Category Archives: Tennessee Titans

Final Post

I am shutting down Titans Tracker permanently.

 

I will always have a passion for and support the Tennessee Titans franchise I became fond of as a teenager, when the then-Houston Oilers held its training camp in my hometown of San Angelo, Texas.

It was, is, and always be about the franchise, regardless of which city calls it home.

I hope Mr. Bud Adams gets a chance to hold the Lombardi Trophy, so coach Mike Munchak, his coaching staff, the front office and players better get to work.

Sincere thanks to my readers and sponsors over the past four seasons.

Goodbye, God bless, and as always, Go Titans!

Ayers, Casey add size to Titans defense

Mike Reinfeldt and the Tennessee Titans front office continue in their recent history of excellent drafting, grabbing a linebacker with a first-round grade and a big, quick defensive tackle.

UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers was not chosen as he sat in the NFL Draft waiting room Thursday night, but found out he had been picked by the Titans in the second round upon landing in Los Angeles Friday afternoon.

Ayers bring size and versatility to a linebacker corps that struggled mightily against tight ends in 2010. Ayers stands at 6’4″ and weighs 255, and signals that new defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and the Titans are stockpiling bigger defenders.

Jurell Casey was picked in the third round. A 6’1″, 305 defensive tackle, Casey will work with new defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. He will compete for playing time with undersized veteran tackle Jason Jones.

So far, each player drafted by the Titans comes from the Pac-10 conference.

Source: Titans Online

Welcome to the Jake Locker era

Yes!

I could not be happier that Tennessee took a bold step and drafted Jake Locker to be the team’s next franchise quarterback. The Good Lord must have wanted me to continue writing for Titans Tracker.

Folks, the person typing this was (and still is) one of Vince Young’s biggest fans. Tonight, I could not be more excited for the future of my favorite team.

And yes, the Titans proved once again that mock drafts are utterly worthless and a huge waste of time.

I don’t have an objective explanation on why I thought Locker might be the Titans guy. I, like Jon Gruden, simply had a hunch about him.

I studied Blaine Gabbert. I studied Andy Dalton. I’ve watched Colin Kaepernick over the past four years. I’d only taken a close look at Locker over the past week.

My hunch was, along with Cam Newton, that Jake Locker is the only other “it” quarterback in the draft.

I’ve been an avid NFL fan for over three decades, and I trust my hunches.

Locker is a guy who endured a winless sophomore campaign and didn’t bail on his program at the University of Washington after his junior year.

He’s smart, tough, and athletic. Yes, he’s not the most accurate guy, but ponder this.

These are the college stats of a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback.

Comp Att % Yards TD INT
79 194 40.7 1264 15 13
178 319 55.8 2271 16 5
206 381 54.1 2588 14 10
150 275 54.5 1572 7 6

Who is the quarterback?

Brett Lorenzo Favre.

Rest easy, Titans fans. This is going to be a fun ride.

Jake Locker, welcome to the NFL.

Go Titans!

Draft a Quarterback in the First Round

I can’t wait for Thursday’s NFL draft. It figures to be the most compelling, action-packed draft ever. Why?

Combine the complications created by the current labor dispute with the number of quarterback-needy teams, and you have the perfect recipe for an active, drama-filled first round.

The NFL labor dispute has created a situation in which teams were not able to sign free agents after early March.  After the Tennessee Titans declared its intentions to part ways with Vince Young, team management was not able to cut or trade Young, scan the free agent landscape, and sign a stop-gap quarterback.

If the Titans had signed one of the better quarterbacks believed to be on the market (Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton or Donovan McNabb), they might have a sense of whether they could draft a developmental quarterback in the second round.

Without a top-flight quarterback on the roster, there is heightened urgency to reach for a franchise-caliber quarterback in the draft, because there’s no telling if Tennessee can sign or trade for Kolb, Orton or McNabb.

Head coach Mike Munchak has mentioned Kerry Collins’ name enough times for me to believe that Collins is the team’s plan B.

If the Titans draft Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley (as predicted by almost every mock draft) at pick number 8, Collins may start in 2011. If so, expect the Titans to win no more than four games.

Carolina, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Arizona, Tennessee and Minnesota all need a franchise quarterback. Denver and San Francisco may also be interested in drafting a quarterback during the first two rounds.

There are enough quarterback-needy teams and enough good quarterback prospects to create what NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock is calling a feeding frenzy for quarterbacks Thursday night.

I agree with Mayock. There is no guarantee that trading down in order to pick a quarterback where he should be valued will work.

Rookie quarterbacks are not overrated. However, they are overvalued. So be it.

Was Mark Sanchez worth the fifth pick in the 2009 draft, given his relatively shallow college resume? The Jets believed he was worth the pick and traded up to get him. Sanchez has won three tough playoff games in two seasons.

Carolina or Buffalo will draft Cam Newton. Buffalo, Cincinnati or Arizona will draft Blaine Gabbert.

If the Titans believe Jake Locker is a franchise quarterback, they should draft him at number 8. The same goes for Andy Dalton.

I refuse to believe that the Titans want Ryan Mallett to be the new face of the franchise.

If Tennessee drafts Fairley or Julio Jones instead, they had better cross their fingers and hope Colin Kaepernick or Christian Ponder is available Friday morning.

Titans Tracker reviews the 2011 quarterback class

The 2011 NFL Draft is next week, and the Tennessee Titans are expected to draft a quarterback during the first two rounds of the draft.

I like quarterbacks — all of them. Gotta respect the toughest position in all of sports. I also trust my hunches. Last year, I was confident that Colt McCoy would overachieve in Cleveland, and that Jimmy Clausen would not be the answer for the Carolina Panthers. Here are my impressions of this year’s deep crop of signal callers.

They Will Not Be Titans

Cam Newton
The guy has superstar written all over him. He’s got a very strong arm, a large frame, charisma, and mental toughness. You don’t beat Alabama on the road, survive intense personal scrutiny, win the SEC championship and a BCS championship without being mentally tough. If he’s committed to greatness, he will be a top ten quarterback in four years.

Blaine Gabbert
I don’t get the hype. Then again, I didn’t get the hype about Matt Ryan coming out of Boston College. Gabbert enters the NFL draft after an average college career and a below-average third down completion percentage, yet he’s seen by many as being a top-ten pick.

Newton will be picked no later than number 3. I doubt Gabbert will slip to number 8 since there are so many quarterback-needy teams picking high in the draft. If Tennessee trades up to get Gabbert, I hope he, like Matt Ryan, becomes a better professional than his college performances indicate.

The Two Number 10s

Jake Locker
I had written off Locker due to his lack of accuracy and regression during his senior season. That is, until I saw him on Jon Gruden’s QB Camp. Locker strikes me as a bright, tough, effort guy.

During the program, Gruden told Locker, “I have a feeling about you.” I do, too, and I won’t be surprised if the Titans make room for Locker next week and reach for him in the first round.

Colin Kaepernick
I’ve watched Kaepernick play a number of times over the past four years. He has a lot of confidence and poise. However, because of his footwork and release, he is the dictionary definition of “project.”

Kaepernick believes he’s ready to start this season. I don’t, but I’d be more than happy if he’s starting for the Titans in 2012.

Ironically, if the Titans want either Locker or Kaepernick, they may have to draft one of them in the first round. Kaepernick in particular seems to be a hot commodity and has been invited to attend the draft.

The other irony is that Locker and Kaepernick both wore number 10 on his jersey.

The Safe Picks

To me, Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder are the same guy. Dalton has the stronger arm of the two and boasts a stellar win-loss record at TCU. Ponder is highly intelligent and has experience running a pro-style offense at Florida State.

Both Dalton and Ponder fit the so-called West Coast offense I expect offensive coordinator Chris Palmer to employ. Dalton has a bit more upside and would be a great second round pick.

If He’s Drafted, I May Become a Cowboys Fan

Ryan Mallett
During Mallett’s appearance on Gruden’s QB camp, fellow Arkansas Razorback John Daly made an appearance. Yes, that John Daly, the professional golfer who has struggled with alcoholism while squandering his tremendous talent.

I’m a John Daly fan. I think he’s a good guy at heart. But golf is an individual sport. If Daly was a strong-armed quarterback, would I want him leading my favorite team?

I don’t believe in accidents. To me, Daly’s involvement with Mallett is a bad omen. I hope Mike Reinfeldt and Mike Munchak don’t test my loyalty to the Titans by drafting Mallett.

Profile: “White Shoes” Johnson

Billy “White Shoes” Johnson brought smiles to many fans’ faces during his tenure as a kick returner and receiver for the Houston Oilers. Johnson’s endzone dance probably wouldn’t be acceptable to today’s referees and conservative NFL fans. JW Nix, who believes Johnson should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, allowed me to reprint this tribute to this entertaining and talented player.

William Arthur Johnson was a 15th round draft pick by the Houston Oilers in 1974. He was the 365th player picked overall despite the initial objections of GM/Head Coach Sid Gillman who didn’t want a “midget” on his team.

He had played at Widener College in Pennsylvania, where he was a stand out. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

He and his college team mate, Joe Fields (a long time NY Jets offensive lineman), both retired in 1988 and are the last players from Widener to have played in the NFL. Johnson was so good that he ended up averaging over 250 all-purpose yards per game at Widener.

He made the team as a return man and stood out immediately. He was given the moniker “White Shoes” in high school when he wore the white cleats, as opposed to most wearing black cleats.

In his first four seasons, he returned five punts for touchdowns, as well as two kickoffs for scores. In 1975 he tied an NFL record with four kick returns for touchdowns in a season.

He would celebrate his touchdowns with the “Funky Chicken” dance. This dance, coupled by his shoes, made him a fan favorite across the league. He was used as a third-down slot receiver in multiple receiver sets mostly.

He caught 116 balls with seven touchdowns his first three years. He was mostly used as a possession type due to the teams offensive scheme, but he also ran the ball for a touchdown.

Johnson caught 20 balls his fourth year for three touchdowns at a 20-yards per catch average. He also took a reverse 61 yards for a touchdown, the last rushing touchdown of his career.

In 1978, he blew out his knee during the fifth game. He only managed two games the following season due to its lingering effects. In 1980, he returned to be used only as a third wide receiver. He caught 31 balls for two touchdowns.

Disenchanted with his role, “White Shoes” bolted for the Canadian Football League to play for the Montreal Allouetttes. That year in Montreal, Billy caught 65 passes for 1,060 yards and five touchdowns.

Johnson returned to the NFL in 1982 by signing with the Atlanta Falcons. He played nine games that year and only caught two passes. He was able to return 24 punts at an impressive clip of 11.4 YPR.

“White Shoes” was used as the Falcons full time punt returner in 1983. He also started at wide receiver. He caught a team and career high 64 passes while scoring five touchdowns total. One touchdown was via a punt return.

He won the Pro Bowl MVP that year when he took a punt 90-yards for a touchdown, as well as accumulating 159 total return yards. Both are still Pro Bowl records.

He got off to a good start in 1984 by catching 24 balls for three touchdowns, as well as a touchdown on a punt return. He was injured the sixth game of the year and did not return until 1985.

Johnson was used very sparingly as a punt returner in 1985, instead focusing on his wide receiver duties. He caught 62 passes for a career high 830 yards to go with five touchdowns.

He was hurt the following year and caught only six passes and took eight punt returns in four games. He came back to play 12 games the following year and returned 21 punts and caught eight passes.

Johnson left the Falcons, but tried to play for the Washington Redskins in 1988. He played only one game and fielded four punts, returning three of them for 26 yards. He then retired.

Billy “White Shoes” Johnson was named to both the NFL’s 1980’s All-Decade Team, and to the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

He set seven team records in Houston and four in Atlanta and held the NFL record for punt return yardage when he retired. He is still ranked third all-time in NFL history for punt return yardage and still holds the Oilers / Titans franchise record for punt return yardage.

Johnson may be known to many fans as an innovators of the touchdown dance. He is credited as being one of the first, but certainly his can stake claim to having been the best ever.

Celebrations with more choreography may have been employed since then, but it is much like the students trying to emulate the master. He was not just a crowd pleaser with his dance.

He was a premier return specialist who took eight kicks to the end zone in his career. He also worked hard to become a threat at wide receiver. Others, like Terence Mathis, Troy Brown, and Derrick Mason, have followed similar steps in their careers.

Johnson was a very special player who battled through injuries and came back to produce. One must remember that knee injuries in those days ended, or slowed down, most careers. The surgical procedures used then are a far cry from today’s advances in medicine.

It took even more determination to return, and a lot longer of a rehab session. “White Shoes” may not make every ones list of guys who should be inducted into Canton, but he is on the All-Time NFL Team as the only return specialist.

This fact, coupled with his stats and the fun he brought to the game, make it a no-brainer that he should be inducted into Canton.

See Crazy Canton Cuts for more profiles of gridiron legends.

Happy Birthday, Earl Campbell

I received a message from Mitchell and Ness that reminded me that today is Earl Campbell’s birthday.

Earl Christian Campbell was born at home 56 years ago today in Tyler, Texas. Campbell’s mother Ann gave her new son the first and middle name of the doctor who brought him into the world.

Campbell starred at John Tyler High School and was heavily recruited as a senior running back. According to Campbell, his top two college choices were Oklahoma and Texas.

Campbell did not go easy on then-Longhorns head coach Darrell Royal. Royal, due to his reluctance to integrate the Texas Longhorns football program, had long been accused of being a racist. During one recruiting visit, Campbell said to Royal, “I hear you don’t like black people.”

Royal convinced Campbell that he was not a racist, and that the University of Texas would be a great place for the high school star to play football and get a degree.

At the end of Campbell’s final year at the University of Texas, he was awarded the Heisman Trophy. A few months later, the Houston Oilers drafted Campbell number one overall in the 1978 draft.

The Tyler Rose only played eight NFL seasons, but he literally and figuratively made an impact on the league, and on opposing defenders. One of his most famous highlights shows Campbell burying his helmet into the chest of Los Angeles Ram linebacker Isiah Robertson.

Campbell was named the NFL’s most valuable player in 1978, 0979 and 1980. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.

As a young football fan, I was impressed by Campbell’s humility, faith, and punishing running style. Today, I’m happy that Campbell played for both my alma mater and my favorite professional football team.

I’m saddened by the toll the game took on Campbell, but I’d guess that if he had to do it again, he would run with the same fierceness and determination he displayed during his short professional career.

You can get a fine number 34 Earl Campbell jersey from Mitchell and Ness for $225.

Happy birthday, Mr. Campbell.

Sources:
Blair, Sam. The Driving Force (1980). Word Books
Pro Football Reference: Earl Campbell