When Albert Haynesworth departed the Tennessee Titans early in free agency, many began wondering exactly how the team would go about replacing him.
Certainly, they are hoping that second-year man Jason Jones can step up and be the new starter at the position. And to bolster the depth at the position, the Titans signed former Vanderbilt standout Jovan Haye.
The Titans at least outwardly appear confident that those two, plus holdovers Tony Brown and Kevin Vickerson can help offset the loss of Haynesworth, the $100 million man in Washington.
So, if the Titans can absorb losing Haynesworth, who is the one player the Titans can least afford to do without? That’s where you come in. Just go to www.nashvillecitypaper.com and vote for the player you think is the most indispensable Titan currently on the roster.
To make things easier, let’s take a quick look at the six nominees:
RB Chris Johnson
As a rookie, Johnson rushed for 1,228 yards and nine touchdowns and earned a Pro Bowl invitation. Johnson, the team’s 2008 first-round pick from East Carolina, electrified a moribund offense by giving it a big play threat. Evidence of his value was what happened to the offense after Johnson sprained his ankle in the playoff loss to Baltimore. He put up 100 yards of total offense by himself before suffering the injury.
QB Kerry Collins
Collins resuscitated his NFL career last season by coming in for Vince Young in the season opener and helping the Titans to a league-best 13-3 mark. Collins’ numbers weren’t eye-popping, as he completed 242 of 515 passes with 12 touchdown throws. His most impressive stat was the fact that he threw just seven interceptions all season, compared to the 17 Young had tossed the year before. Collins’ value, however, was in more than just the numbers, as the team rallied behind him. The Titans re-signed him and named him the starter for 2009. That attests to his worth to the Titans, a value that is enhanced by the fact that the Titans are still unsure of exactly what they have in Young.
LT Michael Roos
The success of Johnson, Collins and the rest of the offense is, of course, keyed by the team’s line. Roos has established himself as a Pro Bowl left tackle and is the anchor of a line that helped Johnson and LenDale White combine for nearly 2,000 yards on the ground and allowed just eight sacks of Collins all year long. Perhaps this is a team vote, but with Roos the cornerstone of the line, he is the nominee for them.
DE Kyle Vanden Bosch
Vanden Bosch’s stock was down a bit in 2008 because of a groin injury that limited his productivity. But make no mistake, even with Haynesworth in the lineup, the d-line in many ways took its cue from Vanden Bosch and his approach to the game. Having a healthy and motivated Haynesworth certainly helped to offset Vanden Bosch’s struggles a year ago. But with Haynesworth now out of the picture, Vanden Bosch again becomes the key to the defensive line, which in essence triggers the entire defense.
LB Keith Bulluck
For much of his career, Bulluck has been overlooked when it comes to things like Pro Bowls (one selection in 10 years) and All-Pro selections. But Titans fans know what a steady contributor he has been in his past eight seasons as a starting linebacker. Almost annually, Bulluck would be at or near the top in tackles, and could always be counted on for big plays on the defense. (See his “Mr. Monday Night” performance in New Orleans for proof.) His contract is up after the season, and it is one of those situations where, if he is not re-signed, his absence will indeed be noticed.
CB Cortland Finnegan
Three-fourths of the secondary played in the Pro Bowl in February, and a case could be made for any of them, particularly Chris Hope, who has emerged as a steadying force for a young group. But Finnegan’s feistiness and big-play knack have made him not only a fan favorite, but one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. With depth very thin behind him and Nick Harper, his current value to the team has probably never been higher.
So who is it? Certainly, the Titans wouldn’t want to be without any of their key players. And though football is the ultimate team game, individual playmakers often make the difference for a team in winning and losing.
Cast your vote and tell us who you think is the most valuable Titans — the player the team can least afford to do without.
If you want to tell us why you voted the way you did, then simply add your comment below the web version of this story or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.