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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
49ers RB Marcus Lattimore scheduled to practice Monday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:36 am ET) 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore, who's been on the non-football injury list all season, is scheduled to practice Monday when the team returns from its bye, reports CSNBayArea.com. That will be two years to the day since he suffered a devastating knee injury while playing for South Carolina.

"As you know, it's been a long road," Lattimore said.

Lattimore said he reported to training camp at 225 pounds but is down to 220 and believes he's quicker, the report said. He's eager to test himself at full-contact practices.

"I want to put together consistently good days of practice so they trust me to go out there and play," he said. "That's the biggest thing."

The 49ers must decide whether to activate Lattimore within three weeks of his first practice.


Report: Darren Sproles 'appears likely to play'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:22 am ET) Eagles running back Darren Sproles "appears likely to play" Sunday at Arizona after suffering a sprained MCL in Week 6, reports CSNPhilly.com. Sproles rested over the bye and returned to a limited practice Tuesday.

"The way I'm feeling, yeah," Sproles answered when asked if he'd play Sunday. But the real test will come Wednesday and Thursday at practice, when the Eagles will do more than the light session they had Tuesday.

Sproles was in full pads at the start of Wednesday's practice.


Julio Jones shouldering the blame
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:15 am ET) Falcons wideout Julio Jones has gone four straight games without a touchdown, and he's failed to clear 70 receiving yards in the last two. Jones, who has dropped five passes, pointed to himself as the problem.

"It starts with me," he said on NFL Network. "I got to go out there and make plays when they are presented to me. I got to go out and catch the ball, be more of a deep threat.

"We are out there misreading or dropping balls. We have to fix that. It's nothing that the defense is doing; we have to fix that here."

Atlanta plays the Lions in London on Sunday.


Texans backing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for now
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:15 am ET) Texans coach Bill O'Brien is still backing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick following Monday's loss at Pittsburgh that dropped the team to 3-4.

“Fitzy is our quarterback,” O'Brien said Tuesday, per The Houston Chronicle.

However, for the first time since Ryan Mallett joined the team just before the start of the regular season, O'Brien linked both of the quarterbacks leading up to Week 8 at Tennessee.

"We’re going to continue to work with both of these guys in practice, and we’ll see how it improves," O’Brien said. "And hopefully, it will get better and better, and that will help our offense get better."

The Texans have lost three straight games. Still, O'Brien isn't about to pin all the struggles on Fitzpatrick.

"When you look at our tape … you cannot just point to one position and say that’s the position that is at fault," O’Brien said. "There are a lot of positions that need to play better. We need to coach better, all those different things. It all goes into why sometimes we stall offensively. It’s not one guy."


Ball security a focus for Giants TE Larry Donnell
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:01 am ET) The Giants are stressing ball security with breakout tight end Larry Donnell, who lost two fumbles in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at Dallas. "It's one of those things we preach on a daily basis, whether it be technique or focus on the football," tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride told The Star-Ledger.

"And that's something he knows he needs to improve on. He knows it hurt our football team."

Donnell has lost three fumbles in seven games this season. The Giants are on a bye this week.


Steelers WR Antonio Brown not happy with overturned TD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:56 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown took to Twitter to express his frustration after officials overturned his 16-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter Monday against the Texans. The officals ruled his left foot touched the white boundary stripe.

Brown tweeted a photo that appeared to show both of his feet were inbounds. Brown posted a "derogatory remark" with the photo, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Brown said he doesn't regret making the comment and will accept any punishment the NFL might hand out.

"When you’re passionate about something, you speak your mind," Brown said Tuesday night on his radio show on 970 ESPN. “Touchdowns are hard to come by in the NFL. That would have given us a two-touchdown lead and made it harder for [the Texans]."


Giants WR Corey Washington still learning route tree
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:50 am ET) Giants receiver Corey Washington caught a touchdown pass in four straight preseason games. But even with the team losing Victor Cruz for the season, Washington was inactive Week 7 and has yet to make a regular-season catch.

"He's learning to run an entire route tree," receivers coach Sean Ryan told The Star-Ledger. "There is growing to be done with Corey. He works on his releases, his routes, his top of the breaks, getting out of those -- things he needs to improve on. That is where he is right now. He's a work in progress."


Titans' Bernard Pollard confident in quick recovery from Achilles injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Titans safety Bernard Pollard was given a 6-8 month timetable for his recovery after undergoing surgery in early October for a ruptured Achilles. Though, Pollard expects a shorter timetable, per The Tennessean.

"Like I've told them, it's not going to take me six-to-eight. It's really not," Pollard said Tuesday. "More like two-to-three (months) … I want to be back. I want to be smart about coming back as well. I throw numbers out there or whatever, but it's going to be quick."


Dolphins punter Brandon Fields not having a strong season
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:40 am ET) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is not hiding his disappointment with punter Brandon Fields, whose 43.3 gross average on punts ranks 31st out of 32 punters in the NFL, according to The Miami Herald. His net average is 31.8, which is the worst in the NFL.

"Early on we got the punt blocked in Buffalo," Philbin said. "He just hasn’t looked as comfortable quite yet back there, as he has in the two years that I’ve been here, the previous two years. I’m confident he’ll work his way through it and he’ll get back to being the outstanding punter that we all know.

"For his standards, it’s not quite what we’re used to. I think he would acknowledge that, but I’m very, very confident that he’ll get back to that soon."


Philbin calls out Caleb Sturgis during team meeting for missing FGs
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said he called out kicker Caleb Sturgis during a team meeting for missing a pair of field goals during a win Week 7 at Chicago, according to The Miami Herald.

"We were in the team meeting today and we said we’ve got to make those field goals," Philbin said. "We kind of went through that sequence where we took a sack and knocked ourselves back, and made the field goal more difficult. That being said, I said to him right there in the whole team meeting, we’ve got to make those field goals. He knows that and I suspect that he will work at it and he’ll get better at it."

Sturgis is connecting on 78.6 percent of his field goals (11 of 14) after converting at a 76.5 percent rate (26 of 34) as a rookie in 2013.


 
 
 
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