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2007 Titans Awards: A Contrarian Take

Thanks to everyone who participated in selecting the 2007 Total Titans awards. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that these picks were all wrong. Naturally, part of this is because of my contrarian nature, and tendency to go against the grain, but I think sometimes the right player wasn’t picked. Even if you agree with the people’s choice, or don’t think I’m right, I’d ask to remember this player when you think about the Titans’ 2007 season.
Most Valuable Titans – Offense
People’s Choice: RB LenDale White
Tom’s Choice: LT Michael Roos
Much to my occasional annoyance and frustration, the Titans in 2007 concentrated on moving the ball on the ground. After all, three things can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad. If you want to look at it that way, then LenDale White, who got the lion’s share of the rushing carries and was reasonably productive at times, isn’t a bad choice. Unfortunately, life doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and players aren’t judged solely on their productivity, or at least they shouldn’t be. And LenDale White simply isn’t a very good running back. He’s not very fast. He has poor vision. He can’t cutback. He’s sometimes able to run over people, but it’s normally smaller people who don’t use good tackling technique, and when White is running with a head of steam. And, being terrible, White isn’t able to generate this head of steam on his own, but instead has to rely on his offensive line. Fortunately, the offensive line was normally pretty effective at creating holes for him. Then issue, then, was which offensive lineman to select, and LT Michael Roos was the clear choice. In his third year, he started all 16 games for the third year in a row, including the second at left tackle, the most important position on the offensive line, and was the same steadily effective player he’d been the year before. Stewart gets all the pub as the mauler, and he’s a bigger, more physical player than Roos, but the Titans were better, a lot better, running left tackle than they were right tackle. Roos was also a very reliable pass protector-not that he didn’t get beat for any sacks, but there wasn’t a single game where I looked back at it and said “You know, Michael Roos had a bad game.”
Most Valuable Titans – Defense
People’s Choice: tie, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, DT Albert Haynesworth
Tom’s Choice: OLB Keith Bulluck
Well, ok, these were better choices than White. You’ll get little argument from me that Haynesworth was an awesome presence on the Titans’ defensive line far more frequently in 2007 than he’d been in the past, and that KVB was as hugely disruptive as he’d been in the past. Still, I can’t help but give #53 some more love. I know he started to slip this year, as I noted, but these are the sorts of things that always happened to other linebackers. It’s just that Bulluck was playing at such an unbelievable level that drops in his play almost seemed magnified-going from ungodly awesome to merely excellent is a drop in performance, but that doesn’t mean his play was anything other than excellent. The Titans were the 3rd best team in the league at defending passes to TEs and #1 against RBs, and Bulluck was, again, a key part of that.
Honorable mention: S Chris Hope
Most Valuable Titan – Special Teams
People’s Choice: K Rob Bironas
Tom’s Choice: CB Eric King
Well, ok, when one guy is the top placekicker and also leads the league in kickoff distance, there aren’t many arguments against him. This is doubly true when the other special teams units, kickoff returns, punt returns, kickoff coverage, punts, and punt coverage, are all mediocre to poor. The choice thus devolves to Eric King, who was a waiver wire pickup off the Bills but has found a little bit of a home as a coverage guy. The coverage unit wasn’t great, but King always seems to be the guy around where the tackle is made.
Most Valuable Titans rookie
People’s Choice: S Michael Griffin
Tom’s Choice: WR Biren Ealy
This is another pick where there aren’t really any good arguments against the popular choice. RB Chris Henry may have been a better 3rd down back than White, but didn’t do much otherwise. 3rd round pick Paul Williams was inactive for all 16 games. C Leroy Harris didn’t really play. WR Chris Davis fumbled more returns than anybody not named “Devin Hester.” Antonio Johnson and Jacob Ford missed the entire season with injuries. Mike Otto spent the entire regular season on the practice squad. Ryan Smith and Joel Filani didn’t make it out of training camp. I’ll default to Ealy, whom I didn’t really expect to make the team-he didn’t do much, but he did at least play a couple games, which is more than could be said for Williams.
Most Valuable Titans coaches
People’s Choice: Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, defensive line coach Jim Washburn
Tom’s Choice: Offensive line coach Mike Munchak
Munchak meshed together two third year bookends in Roos and Stewart, a fourth year guard in Bell, and two veteran players in Mawae and Olson. Then, he had to deal with injuries, and Amano stepped in for Mawae and played well, and Loper wasn’t awful playing for Olson against a very good Charger defensive line. No great strike against the defensive coaches, but the offensive line had to do more to overcome a worse rest of the offense than the defensive line had to overcome the rest of the defense.
Most Improved Titan
People’s Choice: CB Cortland Finnegan
Tom’s Choice: WR Roydell Williams
From Pro Football Prospectus 2007: Cortland Finnegan Success Rate/Rank: 63%/#3, Pass Yards/Rank: 6.3/#14. For comparison’s sake, the comparable figures for Pacman were 63%/#2 and 5.4/#1. Full data for 2007 won’t be available for a while, probably not until PFP08 comes out in July, but Finnegan was an outstanding player in his limited role in 2006 and was a pretty good player in 2007 in an expanded role. No, the most improved Titan in 2007 was WR Roydell Williams, who barely saw the field in 2006, with only 8 catches on 20 passes thrown in his direction, but saw a much bigger role in 2007, leading the team with 55 receptions and 93 targets.
Comeback Player
People’s Choice: DE Antwan Odom
Tom’s Choice: RB Chris Brown
A “comeback” player is typically one who was good once, doesn’t play as well for a while, then plays well again. Odom, to me, falls more in the category of “Thanks for finally showing up.” The award instead goes to Chris Brown. I know the year ended badly for him, with costly fumbles each of the last two weeks, but I thought his NFL career was over after his mediocre 2006 campaign. When the Titans signed him, I viewed it as more of adding a live body who’s seen an NFL football before than adding somebody who might be useful. Then, of course, he had the great game Week 1 against Jacksonville, and while that was clearly his highlight game, he was a very useful player at times for the Titans, and those are words I never thought I’d write here.
Most Disappointing Titan
People’s Choice: Ben Troupe
Tom’s Choice: WR Brandon Jones
Troupe was non-thrilling for the third straight year, not even enjoying the stereotypical contract year surge. His days with the Titans really were numbered in early 2006, when VY took over the starting job from Collins and Scaife really replaced Troupe as the Titans’ primary TE target. I didn’t expect much from him, and he lived up precisely to my expectations. The player who I had hopes for was Brandon Jones. He seemed to me to be clearly the best of the 2005 WRs his rookie year, before his injury, and based on his performance in 2006, I expected him to be the Titans’ clear #1 WR this season. Instead, he saw his targets drop from 55 to 34, his receptions fall from 27 to 21, and his ypr from 14.2 to 11.8. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but Jones was less of a player than I thought he’d be in 2007, and thus earns my tag as 2007’s most disappointing Titan.
That wraps up my personal alternative choices for 2007. I don’t expect to fully convince you my choices were better than the consensus choices; as I indicate, I don’t always believe that myself, but these are still players worth remembering.