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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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Player News
Ravens DE Timmy Jernigan on replacing Ngata: 'Big shoes to fill'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:50 am ET) When the Ravens traded away Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata it shocked a lot of people, including defensive end Timmy Jernigan, according to NFL.com.

Jernigan will play a huge role as Ngata's replacement this upcoming season. 

"It's definitely something I've been waiting for for a long time," Jernigan said. "I've known I'm more than capable of doing the job. Now it's just a point of proving it. Last year, I showed flashes. You've got to be able to do it consistently day in and day out. It's huge shoes to fill."

Jernigan recorded 23 tackles and four sacks last season in 12 games as a rookie.


Ravens WR Steve Smith: 'I will not be playing until I'm 40'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:32 am ET) Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith has other things to do outside of the gridiron, and the 36-year-old has no plans on still being in pads when he's 40, per NFL.com.

Smith was asked this week if he had any desire to play into his 40s like the great Jerry Rice.

"Jerry Rice is obviously the greatest wide receiver to ever play, and I really don't have the family structure to chase 40, to be honest," Smith said. "I have got a lot of things on my to-do list that don't have anything to do with football. I'm going to take it day-by-day, but I will not be playing until I'm 40."

Smith, who's heading into his 15th NFL season, caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns last season.


Bengals' Jeremy Hill expects balance attack with Giovani Bernard
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:20 am ET) The Bengals have weapons at the running back position. With Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, the team has a pair of more than capable rushers at its disposal.

It seems as if the Bengals are going to use both of them as much as possible, per ESPN.com.

"Obviously there's going to be a balanced attack," Hill said. "I don't think he's got to wear either one of us out, so that way we can make it through all 16 games for a playoff push."

Hill rushed for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns last season as a rookie, while injuries limited Bernard to 680 yards and five touchdowns. The duo plans on coming back even stronger next season.

"We want to lift ourselves to the next level and earn the respect of this league," Hill said. "We have the guys in the [running back] room to do that."


Giants QB Eli Manning is expecting best pro season next year
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(10:06 am ET) Giants quarterback Eli Manning is an accomplished 11-year veteran. There isn't much for the two-time Super Bowl MVP to prove, except that he will have his best season ever as a pro next year, according to NFL.com.

"I am," Manning said when asked if he was expecting his best season ever. "I like the guys we have in the locker room, I like our talent, I like how everybody's approaching this season, I'm looking forward to it."

Manning will certainly have the weapons at his disposal for a fantastic season. Wide receiver Odell Beckham, the 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year, is as talented a player there is. A healthy Victor Cruz will scare opposing defenses. And Rueben Randle has improved every season in the league. 

"I think he can have a dominant season," Cruz said. "I think that with the type of offense we have, and the way that we all can click come September and all that good stuff, I think it's gonna make for a very, very dominant type of offense where we could go and put up 28, 35 points at a clip, and really do some fun things this year."

Manning will have to try to eclipse last season's performance, when he threw for 4,410 yards and 30 touchdowns.


Packers QB Rodgers could have more control after play-calling change
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(9:44 am ET) Aaron Rodgers was at the helm of the league's highest-scoring offense last season, and he could now have even more control of that offense this season, per ESPN.com.

Rodgers, who won the his second NFL MVP award while helping the Packers score 30.4 points per game, will probably be more involved in every facet of the offense this year -- including some play-calling.

"He has," Packers quarterbacks coach, Alex Van Pelt, said when asked if Rodgers could call plays. "He could. Sure. Definitely."

The official play-calling duties are in the hands of associate head coach Tome Clements, after coach Mike McCarthy passed them down before last season. The switch is what can give Rodgers more freedom than ever when it comes to the play selection.

"I've always had a lot of freedom," Rodgers said. "It's just occasionally the personnel groupings restricts some of the checks you can make. But that's kind of a natural progression for a quarterback who's been in a system for a long time, if they can handle it to do more things. I have always liked a good starting point for a play, and then have the ability to get us in a better play if you can do it quickly and it’s clean."

Rodgers passed for 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns in 16 games last season.


Falcons DT Jackson hires personal chef to lose weight, fit into defense
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(9:27 am ET) Falcons defensive tackle Tyson Jackson can sit back and relax after signing a five-year, $25 million deal with the team last season, but he's showing more dedication than ever.

Jackson, who currently weighs 318 pounds, hired a personal chef with the goal of slimming down to 305 pounds, per ESPN.com.

"I just started recently, and constantly, week by week, I want to trim down," Jackson said. "I got my personal chef at the end of March. I know Matt Ryan used her, and a couple Falcons in the past have used her, too."

Jackson wants to slime down because the Falcons' defensive schemes will be much different this year. Last season he was encouraged to be as big as possible because the team pictured him as a run-stuffer. This year's defense is a more complex version of last season's 4-3 scheme and it incorporates a lot of 3-4 principles, so Jackson's big frame isn't an ideal fit.

"Playing this 4-3 style of defense, there's no reason to be heavy because you're not two-gapping no more," Jackson said. "Everything is ball, key and get-off. So, that's pretty much the reason for [losing weight]."

Jackson started all 16 games for the Falcons last year and recorded 22 tackles.


Texans' Louis Nix 'trying to move forward' in sophomore season
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Texans nose tackle Louis Nix spoke about his lost rookie season this week in OTAs, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"A lot went on my first year here. It was a lot to deal with," said Nix, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery during the preseason and eventually was placed on season-ending injured reserve. "It was difficult to maintain it with all the issues. But I'm happy about now, and that's what I'm worried about. I'm just trying to move forward and do the best I can."

Coach Bill O'Brien expressed frustration with Nix earlier this offseason.

"Bill is Bill. He challenges everybody," Nix said. "Sometimes you guys make it more than what it is. … He wants guys to be better. I take no offense to it. I know he just wants me to be the best player that I can be. He sees potential, and I see it in myself. I'm starting to get back in a groove of things. I'm just going to keep trying to do the best I can."

Nix is finally healthy and working his way into game shape.

"Make it through a practice, man," Nix said. "That's my goal."


Eagles' Earl Wolff, Marcus Smith limited in OTAs with injuries
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Eagles safety Earl Wolff and linebacker Marcus Smith were limited in OTAs with injuries, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Wolff is recovering from knee surgery. Coach Chip Kelly said the safety has been cleared to return, and the team is waiting for him to reach full participation in OTAs. Smith has been dealing with a pulled leg muscle.


Packers' Casey Hayward dealing with foot injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Packers cornerback Casey Hayward is dealing with a foot injury and doesn't expect to return to action until training camp, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I’ll probably take it easy into camp right now," Hayward said. "I have a minor foot thing right now. We’ll probably take it easy into camp."

Hayward said the foot "flared up" on him earlier in the offseason. He finished with 42 tackles and three interceptions last season.


Ravens' Terrence Brooks running, 'doing really well'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Ravens free safety Terrence Brooks is running after suffering ACL and MCL tears in his right knee in December, the Baltimore Sun reports.

"Terrence Brooks is doing really well," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "No predictions right now, but he looks good. He has worked hard."

Brooks is expected to open the season on the PUP list and could make his return this season.

"We're just hoping for the best, trying to get back as soon as possible," Brooks said. "We're taking precautious. We definitely don't want to rush back too fast. If you do get cleared, playing this year is definitely a goal. You don't want to rush it. For the most part, you have to be cautious and take it easy. After we get off of the PUP list, we'll see where we're at. I definitely want to get back into it, but we're taking our time. I have high hopes of being ready."


 
 
 
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