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VOL. 38 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 10, 2014

It’s bad now, but the future looks worse for the aging Titans

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Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt talks with quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who had to enter Sunday’s loss to the Browns after Jake Locker injured the thumb on his throwing hand.

-- Ap Photo/Mark Zaleski

If the Tennessee Titans want to find a blueprint for fixing the mess this franchise has become, perhaps they should study the team that’s coming to LP Field this Sunday.

What, you say?

The team headed to Nashville this week is the winless Jacksonville Jaguars, perhaps the one team left on the schedule that the Titans might be able to secure a win against and end their four-game losing streak.

Yes, I know the Jaguars are terrible right now, probably even bad enough to make the Titans look good this Sunday. But hear me out.

The Titans might be slightly ahead of the Jaguars in the standings, but they are actually farther away from contending than even the lowly Jags.

One of the biggest issues with the Titan roster right now is the lack of difference-makers. There are disappointing draft picks and questionable free agent acquisitions littering the Tennessee roster.

And what’s worse, there’s really no one to build around going forward.

A quick perusal of the Titans roster reveals an even bigger issue: There are nearly as many players age 30 and older as there are young players in their third year or less in the league.

Think about that for a second.

The Titans have 14 players on a bad team who are 30 or older, meaning they are in the twilight of their career with very little ceiling remaining.

Even their best performer this season, tight end Delanie Walker, turned 30 in August.

There also are only 17 players (roughly a third) on the Titans roster in their first, second or third season in the NFL.

That’s alarming on a couple of fronts.

First, there are fewer players to build around because younger players are generally considered to have more upside.

Also, those are the players who need to be the core of your team because they’re still in their rookie contracts and eat less cap space.

One big reason the Seahawks are at the top of the heap right now is that they have a franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson still on a cheap contract, meaning they can afford to have standouts at every position.

But the Titans have tried for too long to put Band-Aids on a team that swung and missed throughout the disastrous Mike Reinfeldt Era.

The result: A patchwork of free agents and long-time, long-in-the-tooth starters taking up nearly as many roster spots as their supposed up-and-coming talent.

Now, let’s look at the Jaguars.

Yes, they have the worst record in the league (0-5) and are one of the few teams in the league with a longer run of futility going than the Titans.

But, while the Jaguars may be behind in the standings, they are way ahead of Tennessee in one respect.

There are 33 players on their 53-man roster – well more than 60 percent of the team – who are first-, second- or third-year players.

That includes rookie Blake Bortles, who might solidify the quarterback position for the first time since Mark Brunell was the Jags’ QB.

Conversely, there are only three players 30 or older, and one of those is kicker Josh Scobee, who really doesn’t count because kickers still have a longer shelf life.

Credit Jacksonville GM Dave Caldwell and Coach Gus Bradley with one thing, if they’re going to lose, they’re going to do so with a complete rebuild.

The Jaguars may look like an expansion team right now, but if only half of those 33 players pan out and become decent NFL players, the Jaguars have created a new core by tearing it down and rebuilding in a completely different way.

They cut ties with terrible drafts that took place prior to Caldwell’s arrival and filled the holes with young players who at least have the potential to improve.

And unless Jake Locker morphs into Steve McNair circa 2002 and a couple of guys on the Titans defense start playing like Jevon Kearse and Albert Haynesworth, then it’s time for the Titans to think about tearing it down and starting over.

They’re already a step behind the Jaguars. Maybe there’s still time to catch up.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and NFL Insider for 247 Sports.

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