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3 Tennessee Titans
Peter King
September 04, 2006
Bring Vince Young along slowly? Don't count on it. He'll get a sniff of the action early, and then ... let's see what happens
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September 04, 2006

3 Tennessee Titans

Bring Vince Young along slowly? Don't count on it. He'll get a sniff of the action early, and then ... let's see what happens

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"This year is the 'tween year," says general manager Floyd Reese. "Last year was the salary-cap purge year. Next year all the pieces will be in place to contend." Only five of the 87 players Tennessee brought to camp were 30 or older, and a 23-year-old-first-round pick Vince Young-is the future of the franchise. He'll take the starting quarterback job from Billy Volek or the newly signed Kerry Collins at some point this year. The free-agent market was a source for much-needed playmakers and leaders: wideout David Givens and safety Chris Hope, who started in Super Bowls for the Patriots and the Steelers, respectively, plus center Kevin Mawae (formerly of the Jets) and linebacker David Thornton ( Colts).

No question this team will be better than the one that went 4-12 and was outscored by 122 points last season. Longtime quarterback Steve McNair was beat up and couldn't be counted on to play an entire season; his trade to the Ravens was best for all parties, including his prot�g�, Young, who idolized McNair though high school and college. Young is devoted now to offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who's trying to get him ready to play at least one series in the first half and another in the second, beginning as soon as the opening game, to throw opposing defenses a changeup every week.

"He needs to not get confused by all the bells and whistles, the motion and shifting, on defense," Chow says. "When he does, he'll be all right." Young grabbed the reins of the offense right from the start of camp. Two examples:

?On one gallop he saw 312-pound defensive tackle Randy Starks steaming toward him. Instead of stepping out-of-bounds, Young leveled him with a forearm.

?In a seven-on-seven drill Young sprinted right, looking for a receiver. Under pressure he abruptly spun around, ran to the left, threw across his body with a three-quarter delivery and lasered a 55-yard spiral for a touchdown to wideout Tramain Hall. After seeing that, coach Jeff Fisher said, "That's just not fair."

The question is, How soon will Young master the routine plays? "How long do we wait to play him?" says Chow. "That's the question of the year for us."

Volek is conceding nothing, but the signing of 11-year veteran Collins to a one-year contract spoke volumes. "As of this minute, Billy's our starter," Reese said late Monday. "But I don't know what next week will bring."

The question on defense is, Can cornerback Pacman Jones, the No. 6 pick out of West Virginia in last year's draft, get his head together? He's had several off-the-field incidents-the latest an arrest last week for disorderly conduct and public intoxication-and against the Jaguars he complained about a call with such vehemence and profanity that Fisher yanked him from the game. Tennessee needs Jones to grow up fast because he hits like a safety and his tight coverage skills will help reduce the league-high 33 touchdown passes the team allowed in 2005. Players such as Jones are the reasons why the Titans brought in free agents like Hope and Thornton, veterans as valuable in their roles as leaders as they are on the field.

Tennessee may be a year away, but it's one of those teams that could sneak into contention if the youth movement suddenly comes of age.


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