Friday, April 29, 2005

Titans - WR Review

I read an online mail bag with a journalist, I think one of the guys on the Houston Chronicle, where he said something along the lines of, "After 30 years covering baseball, I may not be able to tell the difference between a curve and a slider. But I can ask the guy who threw it what it was." I think that's the nutshell of what journalism gives you, a way of managing the transaction costs of access, but that's neither here nor there, and it's time to tie this post to the title. When I did my review of the wide receivers, I really didn't have a good idea of what each one did. Well, ask the wide receivers coach; The Tennessean did, and told us the answers.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

2005 Draft Review-Day Two

A few days ago, I analyzed the Day 1 selections of the Tennessee Titans, and now it's finally time for Day 2. With their first pick in round 4, the Titans selected Vincent Fuller of Virginia Tech. He played both corner and safety at Virginia Tech, and I'd expect to see him in the same sort of role for the Titans, as a backup free safety to Tank Williams (health willing) and possible nickel/dime corner. The second pick of the fourth round, which the Titans picked up from the Lions for moving down a couple spots in round 2, was used on Mississippi State offensive lineman David Stewart. It doesn't look like he has the agility to play Left Tackle in the NFL, so he looks to me like a depth pick or someone who may be involved in the RT battle, along with Jacob Bell and 2nd-round selection Michael Roos. The third fourth-round selection, a compensation pick, was used on Tulane wideout Roydell Williams. With the two 3rd-round wideouts, it looks like Floyd Reese is applying his defensive lineman strategy from last year, throw lots of bodies at the position and hope you come up with something good, to the WR problem. Of course, if you only have two bodies at the position, one of whom barely played last year (Tyrone Calico), a few guys will stick.

Moving on to the fifth round, the Titans chose Damien Nash, a running back out of Mizzou. He's a little bit of a different runner, standing only 5'10", a good five inches or so shorter than both Chris Brown and Eddie George. With a 4.55 40 time, he has decent speed and looks like a possible 3rd-down back. No, this doesn't mean Eddie won't be coming back to the Titans, as the only back they had on their roster before the draft were Brown and Troy Fleming, who's more of a fullback-type. The Titans had a second pick in the fifth round, acquired from the Kansas City Chief in the Carlos Hall deal, and used that on Texas Tech offensive tackle Daniel Loper. Loper is described as a guy who can play both guard and tackle, making me think he's intended as a replacement for Jason Mathews.

Only one sixth-round selection, and that went on Bo Scaife, the Texas tight end. He has a bit of an injury history, having spent six years in Austin because of two medical redshirts, but has been back and healthy for two seasons. With Shad Meier gone, the Titans only had two tight ends on the roster, and it was pretty inevitable they would draft one. I assumed it would be more of a pure blocker type, since that's what Meier was and they already have Ben Troupe, and they've shown hardly any confidence in his blocking ability. We'll see if one of the free agents sticks.

The sole seventh-round selection went on Florida Gator defensive back Reynaldo Hill. He was a junior college player before spending two years in Jacksonville and was considered a good cover corner. I have nothing interesting to say about him.

Overall, the Titans chose 3 defensive backs, 3 offensive tackles, 3 wide receivers, 1 running back, and 1 tight end with their 11 selections. They did not choose a quarterback, a true interior offensive lineman, a defensive lineman, or a linebacker. So, what does this mean? First off, 3 offensive tackles is A LOT. They have two on the team right now: Brad Hopkins and Todd Williams. I would be surprised if Williams makes the 53-man roster; the only way he does it is if he's going to be starting. At the beginning of 2004, I expected it to be Hopkins' last year with the team, and I think if Williams had shown enough development, it would have been. I started to change my mind with they shut down Hopkins when he was injured last season (not shutting down Fred Miller only reinforced my (correct) view that he was gone). He's been a quality left tackle for a long time, and I'd expect him to be around for a year despite the recent public black-eye. This may also mean that Jacob Bell will not be moving outside to right tackle, but will be kept inside for general offensive line depth; I think this is likely, given that I can't see them possibly keeping 5 offensive tackles (Bell, Hopkins, the 3 draft picks). Then question then becomes whether Zach Piller, Justin Hartwig, and Benji Olson all make opening day. Throw in Eugene Amano as a backup center, and that's nine offensive lineman. They only carried seven last year, so I'd expect to see at least one of those guys cut. Alternative, Stewart (given Loper's versatility) may be a practice squad guy.

The Titans also agreed to terms with 36 undrafted free agents. It's basically guaranteed that at least one of them will make the team. I'd place the most money on former Cincinnati quarterback Gino Guidugli. He was rated as one of the top quarterbacks who went undrafted, and the Titans need a third quarterback. LSU QB Marcus Randall is also in camp. Having seen both of them play in college, Gino looks like a better bet to stick. It's possible they could pick up a "veteran" (read non-rookie), but I doubt they will unless both guys are busts. The only other thing I have to say about the free agents that's remotely interesting is none of them were kickers. I don't know if that indicates a great deal of confidence in Ola Kimrin, or they're playing a waiting game.

I plan to say more about who might make the team, but right now there's just a dearth of information. I probably won't tune in about my NFL team of choice until the probable June round of salary cap cuts.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

2005 Draft Review-Day One

Today was the first day of the NFL draft. After a 5-11 mark, the Titans ended up with the 6th overall selection, the highest they picked since they chose Steve McNair 3rd overall in, oh, 1995. After the salary cup purge of this offseason, the Titans came in with a number of needs, most notably cornerback, where both starters, Samari Rolle and Andre Dyson, departed in the offseason, and wide receiver, where there were all of two on the roster. When it came to the sixth pick, the Titans choose the first defensive player taken, cornerback Adam "Pac-Man" Jones of West Virginia University. There were a number of players they could have chosen with this pick. Many, probably most, of the mock drafts and player ratings had Miami (FL) Hurricane Antrel Rolle (no relation to Samari) as the top cornerback in the draft. Rolle has a height advance over Jones of maybe three inches, and good, tall corners come at a high premium in the NFL. This makes me think the Titans' personnel staff saw some things in Jones, or maybe didn't see some things in Rolle. I don't know how much straight coverage Rolle played, whereas that was one of the things Jones was known for. I also neither heard nor saw much of the ball-hawking play-making special quality that made previous Miami defensive backs such a coveted quantity. Then again, maybe I'm just saying this because I predicted they'd select Jones over Rolle. I think the other serious possibility for the sixth pick was wide receiver, with Troy Williamson of South Carolina, who went to the Vikings with the next pick, or former USC wunderkid Mike Williams, who went to the Lions with the 10th pick (yes, that's 3 receivers in the top 10 in 3 years for Detroit). It was reported in The Tennessean that new offensive coordinator Norm Chow lobbied heavily for his former pupil Williams, but lost out.

The Titans traded their second-round selection, 37th overall, to the Detroit Lions for the Lions' 2nd and 4th round selections (41st and 113th overall). With the 41st pick, they chose the first Estonian ever taken in the NFL draft, offensive tackle Michael Roos out of Eastern Washington. This was a bit of a surprise; I had figured they'd choose a tackle out of the state of Washington, but I expected it to be Khalif Barnes of out of UW, who many people had as a first-round selection. Right tackle Fred Miller was one of the cap-induced departures, and they'd worked on making Jacob Bell, who filled in admirably for the injured Zach Piller last year, a right tackle. I think that plan is still in the works, and expect Jacob Bell to be the starting right tackle for the Titans. At the other tackle slot, though, Brad Hopkins is getting up there in age and cap number, and I'd be shocked if he was on Tennessee beyond the 2005 season. I think the plan for Roos is to spend a year grooming him as Brad's replacement and to see him starting at left tackle opening day 2006 and staying there for the next 10 years. The downside of the pick? You end up with another Todd Williams, someone who never sees the light of day. This would normally worry me, except a little tidbit I got out of this interview: his O-line coach at E.Wash. was none other than former Titan lineman Tom Ackerman. For them to be comfortable making this pick, I'd bet that not only did Munchak travel to Spokane, he also spent a few long distance minutes talking to Ackerman and got a lot of tape to look at. I'm cautiously optimistic with this pick, though I think if they had moved down another 5-10 slots, they probably could have still gotten Roos. One other thing about Roos: he's graduated already with a double major in Finance and Econ and twice made Big Sky All-Academic; the Titans have shown an occasional predilection for smarter players and Roos may fit that bill.

The Titans had two 3rd round selections, 68th overall and 96th overall, the latter a compensatory pick, and used both of them on wide receivers. The first went to Courtney Roby of Indiana, cousin of the late, great punter Reggie Roby. I don't have much interesting to say about him; were he a sixth rounder I'd say this is adding a body to the depth chart, but this guy seems to be one of the greatest receivers in the history of Indiana football. That probably sounds like damning with faint praise, and I don't want to be that unkind. Reading the scouting profile, he sounds like he'd max out as a number three-type receiver, or maybe a 2A/2B like Bennett and McCareins were behind Mason. With the 96th pick, they chose Brandon Jones of the Oklahoma Sooners. Jones was the third Sooner wideout selected, behind Mark Clayton (22nd) and Mark Bradley (39th). He certainly didn't put up the same stats Roby did at Indiana behind those two guys. He has a little bit of experience returning kicks and sounds like a deep threat more than an 8 yards on 3rd-and-7 guy, even if his 40 time isn't as good as Roby's. Then again, I'm basically pulling this out of my butt, so take it for what it's worth. One concern about Jones that the guys on the NFL Radio show raised is that at OU he never had the pressure of being a #1 receiver, and the recent history of the NFL is that it's tough to turn a guy who hasn't been a #1 into a #1.

Well, that's the first day of the draft. The second day should be a little bit more interesting, as the Titans have a number of picks... three in the 4th round (their own, the one from the Lions, and a compensatory), two in the fifth (their own and the one from Kansas City in the Carlos Hall Trade), and one each in the sixth and seventh (both their own). With those seven picks, I'd look for one quarterback, one wide receiver, one tight end, one offensive guard (guard/tackle or guard/center), a depth/special teams linebacker, and another defensive back. (Yes, I know that's six; I'm leaving them one wildcard selection.) I should be back tomorrow evening or Monday with a look at who the Titans choose on Day Two of the 2005 NFL Draft.