||AFC CENTRAL NEWS
TENNESSEE TITANS TEAM PREVIEW
By Rachael Brandon, NFL.com
Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger joins the Titans from the Denver
Broncos, replacing Les Steckel, who is now the offensive coordinator for
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Heimerdinger, who helped coach the Broncos to
back-to-back Super Bowl titles, has already shown that he boasts a
"whatever's-best-for-the-team" attitude. Rather than teaching the Titans
all of his own stuff, he picked up the lingo that Steckel used to describe
plays and routes.
"It's easier for one guy to change than for 43 guys to change,"
Heimerdinger told NFL Insider. "And it would be awfully hard for Jeff to
look his team in the eye and say, 'Hey, here comes this new guy, and we're
going to junk everything that got us to the Super Bowl.' "
NFL INSIDER POWER RATINGS
Ratings based on analysis of 1999 team and individual statistics,
offseason personnel moves and feedback from respected experts (from NFL
Insider's Season Preview issue) Rushing offense: 9.3 Passing offense: 8.1
Rushing defense: 8.9 Passing defense: 7.3 Special teams: 9.2 Coaching: 9.8
Intangibles: 9.7 TOTAL: 62.3 Scale of 1-10; Perfect score=70
ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL...
Yancey Thigpen returned to the practice field on Aug. 9 after missing the
first part of camp with an ankle injury he suffered during last season's
playoffs. He had surgery in April, which slowed his recovery. However, the
former Pittsburgh Steeler returned to game action in the Monday night win
over the St. Louis Rams on Aug. 14.
"It was great to get out there and play and get a little contact, to
actually be in uniform," Thigpen said. "I was a little rusty at first, but
immediately got into the flow of the game and started feeling really,
really good. I wanted to get back in in the second half, but that wasn't
Wide receiver Carl Pickens might be just what the Titans need to make the
jump from Super Bowl runners-up to Super Bowl champs.
Pickens, a two-time Pro Bowl pick with the Cincinnati Bengals, has 530
career receptions, 63 for touchdowns, and once caught a pass in 93
"What Carl brought the day he got here was competition," Heimerdinger
said. "I've seen the wide receivers step up and go to compete because they
know who Carl is and they know what he brings and they know, because of
the competition now, there's one less spot probably."
Pickens, a former Tennesee Volunteer, also brings diversity to the
offense. He'll probably be double-teamed, opening up gaps for running back
Eddie George and tight end Frank Wycheck.
"There are a lot of opportunities for anybody to step up and make a play,
and I like that because you never know whose number's going to be called,"
Wide receiver Gerald Harris. He signed with the Titans as an undrafted
free-agent wide receiver. The Titans moved him to tight end, and he's
currently No. 2 on the depth chart behind Wycheck.
He completed a 47-yard pass play in the Titans' preseason win over the
Kansas City Chiefs, but he's been limited in his playing time since the
Titans are trying to work in so many receivers - Pickens, Thigpen, Kevin
Dyson, Chris Sanders and Isaac Byrd.
But Wycheck is one of the better tight ends in the game and Harris could
learn a great deal from him if he's committed to staying at tight end.
TITANS AT A GLANCE
Head coach: Jeff Fisher (sixth year with Tennessee). 1999 record: 13-3
(2nd in AFC Central) 1999 rankings: Offense- 11th overall (331
yards/game), 13th run (113.2), 13th pass (217.8) Defense - 17th overall
(327.8 yards/game), 10th run (96.9) 25th pass (230.9)
KEY COMINGS WR Carl Pickens (Bengals) LB Randall Godfrey (Cowboys) OT Fred
KEY GOINGS CB Steve Jackson OL Jon Runyan (Eagles) TE Jackie Harris
(Cowboys) DB Anthony Dorsett (Raiders) LB Barron Wortham (Cowboys) LB Joe
TOP DRAFT CHOICES LB Keith Bulluck (1st round) DE Byron Frisch (3)
Samari Rolle started all 16 games for the Titans last season, putting up
good numbers - 61 solo tackles, four interceptions and three sacks. But
the Titans need someone to be the leader of the secondary. It's only
Rolle's third season, but he might be the best man for the job.
George had almost as many carries last season (320) as any other rusher
had yards. Steve McNair was Tennessee's second-leading rusher, with 337
carries. ... The highest QB rating on the Titans last season belonged to
Wycheck, believe it or not. His one touchdown pass on his only attempt of
the season gave him a rating of 158.3.
As if the preseason rematch with the Rams wasn't thrilling enough, the
Titans open the regular season on Sept. 3 against another playoff foe,
Buffalo. Be prepared to relieve the Music City Miracle via replay again
and again. And again.
Pickens returns to the city in which he spent eight years of his career
when the Titans visit Cincinnati Oct. 8. Pickens still holds many Bengals
records. His return should be electric.
One week later, on Monday Night Football Oct. 16, the Jacksonville Jaguars
come to town. The Titans not only beat the Jags three times last season -
twice in the regular season and again in the AFC Championship Game - but
those were Jacksonville's only three losses. You can bet the Jags have not
TO BE ANSWERED...
Will the secondary do a better job than last year when the Titans allowed
230 yards passing per game?
Rolle needs to build on the success he had last season and bring Dainon
Sidney along with him.
Will the Titans be able to overcome the pressure that comes with being the
AFC Central champs?
That's been Jeff Fisher's plan all season. He's been relentless in
insisting that the Super Bowl is behind the Titans, that they won't dwell
on it and that this is a new season.
"Probably the best way to describe the feeling I have now is we've kind of
closed the book and put it on the shelf," Fisher says. "It's over. We've
got to go on."