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Tag:Offseason Checkup
Posted on: April 24, 2011 10:39 am
 

Offseason checkup: Carolina Panthers

Posted by Will Brinson

J. Clausen hopes to get Carolina turned around in 2011 (Getty).

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Not to try and bring back the Anchorman meme that probably became uncool a few years ago, but, man, things really got out of hand fast in Carolina, didn't they? John Fox is gone, Ron Rivera is in, Jerry Richardson is likely not too popular with the fans because of the labor situation, and the draft-pick situation for the Panthers is a nightmare.

There's also a pile of questions relating to how 2011 will unfold based on the rules once the labor situation is settled. And the whole problem of everyone else in the NFC South being potentially dominant or at least pretty good ... primarily because of quarterback play. And thus, we see the Panthers problem: they need a franchise quarterback. Andrew Luck's decision to return to school put a big crimp in the plans for the No. 1 overall pick, and Cam Newton's been penciled in at this point by basically anyone.  

Even if he is the pick, the Panthers can't negotiate with him, so who knows at this point? There's ample argument for why Carolina should take a cornerback, a defensive tackle, trade the top pick, or just roll the dice with Newton.




Defensive Tackle, Quarterback

The odd things about Carolina's roster is that in 2010, they had the talent to succeed. Injuries (Jeff Otah and Thomas Davis most notably), poor play (Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen most notably) and an awkward coaching situation changed things dramatically and the team unraveled. It became pretty clear, though, that even with a talented offensive line and two superb running backs in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, you can't run the ball if no one respects your passing game.

Can Newton fix that passing game? Is his upside worth passing on a very-much-needed defensive tackle like Marcell Dareus out of Alabama? Does it even matter if Newton can be Tim Tebow 2.0 and sell a pile of jerseys while making the Panthers nationally relevant, at least for a season?

It seems clear that Newton's going to either be a total home run, though not likely right away, or an absolute, unmitigated disaster. There might be an in-between area, but given the hype surrounding the potential No.1-overall pick, it's hard to imagine Newton settling into something that's just "average."



1. Quarterback
Value Over Replacement Player is typically a statistic that you see in baseball. But the notion remains true when you talk about the MVP race: how would the Patriots fare if you took out Tom Brady and plugged in an "average" quarterback? Well, the Panthers showed that if you plug in the player most below average in the NFL, disaster ensues. Quarterback is absolutely the most important position of need for Carolina -- it's just a matter of whether or not Newton or Blaine Gabbert could end up becoming "the guy" in Carolina as a top pick, just one season after the Panthers apparently wasted a second-rounder on Clausen. No one -- and I mean NO ONE -- can know the answer until we sees how it plays out. That's what makes their top pick so insanely controversial.

2. Defensive Tackle
Making the Panthers' choice at the top of the draft even more difficult is the presence of Dareus, who seems like a pretty good bet to succeed in the NFL. Or, at least, to not flop at defensive tackle. With (maybe) four winnable games on the 2011 schedule, the Panthers could conceivably draft Dareus, hope they perform to 2010-level expectations with a vastly more difficult schedule, and land Andrew Luck in the next season. Playing chicken with a franchise quarterback and gambling on losing a lot isn't really an efficient way to manage in the NFL, but is drafting Cam Newton really a safer option?

3. More Draft Picks
I said this for Denver and they probably have more holes to fill than the Panthers, but Carolina doesn't even have a second-rounder because they traded their pick to the Patriots in order to draft Armanti Edwards out of Appalachian State, which might secretly be the worst draft decision in quite some time, especially because it's the first pick on the second day of the draft and a coveted spot. With a draft that's deep at defensive line, and the Panthers in need of a cornerback, a quarterback and a defensive tackle, having more picks -- as opposed to, say, LESS picks -- would be a pretty big advantage for the franchise.



2011 could be disastrous for the Panthers. I mentioned four winnable games, and that's not a joke: can they beat Detroit in Ford Field? Arizona out west? Tennessee at home in Week 10? Washington at home in Week 7? The Jaguars at home in Week 3? Okay, that's actually five, so we're getting somewhere! Or not -- those games are as far from locks as you get, and they're the easiest ones on the schedule. Maybe an upset or two in the NFC South is doable, but that's a bit optimistic for anyone who watched what happened in 2010.

Hey, but hope springs eternal. Or something. Ron Rivera's got a talented staff in place and the Panthers do still have a roster with some stars; at the very least, they've got studly linebackers and a strong offensive line, should free agency fall they way they want (and when you've got your owner leading the negotiations, well, that's never a bad thing). Drafting Newton could immediately reenergize the fanbase and turn out to be an absolute gamechanger when it comes to the franchise's future. But if there's one team that actually wouldn't mind seeing a lockout last through the entire 2011 season, it's probably Carolina.

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Posted on: April 21, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Offseason checkup: Denver Broncos

Posted by Will Brinson



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Remember when the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls? Yeah, that was a long time ago. But the Broncos were relevant as recently as 2005, which is the last time they won the AFC West. Since then? Well, um, er, you see. Yeaaaaaaah, about that: one winning record (9-7 in 2006) produced a third-place finish in the division, while one losing record (7-9 in 2007) produced a second place finish. Two-straight .500 seasons followed after that and then -- BAM! -- the bottom fell out in 2010, as the Josh McDaniels train derailed en route to a 4-12 finish and his firing.

Enter John Elway, John Fox and the new, "new look" Broncos who appear to be all about transparency. They also appear about to undertake a pretty massive rebuilding project. Fortunately, Fox that's he polar opposite of Josh McDaniels -- methodical, defensive-minded, doesn't care for too much personnel control, likes to run the ball and unlikely to tape anyone else's practice.

The question for Fox is whether or not the system he wants to implement will work with the roster that McDaniels built. The immediate answer is "hell no," but it's not as far off as you think; Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd could be a poor man's Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith (a reasonable comparison, although I feel like it might insult someone, I'm just not sure who), who didn't exactly suffer through miserable seasons, statistically-speaking, their whole time in Carolina.

The defense, rather, is the bigger problem for Fox to address, because it acted like a sieve last season, and even with Elvis Dumervil returning, there's no guarantee that it will instantly become better. 




Defense, Quarterback??

The defensive line in Denver is a disaster, particularly at defensive tackle. That's why the Broncos are mentioning so many different possibilities at the No. 2 pick -- if the Panthers end up taking Marcell Dareus first overall, Denver's suddenly in a nightmare situation where they need to trade out of the second spot and try and recoup some value a few picks later. Fortunately for them, a pair of teams -- Cincinnati and Arizona -- could be interested in playing some hopscotch to try and acquire Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton should the draft unfold in such a manner.

What's even left to say about Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow? Well, actually a lot, I guess -- the two quarterbacks on the Broncos' roster are polar opposites (can you imagine Orton running a draw and/or circumcising babies in a third-world country during spring break?) but they're in similar situations, because no one can figure out whether or not the Broncos actually want  them.  

Could John Fox actually love Orton? Considering he saw -- first-hand -- how Orton can "manage" a game into right into the L-column when the Bears visited Charlotte a few years back, it's hard to believe. But surely he doesn't think the same of Tebow as Josh McDaniels did, right? Well, probably not, but there's always a chance, especially considering that Fox and Tebow got friendly during the draft ... right before Carolina took Jimmy Clausen.



1. Defensive Tackle
If the Panthers draft anyone other than Marcell Dareus with the first overall pick, it's hard to imagine the Broncos taking too much time to wait on selecting the Alabama product with the No. 2 overall pick. They'll definitely still listen to trades, because, well, who wouldn't, but Dareus is a pretty perfect fit with not only what Fox wants to do on defense, but how he wants to do it.

2. Cornerback
Patrick Peterson's there too, and could be a candidate for the No. 2 spot if Carolina goes Dareus and no one will trade up, although you have to think Denver would rather add a DB in the second round, or potentially trade back up to try and snatch a guy like Jimmy Smith if he falls. Of course, the depth at defensive line in this draft could have John Elway thinking he nabs Peterson to mentor under Champ Bailey during the legendary cornerback's home stretch, and then snag a defensive tackle with a later selection.

3. More Draft Picks
That's only a half joke -- Denver's got piles of holes to fill; they need another running back to pair with Knowshon Moreno in Fox's system, they might need a quarterback, they could use a defensive end, they need help at linebacker (making Von Miller a sneaky potential selection at No. 2 as well), they need more secondary help and they also need help across the offensive line. Moving down in the draft and accumulating potentially talented bodies to plug these holes is Elway's ideal scenario.



2011 could be another long season for Broncos' fans. It looks like the division should  improve, though in the AFC West, no one's scared to keep falling back to the pack throughout the season. But it's hard to imagine that Denver will be as successful on offense, numerically speaking, as they were in 2010, and unless the defense improves leaps and bounds, four wins might be a stretch ... again.

But there's hope, at least: Elway's immediate legacy will be somewhat determined by how he drafts this coming year, and it's going to take time to heal the wounds of the McDaniels era. Fortunately for Denver, they've got a coach who's turned around a moribund franchise before, and a front-office guy who knows a thing or two about the city and success. 

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Posted on: April 20, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 1:45 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: Buffalo Bills

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

S. Johnson had some good moments last year for Buffalo (US Presswire).

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Although the Bills went 4-12 last season and were never in contention for any kind of postseason berth, there was reason for optimism at the end of last year. Against all previous indications, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t half-bad, young faces like RB C.J. Spiller and WR Steve Johnson showed potential, and the team took the Steelers, Chiefs and Ravens into overtime before eventually losing.

The head coaching abilities of Chan Gailey – in college or in the NFL – have never been that impressive to me, but I’d be an idiot if I didn’t say that he is making progress in Buffalo. Progress enough to compete with the rest of the AFC East? Not yet. But any kind of progress is good.




Very little elite talent

This obviously is a problem, because, aside from NT Kyle Williams – who’s a top-five interior defensive lineman – the Bills don’t feature any elite players (maybe S Jairus Byrd can get there at some point). With the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, that should change (you’d like to think so at least, if you’re a Bills fan). But remember, Buffalo went with Aaron Maybin with the No. 11 pick in 2009 and Leodis McKelvin with the No. 11 pick in 2008. Apparently, this franchise doesn’t always know how to pick the elite guys.



1. QUARTERBACK
While Fitzpatrick did a decent enough job at the starting spot last year, after Trent Edwards thoroughly failed at it and Brian Brohm didn’t do enough to win it, Fitzpatrick doesn’t scream, “FUTURE FRANCHISE QB.” Since the Bills have the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft, it makes sense for them to take somebody who could make that claim. Considering GM Buddy Nix said that now is the perfect time to draft a QB, Buffalo might just do it.

2. LINEBACKERS
Buffalo needs to shore up its 3-4 defense in a big way and procure players who can figure out how to get to the opposing quarterback. The Bills – who were tied for 27th in sacks last year – already have Shawne Merriman and Aaron Maybin at OLB, but it’s unclear if the former can stay healthy and the latter has been a big draft bust thus far in his career. Von Miller’s elite speed certainly would help in the linebacker corps.

3. DEFENSIVE LINE
The Bills were the worst team in football at stopping the run, so this spot obviously is in need of an upgrade. The line itself seems to be OK with Kyle Williams and Dwan Edwards, but a Da’Quan Bowers pick wouldn’t be shocking (though many experts are predicting Miller).




The Bills are still nowhere near making a bid for the playoffs, but there’s no reason they can’t improve on last year’s record. I think 8-8 would be a stretch – especially if Fitzpatrick is back at the QB spot – but 6-10 or 7-9 wouldn’t be out of the question. And it would be a sign of more progress.

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Posted on: April 19, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: Cincinnati Bengals

Posted by Andy Benoit



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After the Bengals fell behind the eight-ball with a devastating turnover-infused loss to the Bucs in Week 5, they went into their bye a lowly 2-3 and searching the depths of their character for answers.

Problem was, the depths of their character included the collective souls of Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Pacman Jones, Rey Maualuga, Tank Johnson, Cedric Benson, Michael Johnson, Andre Smith, Carlos Dunlap, Frostee Rucker, Jonathan Joseph, Leon Hall and whatever other players on the roster who, at one point or another, have raised the red character flag.

None of these guys were individually heinous in 2010 (save for Owens), but collectively, they created a staggering void in the leadership department.




Offensive scheme

Bob Bratkowski is out as offensive coordinator, and deservedly so. In terms of complexity and sophistication, the Bengals’ system in 2010 was comparable to that of a really sophisticated Pop Warner team’s.

The receivers’ route combinations rarely worked off one another, making them easy to defend. The play-action game was non-existent, which was fitting because the run game was an afterthought.

Which brings us to the change: more power runs under new coordinator Jay Gruden. Expect Cedric Benson to re-sign and get about 25 carries a game. Not only is he best suited to be a bell cow, but the Bengals powerful but heavy-footed offensive line is best suited to play downhill, rather than in the frequent drop steps of pass protection.




1. Quarterback
Carson Palmer insists he’s retiring if the team doesn’t trade him. Owner Mike Brown may be great at playing hardball, but it would take a hardhead to keep Palmer around at this point. Besides, Palmer’s skills have declined (though not as much as you’d probably guess) and he clearly doesn’t trust his offensive line or receivers.

2. Pass Rusher
This need is almost as glaring as the potential need at quarterback. Antwan Odom has not been the same since injuring his Achilles. Robert Geathers was never the same after blowing out his knee. (Unfortunately for the front office, both players were inked to long-term deals before their injuries.) Athletic ex-Gator Carlos Dunlap earned some high marks as a second-round rookie last season, but equally as prominent were his low marks.

3. Interior Offensive Lineman
Right guard Bobbie Williams is aging. Left guard Nate Livings is the definition of average. Or maybe center Kyle Cook is. Whatever; the Bengals need more athleticism inside up front.




A healthy goal for the Bengals would be to regain respect. Self respect, that is. Individually, the Bengals are more athletically gifted than a lot of teams.

But their athletes have not lived up to potential or played well together. Ushering in a new wave of leadership would plant some positive seeds moving forward.

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Posted on: April 18, 2011 12:13 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 6:00 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: Arizona Cardinals

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

L. Fitzgerald could walk into free agency at the end of next season (US Presswire).

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Let’s see, when your choices to fill the starting quarterback spot boil down to Derek Anderson vs. Matt Leinart, you know your season is pretty much screwed before it even begins. And that’s pretty much what happened with the Cardinals last year (though, to be fair, quarterback was far from the only problem in Arizona).

I bet you don’t remember this, though. After beating the Saints in Week 5, Arizona actually was 3-2 before falling through the floor. The only player worth a darn on offense was WR Larry Fitzgerald, and it seems like most of the defense underachieved (most notably, LB Joey Porter). Suffice to say, it was not a good year for the Cardinals.




Best player is unhappy

Fitzgerald, the only bonafide superstar on this team, was visibly frustrated last year with the offense (and the quarterback play in particular), and even though he somehow caught 90 passes for 1,137 yards last season, the Cardinals front office has to convince him that Arizona has a blueprint for the future. Otherwise, Fitzgerald could walk away after his contract is up after the 2011 season.




1. QUARTERBACK
This is an easy spot to pick on, because if you look at the current roster of QBs, here’s who you find: Anderson (consistently terrible throughout his career, and he doesn’t like taking questions about laughing on the sideline during losses), Max Hall (probably doesn’t have the skill set to start in the NFL), John Skelton (perhaps a little potential) and Richard Bartel (no idea who this is). Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert has a pretty good shot at landing in Arizona, and if he doesn’t, the Cardinals could elect to go after Marc Bulger.

2. RUNNING BACK
The Cardinals tried two years ago, selecting RB Beanie Wells in the first round, but that hasn’t worked out so well. Wells had a tough time staying healthy last season, and Tim Hightower had a big problem with fumbles. In fact, Arizona was last in the league in rushing offense – which kinda doesn’t help the quarterback. I actually think LaRod Stephens-Howling is a pretty good player, but I’m not sure he’s a featured back kind of guy.

3. LINEBACKER
Although the defense ranked No. 29 last season, I like the three players across the line (NT Dan Williams and DEs Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell), and the secondary could be very, very good. But the linebackers are brutal. Texas A&M’s Von Miller would be a blessing for the Cardinals, who pick fifth, but he might not be around by then. Besides, Gabbert might be the more exciting (though not the safer) pick.




It’s hard to believe the Cardinals are only three seasons removed from playing in the Super Bowl, and it’s hard to imagine them getting back there anytime soon. If only Arizona had a good quarterback, a dependable running back, a second WR, a decent offensive line, and some players in the LB corps, the Cardinals would have a good chance of getting back to .500.

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Posted on: April 17, 2011 3:38 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 3:39 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: Cleveland Browns

Posted by Andy Benoit



Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups



Another year turned into another rebuilding season for the Browns (it turned out to be the last of three in Eric Mangini’s tenure). Injuries rocked all three mistake-prone quarterbacks (Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and third-round rookie Colt McCoy, who performed OK but was limited to a cliff-noted playbook).

It maybe wouldn’t have mattered anyway, given the paucity of quality receiving options (No. 1 wideout Mohammad Massaquoi improved just enough to pass for being a low-end No. 2, while tight end Ben Watson was the go-to guy by default).

Defensively, the young secondary at times seemed overburdened by the volume of sub-packages in Rob Ryan’s complex system. But often, Ryan’s scheme compensated for shabby pass-rushing resources. The Browns were the only team not to give up 30 points in any of their first 15 games. Still, that wasn’t enough to save Ryan from the coaching staff overhaul in January.




Defensive scheme

The task of installing a 4-3 scheme is substantial, especially given this team’s prior commitment to the 3-4.

Linebackers Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita and nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin (who will now play more one-gap techniques) are the only players from last year’s team who are truly equipped to operate in a 4-3.

And Gocong never did blossom in Philadelphia’s 4-3. Restocking the defensive line will be the biggest challenge.




1. Defensive End
Marcus Benard is a fantastic athlete who, as an outside linebacker, often played bigger than his 256-pound size suggested. That doesn’t mean the undrafted third-year pro is ready to start – especially given that he’ll be learning how to play with his hand in the dirt. Jayme Mitchell, another undrafted guy, is penciled in on the other side. What does this tell you? The Browns need at least three, and maybe four, defensive ends.

2. Defensive Tackle
Rubin can be an adequate two-down player, even if he’s not a true Pat Williams-like clogger. Brian Schaefering, however, does not get off blocks well enough to play inside. Even if he did, the Browns would still need more one-gap quickness here.

3. Wide Receiver
Very few quarterbacks could succeed with Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Chansi Stuckey and Joshua Cribbs as their top four wideouts. Massaquoi is not dynamic enough to create on his own; Robiskie has barely seen the field his first two seasons; Stuckey’s quickness is impressive but best suited for the slot, while Cribbs is simply a gadget player.




Let’s hope new head coach Pat Shurmur is a patient man. The defense that Dick Jauron is installing is not complicated schematically, but it will take at least two years to accumulate the front seven personnel needed to run it.

That’s about how long the offense will take to develop if Shurmur decides that Colt McCoy is indeed the long-term solution for his West Coast system. A third straight 5-11 season seems likely.

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Posted on: April 15, 2011 12:33 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: San Francisco 49ers

Posted by Will Brinson



Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups



The 49ers were doomed almost from the very start of last season. After all, check out their schedule for the first five games – the Seahawks, the Saints, the Chiefs, the Falcons and the Eagles (all made the playoffs and combined for a 51-29 record while knocking off the 49ers) – but two weeks after running through that gauntlet, San Francisco fell to the Panthers also. So, that’s not too good.

Neither, for that matter, was coach Mike Singletary, who was fired after Week 16, and neither was much of anybody else. The offense ranked 24th in the league – almost a miracle considering Alex Smith and Troy Smith traded off starting QB spots and RB Frank Gore missed the last five games because of a fractured hip – and though the defense was actually slightly better than average, San Francisco just couldn’t put it together under Singletary’s leadership.




Quarterback Issues

When Singletary named Troy Smith as his starting QB midway through the season, you knew neither of them were long for their respective jobs. When Singletary replaced andinjured Alex Smith with Troy Smith in Week 10 and then switched back to Alex the next week (and then continued to switch the two throughout the rest of the year), there was almost no chance San Francisco would win consistently.

Actually, the trouble began earlier in the season during that infamous Sundayy Night Football game when the San Francisco fans booed Alex Smith and demanding to see the backup QB, and Singletary thought hard about replacing him with David Carr. Smith then led a near comeback attempt vs. the Eagles. Still, not a great sequence for San Francisco.


1. Patient History
We gave the patient history of this position in the section above, so now, let’s figure out what the 49ers will do about it. They actually could keep Alex Smith – they’ve already offered him a one-year contract – but it’s unclear whether Smith will sign it. But yeah, it might make sense for San Francisco to look for quarterbacks in the draft. And remember, Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb are still out there as well.

2. Jim Harbaugh
He’s got zero NFL head coaching experience, but 49ers fans have to be excited about the possibilities (considering his success at Stanford and because his brother, John, has done such a bang-up job with the Ravens), and considering he’s getting paid $25 million over five years, he’d BETTER have more success than Singletary. And don’t forget: San Francisco also hired Trent Baalke as GM in the offseason. So, the 49ers are kind of starting over.

3. Cornerback
Nate Clements is fine at one CB spot, but Shawntae Spencer didn’t have a great year last season. Which is why it makes sense for San Francisco to grab either LSU’s Patrick Peterson or Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara with the No. 7 pick in the draft.




The defense is good enough to compete. The 49ers LB corps with Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes (and maybe Manny Lawson) is pretty darn good, and the defensive line, led by Justin Smith, does a nice job as well. The problem here is offense, and not just at QB either.

Gore is coming off a bad injury, and WR Michael Crabtree still hasn’t broken out in a big way. Assuming Harbaugh can get the respect of his team right away – something Singletary struggled with last season – San Francisco could get back to 8-8. Which means the 49ers could contend for the NFC West crown.

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Posted on: April 14, 2011 12:57 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: Tennessee Titans

Posted by Josh Katzowitz



Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups.



The Titans are in need of an overhaul, which is exactly what they’ll be getting this year (whether they want it or not). Long-time coach Jeff Fisher is gone, replaced by his former OL coach, Mike Munchak. Defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil is gone, replaced by Jerry Gray.

So is offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, replaced by Chris Palmer. So is QB Vince Young, replaced by, um, who exactly?

You might have forgotten this, but at one point last season, Tennessee was 5-2. Then, the Titans lost eight of their final nine games of the season to finish the season on a disastrous note. A note that signified that the organization needs a makeover and fast.




New coaching staff

The end of Fisher’s tenure in Tennessee was awfully strange. Though it seemed like owner Bud Adams thought about picking Young over Fisher, he actually didn’t. He wanted Fisher to stay, and Fisher agreed to return. Until he didn’t, changing his mind and resigning his position. Which means that the Titans are going through a wholesale change, and considering the lockout is preventing the staff from meeting with the players, Tennessee will have a tough time catching up.

One of the biggest losses to the team, though, was when DL coach Jim Washburn left for Philadelphia. Jason Babin – who made his first Pro Bowl last season – was really upset with the transition, because he knows how much Washburn tutored him. Washburn also helped develop Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Antwan Odom, and his loss will be felt, especially if Babin leaves via free agency.




1. Quarterback
Young is gone, and though he compiled a 26-13 record and two Pro Bowl appearances in his five seasons with the Titans, a clean break from the organization clearly was needed. So, who to replace him? Kerry Collins, but he’s 38 years old. Rusty Smith, but he’ll be a second-year player with only one start of experience. So, where do you go next? Backup Brett Ratliff? I don’t think so.

2. Interior Offensive Line
LG Leroy Harris and C Eugene Amano struggled last season – one reason RB Chris Johnson’s numbers weren’t as good as he expected. Harris is still young, so the Titans might continue to use him, but Johnson might be appreciative if the Tennessee played somebody else at LG and C. RG Jake Scott, meanwhile, is solid and dependable.

3. Defensive Tackle
When the Titans talked about trading back for Albert Haynesworth last season, you know they were desperate for another DT. Thus, the Titans have to be loving the recent supposed drop in value of Auburn DT Nick Fairley. Although the undersized Jason Jones is quite a strong player at one DT spot, Fairley could add big talent to the defensive line if he’s still available for the Titans to draft at No. 8.




Is there optimism for the Titans next season? I don’t see how. Not after they lost their quarterback and then hired a head coach who’s never even been a coordinator to lead the team. Munchak, a pro football Hall of Famer because of his playing skills, is well-respected inside the game, but it might take a year or two to turn around the organization that, let’s face it, was left in total disarray.

And while we can say the AFC South isn’t necessarily going to be dominated by the Colts next season, I’d put the Jaguars and Texans ahead of Tennessee in the race for the division crown. By far.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com