For a fourth straight season, Razzball will be interviewing local NFL beat writers for some actual in-depth football knowledge to shed some additional light on our fantasy football knowledge. Keep your eye out for an interview for every NFL team through the summer. This installment comes courteous of Sharona Sports from leading Tennessee Titans blog Music City Miracles (date of interview – August 15):
1) Let’s start at QB, where I recently said on our podcast that I see Jack Locker being a solid fantasy backup or 2nd QB this year in 2 QB leagues. He’s got weapons to throw to, a solid running game, and can tuck the ball and run as well. How are Titans reporters feeling about Locker leading your offense in 2013?
There is reason to be optimistic about Jake Locker heading into the 2013 NFL season. Locker had an injury filled 2012 campaign topped off by crippling injuries to his offensive line. Combine an offensive system that was less than ideal and the struggles were somewhat understandable.
The good news is that Locker enters 2013 healthy and with a revamped offensive line that should be healthy to start the season. The Titans invested heavily in the interior of their offensive line by signing former Bills left guard Andy Levitre, bringing in Rob Turner to compete at center, and signing center/guard Fernando Velasco to an offer sheet. They didn’t stop there however they drafted a road grader of an offensive lineman in Chance Warmack who has already made his mark in the run game. They also drafted Brian Schwenke who is going to also compete at the center spot.
Also, the Titans invested in weapons for Locker by signing former Jets running back Shonn Greene and former San Francisco Forty Niner tight end Delanie Walker. Greene is going to take the load off Chris Johnson and is going to be helpful in pass blocking situations. He is also good in the screen game and the Titans are showing an indication they are going to run more running back screens. Walker is a versatile Hback/TE who is going to be virtually an every down player who will line up in a variety of ways. Finally, the Titans drafted former University of Tennessee wideout Justin Hunter who is a tall lanky receiver with outstanding ability to go up and grab jump balls.
Finally, the Titans enter 2013 with a revamped offensive playback courtesy of new coordinator Dowell Loggains. Loggains has been with the Titans for 6 years having been the quarterbacks and wide receivers coach. He has learned his craft working for New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and worked with the Titans under former offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. Loggains assumed the coordinator position during the 2012 season but didn’t have an opportunity to fine tune things they way he wanted. Loggains spent the offseason devising a new playbook and you can bet your last dollar it will take advantage of the skills each offensive player brings to the table.
Put it all together and you have every reason to think the Titans offense and particularly Jake Locker will be much improved in 2013.
2) Chris Johnson busted a huge run in the Titans first preseason game, and looks like he’s ready to prove he’s back to CJ2K. If you had to pick, will he be closer to CJ1K or CJ2K in total yards this year?
I think the key to understanding where Chris Johnson will fit in fantasy football is to understand where the Titans are going to use him. The Titans have split CJ out quite a few times in training camp in addition to using him in the run game. The Titans have moved to a zone blocking scheme and their tight ends and wide receivers are going to do a good job blocking to help spring CJ in the running game, but CJ is going to get an opportunity to make a splash with his receiving skills as well.
So taking total yards into consideration, it is certainly forseeable we might at least see a CJ1.5k or better.
3) A guy I’ve always thought is on the cusp of a big breakout is Kenny Britt, but severe knee injuries and off the field issues have slowed his career. And right now there are reports coming out at the time of this interview that he he’s dealing with some swelling in his knee heading into the second preseason game. This is a contract year for Britt, who if he can stay healthy, I think might be a solid sleeper later in fantasy drafts. Do you think he can stay healthy, and if he does can he be that big game receiver we’ve seen flashes of?
Clearly Britt’s injury is something to keep an eye upon but at least at this point it doesn’t appear serious. Still, Britt has undergone multiple surgeries on his knee but was expected to be healthy heading into this season. Britt should be on the field by the 3rd preseason game. If he isn’t then there might be cause for concern.
The question of whether a healthy Britt is a good sleeper candidate is a bit more complicated as the Titans have multiple offensive weapons and there will only be a limited number of balls to go around. Still, Britt has the tools to be a big strong receiver who should dominate defensive backs. Plus, Locker has familiarity with Britt and knows what he can do so you have to factor that in as well.
4) Across from Britt will be 2nd-year receiver Kendall Wright, who is another receiver with a lot of buzz and sleeper value. How much do you think he can build on last season’s impressive rookie campaign and what would you project for his receptions/yards/TDs?
I think the Titans are going to use Kendall Wright in the slot and rookie wideout Justin Hunter along with Nate Washington will man the outside opposite Britt. Having said that, you could certainly see Wright outside in the right matchups. One thing coordinator Dowell Loggains has emphasized is versatility and the receivers with the exception of Britt are all learning the entire wheel route. So expect some shuffling around and receivers playing matchups a whole lot more from the Titans in 2013.
5) Past the names mentioned above, there’s Nate Washington returning and Shonn Greene backing up Chris Johnson, then pretty much no one that has ever been on the fantasy radar in standard leagues. Will Washington be about what he was last year and is Greene pretty much a strict backup? And are there any other names deeper on the depth chart that fantasy owners should be keeping an eye?
I touched a bit on Washington and Greene earlier but Washington has looked great in camp and made several key plays in the Titans first preseason game against the Redskins. The vet is definitely going to be in the mix at wide receiver. Washington will good looks both outside and in the slot. You might also see him and Kendall Wright in some trickery as the Titans have ran some end arounds and reverses during the offseason.
Greene could certainly vulture some touchdowns from Chris Johnson as he will certainly get some goal line carries. Also, as I mentioned earlier, you can expect to see Greene catch some screen passes and he does a nice job there.
Two names to keep in mind are tight end Delanie Walker who as I mentioned before is going to be an every down tight end. Also, watch the development of rookie wide receiver Justin Hunter who is already playing both outside wide receivers spots and who will learn the slot at some point as well. Hunter possesses the physical tools you see in elite wide receivers and is often compared to A.J. Green. If he can get into the mix he could be dangerous.
Finally, a guy to watch if you are in a league that takes advantage of specials teams points and plays, keep an eye on wide receiver Damian Williams who is in the mix at the return position and adds good wide receiver skills as well. Williams has already returned a kickoff for a touchdown in training camp and looks good at receiver as well.
Sharona Sports (@SportsBySharona) is a fantasy contributor and writer for Music City Miracles where you can find her 2013 Titans training camp recaps. She also has her own website Sports by Sharona. She is also the Titans reporter for NFL Female.