Tale Of The Tape: Tennessee Titans At Kansas City Chiefs
- QuarterbackJake Locker will have another opportunity to show that he can be a proficient starting QB, and he should have an opportunity to get off to a decent start against Kansas City’s porous pass defense. Locker is healthy after coming off Lisfranc surgery, and he has the arm strength to cause problems. However, he has not been consistent, and this appears to be his last opportunity to prove himself.There’s a lot of debate about whether Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is good enough to take the Chiefs on a long run in the postseason, but he is a proven regular-season winner. He helped turn the 49ers around before they committed to Colin Kaepernick, and he did the same with the Chiefs last year. He was rewarded with a contract extension, and he should be prepared for a big game vs. the Titans.
- OffenseThe Titans had grown quite fatigued with Chris Johnson, and he signed a free-agent deal with the Jets in the offseason. Tennessee is hoping second-round draft choice Bishop Sankey can give them a credible running game, and he is coming off a solid preseason. Wide receiver Kendall Wright emerged in 2013 when he caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards, and he could become a star this season.The Chiefs have built their offense around explosive running back Jamaal Charles, and he is one of most dangerous players in the league. In addition to running for 1,287 yards last year, he also caught 70 passes. Wide receiver Donnie Avery knows how to get open, and he should exceed the 40 receptions he put on the board last year. Tight end Anthony Fasano needs to get a lot better.
- DefenseThe Titans were a middle-of-the-pack defensive team in 2013, and that’s a good jumping-off point for the current season. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has installed an attacking 3-4 defense, and that unit has a chance to improve with the addition of former Bronco linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey had 10.0 sacks last year, and he appears to have improved his conditioning.The Chiefs couldn’t stop anyone in the second half of the season, and they ranked 32nd against the pass and 31st overall last year. It seems very unlikely that the Chiefs will get back to the playoffs this year if they don’t improve in that area. Outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston combined for 22.0 sacks a year ago, and they must continue to produce at a high level.
- Special TeamsThe Titans appear to have problems with their special teams this season. While Rob Bironas was one of the league’s most consistent kickers for years, he was not offered a chance to do the job this year. Unknown Travis Coons gets the opportunity. Punter Brett Kerns is average at best.The Chiefs have one of the best special-teams coaches in the league as Dave Toub always has a thoroughly prepared unit to carry its weight. Explosive Dexter McCluster is one of the most thrilling return men in the league. Dustin Colquitt averaged 46.0 yards per punt last season.
The Chiefs got off to a 6-0 start last season and head coach Andy Reid knows his team must have a sharp performance in the opener this year since the Chiefs go to Denver in Week Two. Look for Smith to open the season with a sharp performance after getting a contract extension last week. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports