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NFL 2004: Rams, Titans stay consistent in an era of inconsistency

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  • Nick
    Titans, Jets, and Cowboys have nothing to show for 2001 draft
    by Nick
    '01 draft tells story on Titans
    Staff Writer

    Tuesday, 03/29/05

    Report cards issued by the media after the NFL Draft drive personnel executives and coaches crazy.

    A draft, they argue, can't be judged for at least a couple years, until everyone sees how the picks pan out.

    Four years is plenty of time, however, and the Titans have nothing to show for their 2001 draft.

    Barring an unlikely remarriage with free agent cornerback Andre Dyson, the 2005 Titans will have none of their 2001 picks nor any player obtained in trades for 2001 picks.

    It's probably not fair to call the 2001 draft a bust. The Titans got solid contributions from defensive tackle Kevin Carter (obtained in a trade for the first-round pick), Dyson (second-round pick) and wide receiver Justin McCareins (fourth-round pick).

    Still, the Titans failed to find even a single long-term core player in the batch. Carter was recently released as part of a salary-cap purge, the Titans allowed Dyson to become a free agent and McCareins was traded last year for a second-round pick that was used on defensive end Travis LaBoy.

    The Titans excluded, NFL teams currently have an average of 2.76 players from their 2001 draft classes, though there is still potential for movement by free agents.

    The St. Louis Rams still have six players from their 2001 draft class, with one of them a free agent, and the Indianapolis Colts have five, with one free agent.

    The New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys are the only other teams with none of their 2001 picks.

    ESPN's Randy Mueller, a former personnel executive with the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints, said teams can no longer expect extended service from all their draft picks.

    ''Four or five years now is long-term,'' Mueller said. ''You would hope your first-rounder and maybe your second-rounder would be around.

    ''It's like college recruiting, you hope you don't have a full year without input from a draft class. But it happens in this day and age. It's not ideal, but there are ways to overcome it.''

    For the Titans to overcome it, last year's 12 draft picks and this year's nine will have to make reliable contributions.

    Since the end of last season the Titans have lumped a series of moves to help them get under the salary cap for 2005 and gain financial freedom again in 2006.

    Titans General Manager Floyd Reese views the inability to re-sign Dyson the same way as he views the cuts of veterans Samari Rolle, Derrick Mason, Fred Miller, Joe Nedney, Robert Holcombe and Carter — the moves weren't indictments of the players, but were necessary in a broad strategy for coming to terms with the cap.

    ''You obviously were drafting well enough to get guys who could play in the league,'' Reese said....
    -03-29-2005, 09:36 PM
  • RamWraith
    A Look at the Opponent: Tennessee
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Few teams in the NFL underwent as much change in the offseason as the Tennessee Titans. Few teams needed those changes as much as they did.

    Unfortunately for the Titans, they had to make many of the moves they did in hopes of getting under the salary cap instead of improving a team that was 5-11 last season.

    The cap casualties included many of the team’s best players such as receiver Derrick Mason, cornerback Samari Rolle, safety Lance Schulters, defensive end Kevin Carter and tackle Fred Miller, among others. Those subtractions left many holes for the Titans to attempt to patch up with little to no cap room.

    Instead of being active in free agency, Tennessee decided to try and bolster its fledgling offense by making some changes to the coaching staff. The Titans hired Norm Chow as offensive coordinator on Feb. 10.

    Chow brings with him a college pedigree that is matched by few, if any coordinators around. In his 32 years coaching at the college level, Chow coached three national championship teams, three Heisman Trophy winners and three times won the assistant coach of the year award.

    Most recently, Chow led the USC offense to one of the most dominant runs in recent memory and coached Bengals’ quarterback Carson Palmer and future top draft pick Matt Leinart to Heismans.

    Chow hopes to get Titans’ quarterback Steve McNair back to his MVP form of 2003. McNair has battled injuries for the better part of the past few years (2003 included) and had one of his least productive seasons in his 11 years last season.

    In 2004 McNair played in just eight games, missing the rest because of a sternum injury. He finished with 1,343 yards passing, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. His absence led to the emergence of backup Billy Volek, who performed admirably in McNair’s stead, but couldn’t do enough to get the Titans in the win column as often as they’d like.

    Volek is one of the league’s top backups and should McNair suffer another injury, Volek will be called upon to take his place. Volek had more success than McNair in his 10 appearances, throwing for 2,486 yards and 18 touchdowns for a rating of 87.1.

    While Mason was often McNair’s favorite target in the passing game, Volek’s emergence coincided with the materialization of a new receiving threat in the form of Drew Bennett.

    Bennett was one of the league’s top receivers in the final weeks of the season, catching nearly everything thrown his way. Bennett ended up with 80 catches for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Mason’s departure, Bennett is officially the No. 1 receiver leaving the Titans hoping for former second-round choice Tyrone Calico to emerge this year.

    Calico has great size (6’4) and speed, but has yet to show it as injuries have limited...
    -09-23-2005, 04:16 AM
  • DJRamFan
    George asks for his release
    by DJRamFan
    Associated Press
    NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Eddie George insists he isn't being greedy, he just wants to be paid close to what he's worth.

    Tennessee's career leading rusher rejected the team's latest contract offer Monday and asked the Titans to release him so he can land with a new team before training camp.

    "Change may be good," George said Monday night.

    "I hate to sever the ties here. My first and only option was to finish a Tennessee Titan under fair circumstances. Unfortunately, that's not how I perceive it at this point. I look to move forward in a new situation."

    The Titans declined comment Monday night on the running back's request.

    George's agent, Lamont Smith, said team officials told him they wanted to "kick it around" and get back to them.

    But Titans owner Bud Adams said in May he was "pessimistic" about George returning to the team, even as general manager Floyd Reese and coach Jeff Fisher said they were hopeful a deal could be reached.

    George is only the second NFL running back to rush for 10,000 yards while never missing a start, joining Jim Brown. Only Walter Payton (170) and Ricky Watters (114) have started more consecutive regular-season games than George's 128.

    Last December, George became the 17th running back to top 10,000 yards. He has 10,009 yards and 64 touchdowns for the franchise that drafted the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner in 1996. His best season was in 2000, with fullback Lorenzo Neal, when he carried 403 times for 1,509 yards.

    George is under contract through 2006 and was due to make $4.25 million this season. The Titans asked him in February to rework his contract and paid him a $1 million roster bonus in March.

    But the salary cap-strapped Titans, whose woes are only expected to worsen in 2005, need to clear space to sign their 13 draft picks before training camp starts July 31.

    Smith said they gave the Titans a counteroffer two to three months ago that would have shaved $3 million from their salary cap, only to see team officials stick close to a proposal of approximately $1.5 million this season with less money each year through 2006.

    "In essence, the deal we had on the table doesn't assure me of anything but a one-year deal," George said. "I don't plan on retiring after next year."

    The Titans have evolved into an offense that now looks to pass first behind Steve McNair, the NFL's co-MVP last season after leading the league with a quarterback rating of 100.4.

    George has been known throughout his eight seasons for his work ethic, which includes regular yoga sessions to maximize his flexibility. He had one of his best games...
    -07-20-2004, 07:46 AM
  • RamWraith
    Carter, Miler, etc... official
    by RamWraith
    Associated Press

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Receiver Derrick Mason and cornerback Samari Rolle were among six players released Monday by the Tennessee Titans in an effort to cut up to $27 million to get under the NFL salary cap.

    In addition to Mason and Rolle, the Titans released starting defensive lineman Kevin Carter and right tackle Fred Miller. They also cut fullback Robert Holcombe and kicker Joe Nedney.

    Mason led all NFL receivers last season with a career-high 96 catches for 1,168 yards and seven touchdowns. The eight-year veteran was the first player in franchise history to have four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

    Rolle, considered among the league's top cover cornerbacks, was arrested last week on a domestic assault charge. A Pro Bowl selection in 2000, Rolle played in 12 games last season before having surgery on his left knee. He had only one interception and 28 tackles.

    Carter was the veteran on a very young defensive line last season. He played both end and tackle while mentoring the Titans' five draft picks. Miller is a nine-year veteran who started at right tackle the last five seasons for Tennessee.

    Holcombe's roster spot has been in jeopardy since the Titans drafted Troy Fleming last April. Fleming had better numbers rushing and catching.

    Nedney has missed all but one half of the past two seasons with a torn ACL, then a torn hamstring.

    The Titans are the league's third-winningest team since 1997, and general manager Floyd Reese said they are paying the price now for trying to maintain that success.

    "We're done manipulating. Now we're going to fix this," Reese said.

    Reese said the cuts will clear 80 percent of the $27 million that the team is over the cap. The Titans are reworking a few other contracts, and Reese said Monday's moves will allow the team to tender offers to their 10 restricted free agents and all their exclusive rights free agents.

    Tennessee has the sixth pick overall in the upcoming the draft, their highest since selecting Steve McNair third overall in 1995.
    -02-21-2005, 04:13 PM
  • RamWraith
    Rams in 2004: New faces, same chase
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Aug. 27 2004

    The numbers shrink a little every year. And this season - even after the return
    of Tom Nutten - they are 10 and 20.

    Ten remaining members from the Rams' 1999 Super Bowl championship squad.

    Twenty remaining members from the team's 2001 Super Bowl runner-up team.

    "Just the other day, we were stretching and I heard a couple guys talking about
    where guys used to be in the stretch line," said quarterback Marc Bulger, a
    reserve on the '01 squad. "It's amazing how many guys have left."

    Kevin Carter ... D'Marco Farr ... Az-Zahir Hakim ... Ricky Proehl ... London
    Fletcher ... Grant Wistrom ... Ernie Conwell ... James Hodgins ... Mike Jones
    ... Ryan Tucker ... Kurt Warner.

    And that's just a partial list. Such is life in today's NFL, the age of the
    salary cap and free agency.

    "You miss those guys," Bulger said. "But at the same time, you can't picture
    yourself without the new guys. At the same time, you really don't notice (the
    departures), because the guys that they've brought in fit our chemistry so

    In the NFL, it's not always the best players who win Super Bowls; it's the best
    teams. If nothing else, it looks like the Rams will enter the 2004
    season with excellent team chemistry.

    "I've been on different teams in the NFL, and it's nowhere close to what it is
    here," said Bulger, who has had brief stints with New Orleans and Atlanta.
    "Everyone genuinely likes each other.

    "Even in college, you have three or four guys where you really don't care if
    they get kicked off, or if they get in trouble. But here, everyone's friends
    with each other. I can honestly say, there's not one guy that I dislike."

    Those sentiments are shared in the locker room.

    "I feel like I've been here for 10 years," linebacker Robert Thomas said. "This
    is my third year here, and this feels like at home. I can't wait to get to
    practice every day and see the fellas. Just have fun in the locker room and
    joke around. And then when we get out on the field, it's time to work."

    But can friendship lead to first downs? Can a tight team bond lead to
    touchdowns? Does team chemistry help on game day?

    "Sure," Bulger said. "If you have a team that doesn't care about each other, as
    bad as you want to win, some guys aren't going to lay it on the line for the
    other guy."

    When you're close, Bulger says, you can tell a teammate to pick up the pace
    when he might be lagging. On a team that's not close, such words - although...
    -08-29-2004, 07:29 AM