I've already chosen him as the defensive MVP, but after considering all the candidates for the most surprising (in a good way) player for the Tennessee Titans in 2012, my choice is the man I've already given one award to, defensive end Derrick Morgan.
The first two years of the 2010 first-round pick's career were blah. The first was, of course, shortened by his knee injury. The second, well, he didn't fare poorly against the run, but he also didn't show much of a pass rush or look explosive. About as much as a defensive player can do for a bad defense on a bad team, though, he broke out in 2012. I've already noted the six sacks of his own, more than any other player on the team. I've noted how he created even more sacks for other players. I've noted he played more snaps than any other player in the defensive front seven. I've already noted his area of responsibility is where the Titans were stoutest against the run.
What I haven't yet noted is how impressive his numbers were by Football Outsiders individual defensive metrics. He was involved in more plays than any other defensive lineman. He was involved in a higher rate of successful plays (for the defense) than any other player on the team. He finished third on the team in Stops, the number of plays that result in an unsuccessful play for the offense, behind only Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown, and more than any single player on defense had in 2011. He finished first on the team in Defeats, plays that prevent a first-down conversion on third or fourth down, result in a loss, or create a turnover. His Defeat total was more than any player on the defense had in 2011. By NFL numbers, he had six passes defensed, which is more than Michael Griffin, Zach Brown, Ryan Mouton, or Coty Sensabaugh, guys who spent a lot of time in coverage, did.
In short, I was wondering after his first two seasons if Derrick Morgan was more than a run-stopping end. In 2012, he answered my question with an emphatic "yes," and that makes him my 2012 Tennessee Titans biggest surprise.