When quarterbacks are hit and hit hard frequently, they also break stuff frequently. Jake Locker has received a thorough education in that simple deductive reasoning after he missed five games this past season. He may not have been pummeled as much as other starters (sacked 25 times over 11 starts, and hit 66 times), but when the body blows came, they came in ninja flurries.
Sort of like this…
Of those 25 times Locker was brought down by an opposing defender during the 2012 season, 13 of them came over just two games at the hands of elite pass rushers who exposed an O-line which was something very far from elite. In Week 16, the Packers sacked Locker seven times, and three weeks prior to that the Texans nearly tied Green Bay’s mark with six.
Say, some offensive line help in this draft sounds like a good idea then, right? Well, maybe and probably, especially when we throw in the struggles of the running game, and how frequently Chris Johnson was hit behind the line of scrimmage. That led to far more ground ball outs for a running back whose game is predicated on chipping away, and then smacking a few home runs.
But while more O-line reinforcements will surely be targeted early, exactly how early is debatable after Andy Levitre was signed in the opening days of free agency. I debated that debatable point to start off our latest draft question and answer session with Justin Stewart from Titan Sized.
1. The Titans will be in Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper territory, and they’ll therefore also be in a position to further reinforce the offensive line in front of Jake Locker after signing Andy Levitre during free agency. Should that be the first-round direction? Or does Levitre shift the focus elsewhere?
I think a lot of Titans fans would like to see them take Warmack or Cooper, just to drive the final stake into the heart of a problem that has existed for the past few years. Chris Johnson wouldn’t have anymore excuses, and Jake Locker would have all the protection he needs to show fans what he has. The Levitre signing definitely lessened the need for an offensive lineman, but it’s still certainly a possibility.
The Titans could also look to add another pass rusher to the mix with DE’s Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, since they’re the only really recognizable names on the defensive line.
2. Pass rush help is also a possible early priority. Assuming both options are available, what should be the focus between a defensive end (Ziggy Ansah?), or an interior rusher (Star Lotulelei or Sharrif Floyd if they fall)?
That’s a tough question. I think it’ll really come down to which position has the better player on the board, should they choose to go with either of those positions.
If someone like Lotulelei falls to the Titans, they could be tempted to grab him to get more push from the center of their defensive line, something that seemed lacking in 2012. Then again, adding a dynamic pass rusher who can get to the QB off the edge could be quite tempting as well. Morgan and Wimbley generated pressure this past season, but they struggle to actually reach them. With Dave Ball not being re-signed and a lack of general depth at the position, a defensive end is definitely a need as the Titans head into the draft.
3. Generally, can we expect this draft to center around the Titans’ addressing defensive needs, with an early guard maybe being the exception? Between the addition of Delanie Walker and a decent backup quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, most of the other offensive needs were taken care of in free agency.
Really, I think the Titans are going to shoot from the hip. They should feel fairly solid on both sides of the ball after a very active free agency period.
The positions that should see players added are SS, DE, OLB, OL, and CB. So I’d say you’re definitely on to something there. The Titans do seem poised to have a mainly defensive draft, but they could take a receiver and an offensive lineman. Kenny Britt is entering his contract year and the chances of him being re-signed in 2014 seem slim to none. If the Titans see a possible future replacement out there, they could be tempted to take him, especially considering the fact that it’s playoffs or bust for the coaching staff this year. Why not give Locker another weapon?
4. Who’s the one player the Titans need to make this draft a success?
The one player or one position? Either way, it’s hard to say. Warmack or Cooper would both make the draft look like a win. Then again, adding somebody who falls into the 2nd round like the Titans did with Akeem Ayers a few years ago could do the same thing. I’ll stick with Warmack, though. Hard to be disappointed about a guy who is being looked at as a future perennial Pro Bowl-er.
5. Any late-round sleepers you’re eying?
I didn’t get in as much draft studying as I’d have liked to this year, but I keep seeing some fifth and sixth round CB’s being linked with the Titans. That certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see from them (Alterraun Verner, 4th; Jason McCourty, 6th; Cortland Finnegan, 7th). We’ll see…