The combined record of Tennessee’s first four opponents in 2005 (Steelers, Ravens, Rams, Colts) is 44–20. The combined record of the last 12 opponents: 82–110.
The Seahawks and 49ers will be making their first regular-season appearances at the Coliseum. Teams in their first games at the Coliseum are 4–20.
Still a winner
Despite his team’s 5–11 record last season, Titans coach Jeff Fisher (61) has more wins than any other NFL coach except Tony Dungy (63) since the start of the 1999 season.
Quarterback Steve McNair’s record of 72–45 as a starter during the regular season ranks sixth among active NFL starting QBs. McNair’s 72 total wins are the most in franchise history, just ahead of former Oiler Warren Moon (70).
Running back Chris Brown showed last year when he’s healthy he can put up numbers. He had 100-yard rushing games in his first three career starts, becoming the first player in franchise history to accomplish such a feat.
Linebacker Keith Bulluck is looking to become the team’s leading tackler for the fourth straight season.
The Prophecy: "Should Steve McNair miss some time, the Titans have a guy who has proven he’s more than capable in backup Billy Volek."
The Lie: "It seems like every offseason in Nashville begins with talk of doom and gloom, then things don’t turn out so bad. Once again the Titans lost some key players, but enough key players return for 2004."
— Athlon Sports Pro Football 2004
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Steve McNair's back, but a lot of his buddies won't be with him in 2005. The winds of change swept through the Music City this offseason, as some of the most familiar names in Titans franchise history were set free for salary cap reasons. Many of those veterans will be replaced with younger, less experienced players. It hardly sounds like a recipe for success after a dismal 5-11 season.
"I'm sure people are going to write us off, and they should -- we won just five games (in 2004)," linebacker Keith Bulluck says. "But that's okay. That only adds fuel to our fire."
Offseason surgery repaired McNair's sternum and lifted his spirits for the upcoming season. He hopes to return to MVP form this fall after suffering through an injury-plagued 2004 campaign.
He'll have to find a new favorite target following the departure of Derrick Mason, and the Titans must improve on both sides of the ball. Tennessee is expected to get most of its injured players back in time for the '05 season, and Titans coach Jeff Fisher says despite the turnover on the roster he expects to field a competitive team.
"This is a situation where our expectation level hasn't changed," he says. "Every day on the practice field, every Sunday -- the expectation level is to win and get to the playoffs with a quest for a championship."
Coming off a co-MVP season, McNair had high hopes heading into last year. But an unusual sternum injury ruined his season, and he played in only eight games.
McNair enters the '05 season in the best shape of his life after dedicating himself to the offseason program. Many felt he opted not to retire because he didn't want to end his career on a sour note.
If he plays well -- and stays healthy in '05 -- it could reenergize him to keep playing several more years. This fall, he'll be working with one of the game's most respected offensive coordinators, Norm Chow.
"I look forward to the season, being a leader for some of the younger guys, and getting back to winning football games," McNair says.
In McNair's absence last season, backup Billy Volek certainly proved he's capable. Volek completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 2,486 yards and 18 touchdowns and was especially effective throwing the deep ball.
The Titans got 1,067 yards out of Chris Brown in '04, but they didn't get all of their questions answered about the talented running back. For the second straight year, Brown missed five games because of injuries. When he played, he was especially productive and provided a breakaway threat the team hasn't had in awhile.
Chow is expected to increase Brown's role in the offense even more this fall, and if the third-year back stays healthy he could take a lot of pressure off McNair.
"I know I can go out there and play at a high level and get the job done," Brown says. "Now I have to go out there and stay healthy and play a whole season and go out there and help the team win."
Brown's backup last season, Antowain Smith, is now with the Saints, and the team's starting fullback, Robert Holcombe signed with the Chiefs. The Titans will look to second-year player Troy Fleming to do more in the offense.
Drew Bennett emerged as one of the league's top receivers last season, and it's a good thing -- he's being asked to replace Mason as the Titans' No. 1 receiver.
Bennett caught 80 passes for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2004, doing most of his damage to opposing defenses down the field. With Mason gone, he'll draw even more attention his way.
If Tyrone Calico can stay healthy, he'll emerge as a big threat downfield. He missed most of 2004 with a knee injury. He showed flashes as a rookie two years ago, but he still has a lot to prove. Bennett and Calico could become quite a one-two punch, though they'll need help from a batch of newcomers. Draft picks Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones and Roydell Williams will all get thrown into the fire early.
The Titans had such high hopes for the O-line heading into last season because it was the first time since moving to Tennessee the five starters were returning intact.
But that didn't last long -- starting guard Zach Piller suffered a season-ending biceps injury in the opener and the unit was hit hard by injuries throughout the year.
The Titans welcome back veteran tackle Brad Hopkins for his 13th season this fall, and he'll be joined by guards Benji Olson and Piller, along with center Justin Hartwig. But right tackle Fred Miller won't be back. Jacob Bell, who filled in for Piller last season as a rookie, replaces Miller at tackle. The Titans expect tackle Michael Roos, a second-round pick, to develop into a top lineman.
The Titans gave their young defensive ends a year to mature. Now they need Antwan Odom, Travis LaBoy and Bo Schobel, all 2004 draft picks, to be productive this fall. The trio will need to be effective if the Titans are going to get to opposing quarterbacks after losing two of their top rushers this offseason -- Kevin Carter and Carlos Hall. But the team added veteran end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Cardinals.
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth has all the talent to be a Pro Bowl performer, but injuries have slowed him down during his entire career. Inside, he's expected to be a force and provide leadership for some of the team's younger players.
Randy Starks is a disruptive player inside, and Rien Long has improved each year. Jared Clauss will also work his way into the rotation.
Bulluck probably deserved Pro Bowl recognition after a solid 2004 season, but he was overlooked on a bad team. The playmaking outside linebacker will be the leader on a defense that will have plenty of new faces this fall.
Peter Sirmon will return to start opposite Bulluck after missing the 2004 season with a torn ACL. He is expected to be back at full strength.
Brad Kassell stepped into the middle last season and was a tackling machine. The Titans planned on Rocky Calmus being their middle linebacker of the future, but injuries have kept him off the field. Kassell and Calmus are expected to compete for the spot in training camp. Another linebacker who will contribute in different packages and on special teams is Rocky Boiman, a good athlete and tough player.
Since the team's Super Bowl season in 1999, the Titans have had the luxury of turning over one side of the field to Samari Rolle. He was regularly in charge of shutting down the other team's top receiver. Now Rolle is gone, and the Titans have a hole on the other side of the field too, following Andre Dyson's departure.
The Titans need Andre Woolfolk, the team's first-round draft choice in 2003, to step up in his third NFL season. He'll start on one side. First-round pick Adam 'Pacman' Jones will start opposite Woolfolk. Jones, however, may have to deal with legal and disciplinary issues after being linked to a nightclub fight. Athletic but unproven cornerback Tony Beckham, Michael Waddell and Rich Gardner will also be in the mix.
At safety, Tank Williams and Lamont Thompson return, as will veteran Lance Schulters, a former starter, after his '04 season was cut short by a foot injury. Thompson emerged last season with Schulters out and should not relinquish the starting job.
Punter Craig Hentrich was solid once again in 2004 and continues to be one of the team's unsung heroes. The Titans will have a new kicker this fall, however. Ola Kimrin, who's bounced around different rosters in the NFL, will be given a chance to win the kicking job in training camp after Joe Nedney was released after missing back-to-back seasons with injuries.
Fisher doesn't want to hear any of the "rebuilding" talk. But face the facts -- the Titans lost key players like Mason, Rolle, Carter and Miller -- and they're counting on youngsters to step in and produce all over the field. The Titans have been a popular Super Bowl pick in past preseasons, but no one will be picking them this year. In a division that continues to improve, they'll be fortunate to finish .500.