Monday Morning QB: First Half Grades
By Phil Luckett
Posted November 6th, 2006

During the 37-7 thumping by the Jaguars yesterday, a few things became obvious to me.

1. Vince isn't close. He is slow making reads. He stares down receivers. He's horribly inaccurate for stretches during the game. Though we should expect a few performances like this as Young matures, I don't buy that such games won't shake his confidence if things don't get better soon. And with the tough Ravens D coming to town next week, I don't things get better anytime soon.

2. The Titans run defense is as bad as any I've ever witnessed. Ever. With the score 34-0, the Jaguars were not disguising anything offensively. Yet the Titans still gave up 79 more rushing yards for a 6.1 yards per carry average. If some of you thought rookie Stephen Tulloch would be an upgrade, guess what?

3. The rain wasn't the only thing dropping in Jacksonville. Too many of the few balls which actually hit the hands of a Titans receiver ended up on the Alltel Stadium turf. I lost count at six drops. The Titans simply don't have a consistent receiver on the roster and I don't have much faith David Givens' eventual return improves much.

4. The Titans ground game went underground. Travis Henry and the re-vamped OL have been getting a lot of praise lately for the resurrection of the Titans running game. Against a quality defense, the truth come out as a Henderson-less Jags D held the Titans running game to a 2.83 average per carry the first half when Chow had to take pressure off Young by establishing the ground game.

I could go on but enough of that.

Instead of grading the 37-7 loss which would be a string of Fs except for the boost Craig Hentrich gave special teams taking a hit to give the Titans their only first quarter first down and booting a 73-yard punt, I decided to look at the first half of the season.

The decision to bring in Kerry Collins 10 days before the season started to replace Billy Volek remains a head-scratcher. He started the Titans out ugly and it hasn't gotten much better since. Young was thrown in much too early and probably should still be learning as he holds a clipboard on the sidelines or during "Vince packages" as a backup to Volek. Despite the overall typical rookie play by Young, he has flashed potential when the running game or defense has taken the pressure off him. The question is when his play will become more consistent.

Combined, Titans QBs have a 49.1 passer rating and a 43.6 completion percentage.

Grade: F

Running Back/Fullback
After a rough 0-5 start, Henry returned to form and gave the Titans the most production on the ground they've had for some time. But the running game hasn't shown it can get it done against decent defenses. LenDale White shows promise but the coaching staff isn't giving him much work. Chris Brown has been a total non-factor and should have been traded when he had a little value. Ahmad Hill has been hampered with injuries but productive when the Titans have been successful with the run.

Though the first half of the season, Titans RBs/FB have combined for a 3.94 yards per carry average.

Grade: C+

Wide Receiver
As a unit, there isn't much to be excited about here. Free agent acquisition David Givens has been hurt much of the season. Drew Bennett has been productive at times but inconsistent. Bobby Wade hasn't lived up to the hype surrounding him before the season. Brandon Jones surprised most by returning from his ACL and looks to have most potential of any WR on the roster. Roydell Williams and Courtney Roby have been ineffective on the most part and must improve.

In fairness to this group, they've not had as many opportunities with two inaccurate QBs throwing them the ball so far this season. But they've also had a number of drops which must be eliminated.

Currently, the Titans leading WR, Bennett, is on pace for 758 total receiving yards which is only 20 yards more than his total from last season when he started in only 10 games.

Grade: D

Tight End
Erron Kinney's knee surgery ended his season and possibly his career. Ben Troupe has been a huge disappointment with only 11 catches and 1 TD through 8 games. Bo Scaife has been Young's go to guy so far with 18 receptions for 249 yards.

Last season, Titans TEs combined for 1346 receiving yards. At this pace, the TEs will end this season combing for 776 yards.

Grade: D+

Offensive Line
The OL wasn't able to open up much for the running game early in the season but appeared to improve once Zach Piller went down and Jacob Bell was moved inside with David Stewart replacing him at RT. Benji Olson has been dinged up much of the first half of the season. Keven Mawae has been a good addition to the unit. Though the unit has been inconsistent at times, they are limiting the penalties which haunted them in September. With Piller on IR and Daniel Loper out with a ruptured spleen, this unit may the thin for the second half of the season.

Grade: C

Defensive Line
The Titans are next to last in the league against the run and extremely inconsistent rushing the passer. Kyle Vanden Bosch remains the sack leader but his production is down. Albert Haynesworth embarrassed himself, the team and the league by stomping on the face of an opponent. Randy Starks, who had his own off-the-field issues, hasn't made the expected gains many expected after a promising rookie season. Travis LaBoy has 2.5 sacks this season but is a liability in the run game. Antwan Odom has been hurt most of the season and is doubtful to be a factor in the second half. After Rien Long went down in training camp, Robaire Smith has been a solid replacement when healthy. Tony Brown has done a decent job replacing Haynesworth during his suspension.

KVB has only 4 sacks so far this season. At this point last year, he had 7.5.

Grade: D

Keith Bulluck leads the team in tackles and is having another outstanding season. David Thornton, up to his injury last week, was an upgrade to Peter Sirmon with 53 tackles in seven games. Sirmon, though having 45 tackles, has lost a lot of speed and doesn't appear to be able to shed blocks well enough to be a force in the run game. Rookie Stephen Tulloch has been a force on special teams but doesn't appear to be ready yet to replace Sirmon.

Bulluck has 73 tackles so far this season and is on pace for 146 which would only be 6 tackles fewer than his career best of 152 in 2004.

Grade: C-

The Titans secondary continues to give opposing QB career days. Reynaldo Hill appears to have taken a huge step backwards from his rookie season though has played better lately. Pacman Jones is beginning to live up to his talents by limiting some of the game's better WRs. But his play on the field continues to be overshadowed by his actions off it. Chris Hope has been the most pleasant surprise of the free agents brought in this offseason. Lamont Thompson has been a liability so far this season and has been called out by the coaching staff more than once. However, Vincent Fuller or rookie Calvin Lowry apparently have not pushed enough to get a chance to upgrade the position. Cortland Finnegan started strong at the nickel but has dropped off as of late.

Hope's 3 interceptions leads the team and ties the most a Titans player had all of the 2005 season.

Grade: D

Special Teams
Rob Bironas and Craig Hentrich have had quality first halves. Hentrich's back must be doing well because he has already punted 51 times this season. Bobby Wade is 12th in the league in kickoff returns. Pacman Jones is 15th in punt return duties but has a TD and should have a second if not for a block in the back penalty. Casey Cramer blocked a punt for a safety against the Redskins.

Hentrich has the second-longest punt of the season when he has a 73-yard boomer against the Jags.

Grade: B

At the halfway point, we already have the questionable signing of Collins, a couple of Pacman incidents, domestic disputes concerning Rob Reynolds and Starks and the head stomping by Haynesworth. Though it is difficult to place a lot of blame on Jeff Fisher for this, it's clear his "no-tolerance policy" came too little too late. It also appears his "on notice" talk wasn't serious because the same players appear to be making the same errors each week.

After some big blowouts early, it appeared the Colts game put the team back on track. Even in winning ugly against the Texans, the Titans were playing with heart and Fisher appeared to have the team back under his control. The team took a huge step back in Jacksonville.

Much of the second half will be determined with how Chow handles Young and find ways to take the pressure off him by keeping the ground game effective. On the other side of the ball, Schwartz has to simply find some ways to slow the run and get some pressure on opposing QBs. None of the above appears doable at this point.

If the Titans double their win total of the first half and end at 4-12, I don't see any way Fisher survives nor should he.

Grade: D

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