'You can't cover me.'"

The website noted Ertz caught four touchdowns in the second half of last season and claimed he's poised to break out this year. Ertz and fellow tight end Brent Celek will have "a much bigger role in the passing game," the report said.

Ertz said he's taking every rep "personally."

"If somebody beats me, I'm going to take that personally. I want to be great," he said. "That's my goal each and every day I step out onto the field. I want to prove to myself and everybody else how good I can be, and I'm willing to work as hard as I need to achieve that goal."


 
 
 
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