It’s time for our weekly “Five Questions, Five Answers” entry focusing on Seattle’s upcoming opponent. Our guest this week is Jim Wyatt, who covers the Tennessee Titans for The Tennessean.
Question 1: How was Jake Locker doing prior to getting hurt and what is his situation now?
A: “He was on the right path. There were a lot of questions about him coming into the season and with his injury-shortened 2012 season, but in the first part of the season he did exactly what they wanted him to do. He was cutting down on his mistakes, had not made any mistakes, and made good decisions, was really playing well. Now he’s out indefinitely with a hip and knee injury and the initial timetable for him was 4-6 weeks so I think the best-case scenario for him is that he is back after the bye on Nov. 3.’’
Question 2: How does the team change with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback instead?
A: “As far as the play-calling and what they do on offense, it doesn’t change a lot. Fitzpatrick does have the ability to scramble and move around and he’s maybe not as athletic as Locker but he’s certainly not a sitting duck. The thing about him, and you could tell right out of the gate against the Chiefs, is that it will take him a little while to catch up to the speed of the game, and he’s been a little more careless with the football — he threw two interceptions against the Chiefs after Locker didn’t throw one in the first four games. I think they lost something when they went from Locker to Fitzpatrick even though Fizpatrick is capable of turning in some good games and leading them to some wins. It’s just going to take him a little while to get comfortable again.’’
Question 3: What else stands out about their offense?
A: “The entire running game, not just Chris Johnson (above in an Associated Press photo), has been a disappointment. They upgraded the offensive line with three new interior starters in Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack at guard and Rob Turner at center. But they just haven’t been able to run the ball very well, and Johnson is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry and he hasn’t had a breakaway run yet. They had a first-and-goal at the 1 last week against the Chiefs and couldn’t get it in. Two of those runs were by Jackie Battle, the bigger back. They just didn’t have enough movement on the line of scrimmage. So the run game, which is supposed to be the strength of this team, has really fallen short of expectations so far.’’
Question 4: What has been the key to forcing 11 turnovers on defense?
A: “They have been playing a more aggressive, attacking style with Gregg Williams on the staff now, though Jerry Gray is still the defensive coordinator. They’ve blitzed more than they did in previous years, the cornerbacks are playing more physical, press coverage and challenging more passes than they did in the past couple years. Cornerback Alterraun Verner has been the biggest difference — he has four interceptions already, six takeaways. He’s just a guy who has a knack of being around the football. So it’s kind of a combination of the coaching style has been different and they are playing different as far as being more physical and the personnel is better. The safety play is better with Bernard Pollard and George Wilson (each acquired in the off-season) and that has made a big difference.’’
Question 5: Coach Mike Munchak is 18-19 in his third season. Is this a big year for him?
A: “He’s got one year on his contract after this. They made some changes on their coaching staff and roster this year — they started the season with 20 new faces on the roster of 53. So the owner expects there to be significant improvements and to be more competitive than last season (when the Titans were 6-10). This time last year they were 1-4 and they’d lost all those games by at least three touchdowns. This year they are 3-2 and a play here or there and they could be 5-0. So it’s been a better team, which definitely helps him.’’