With training camp in sight for the Tennessee Titans at the end of next month, let’s examine where the team stands at each position as it is poised to embark on preparations for the 2008 season.
We’ll look at what is on hand roster-wise and what can be expected of each position group over the coming days and into training camp and the preseason.
Today, we’ll take a look at the quarterback position, where the Titans are banking that new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger can bring out the best in Vince Young and accelerate his development as both a passer and a decision-maker at quarterback.
2. Kerry Collins
3. Ingle Martin
4. Paul Thompson
Young’s athletic ability and Heimerdinger’s past track record with turning Steve McNair from an athlete playing quarterback to a polished NFL product is the biggest advantage the Titans have at the position.
Young’s completion percentage improved last season from 51.5 percent as a rookie to 62.3 percent a year ago. But he regressed in two important areas, as his number of touchdown passes dropped from 12 to nine and his interception total zoomed from 13 to 17. With both of those numbers going in the wrong direction, it is incumbent upon Young to take well to Heimerdinger’s new offense and his tutelage to turn things around.
Young has the raw ability to be a difference-maker, and the Titans need him to take a major step forward in 2008 in a number of areas — including production, decision-making and maturity.
Behind Young, the Titans have an old warhorse in Collins, who can still throw the ball effectively when given time to set up in the pocket. Collins is fine to fill in in a pinch, as he proved in directing a victory over the Houston Texans last season.
When Heimerdinger became the Titans’ offensive coordinator the first time around in 2000, it took about a year-and-a-half of work for him to get McNair to the point where he was fully handed the keys to the offense.
The Titans believe a good part of the puzzle is in place for a deep playoff run, especially on the defensive side of the ball. So that means they really need Young to get up to speed in Heimerdinger’s offense as quickly as possible, perhaps faster than McNair did.
Still, Young is only 25, and it will take time for him to fully develop and become comfortable in Heimerdinger’s system. It could be that Young takes a step forward this season, but doesn’t fully hit his stride as a quarterback until 2009 or 2010.
BIGGEST CAMP BATTLE
Young and Collins are locked in at the top two spots, leaving Martin and Thompson to battle for the third quarterback job, which once again might very well be a practice squad position.
With position battles being tight at places like wide receiver and on the defensive line, whoever emerges as the No. 3 quarterback might find himself on the practice squad rather than the active 53-man roster.
Martin, a former MBA star who is from Nashville, was picked up last year after being let go by Green Bay. Thompson is also a former Packer.
Martin’s passes have looked more accurate and crisp this offseason, as he prepares to try and lock down the No. 3 role again.
ON THE SPOT
No doubt here. The Titans’ fortunes this season are largely tied to Young’s learning curve and his ability to execute Heimerdinger’s system. Young also needs to reclaim the X factor of breaking down a defense with the scramble when a play breaks down. Thanks in part to a quadriceps injury last year, that part of Young’s game was largely missing.