I exchanged emails this week with Drexel Perry from the excellent Titans blog Total Titans. I picked his brain on Matt Hasselbeck, Jason Jones, Nate Washington and, of course, Sunday’s tilt between the Steelers and Titans. Jump it to see the Q and A.
BB: We’re used to watching Chris Johnson dominate the league every single season. He’s struggled so far in 2011 and is averaging less than 3 yards per carry. Is something up with CJ or is the offensive line or Ahmard Hall’s absence to blame?
TT: Personally, I believe a combination of factors are responsible for CJ’s sluggish start. While the unit is pretty solid when it comes to protecting the quarterback, the offensive line has been less than stellar performing their run-blocking duties. Of course, the situation wasn’t helped thanks to CJ’s holdout, which took away some valuable time from both CJ and the line getting some chemistry. Johnson did gain 101 yards last week against Cleveland so hopefully, last week’s performance will serve as the proverbial step in the right direction for the running game.
BB: From an outsiders perspective, Matt Hasselbeck seems to bring a steadying presence to the QB position that the Titans haven’t had for a long time. What did Titans fans think/expect when he was signed in the offseason and what are your thoughts now?
TT: I think many of us thought Hasselbeck would be a solid pickup if he had anything left in the tank: He just wasn’t as “sexy” as some other options thought to be available at the time such as Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer and Kyle Orton. Those who doubted the signing of Hasselbeck probably pointed to his recent litany of injuries and subpar numbers in 2010 prior to his postseason turn-back-the-clock performance. As for now, Hasselbeck has exceeded expectations. His veteran presence in the huddle is a breath of fresh air considering the inconsistency we’ve witnessed at the QB position since a guy named Steve McNair left the franchise. He’s also a more-than-willing teacher as he tutors the QB-in-waiting Jake Locker. To sum it up, Matt Hasselbeck has been a god-send for the Tennessee Titans.
BB: How has former Steeler Nate Washington fared the past few seasons in Tennessee? He was developing into a big time deep threat during his last couple of years in Pittsburgh, but he has he turned into the complete receiver the Titans hoped he would?
TT: Up until this year, Washington has been a bit of a disappointment, mostly because of his inconsistent hands. His penchant for making plays was constantly undermined by an ill-advised case of the dropsies at seemingly the most inopportune times. However, he’s catching everything in sight this season. With the devastating season-ending injury to Kenny Britt, Nate’s stepping up as a leader and a playmaker at the WR position.
BB: The Titans have dominated the Steelers offensive line during the past few meetings. I can’t think “Titans” without flashbacks of Jason Jones dancing in the Steelers backfield after a big sack. With the Steelers offensive line in shambles, which Titans should we expect to get to Roethlisberger this Sunday?
TT: ason Jones should be able to get to Roethlisberger once again this weekend, expect this time, he’ll be wreaking havoc from the defensive end position rather than at defensive tackle. Outside of JJ, the Titans have a few other linemen who may introduce themselves to Big Ben on an occasion or two this Sunday. Dave Ball’s a solid vet whose more than capable of getting after the QB and unheralded rookie Karl Klug is another guy who can get after the quarterback. Also, be sure to keep your eyes on second-year DE Derrick Morgan, who is playing well coming off of a season-ending knee injury as a rookie.
BB: Finally, how do you expect the game to play out? Who wins this one?
TT: I’m expecting a competitive contest between a Titan team attempting to prove they’re a contender and a wounded Steelers’ squad that, despite several injuries, has enough pride and talent to still be a factor in the AFC postseason race. I think the game comes down to a game-winning field goal, with the Titans’ Rob Bironas coming through in the clutch. Titans 23 Steelers 20