INDIANAPOLIS — Considering the way the Titans stormed back from their awful start last season, there is reason to believe that they could quickly re-establish themselves as a legitimate playoff contender in 2010.
Of course, the state of the AFC South is such that a return to the playoffs is far from a lock.
"I see the division having improved," said Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, the last NFL figure to speak at the NFL Scouting Combine on Day Two at Lucas Oil Stadium. "The Colts should be better when you look at the injuries they had to overcome this year. And I saw big improvement in the Texans with Matt Schaub under center. They also got really hurt by injuries when their tight end (Owen Daniels) went down. And then there's Jacksonville, which is a young team that will always make some noise as long as Jack Del Rio is coaching."
Of course, none of those teams has RB Chris Johnson, the 2008 Combine wunderkind who blossomed into arguably the most dynamic offensive player in the league last season.
Believe it or not, Fisher believes Johnson could get even better, even though it would be quite a feat should he improve on his otherworldly 2009 numbers.
"His effort was amazing," Fisher said of Johnson. "He had such major production week after week, in addition to going all out in practice every single day. But he could be better. He could show more patience, and we might need to rein him in a bit down the road. Those are things we will sort out."
The Titans also might need to sort out just where a big chunk of the team's leadership will come from if established free agents such as DE Kyle Vanden Bosch and LB Keith Bulluck split the scene.
"We've expressed all along an interest to re-sign Kyle, but we know that time is running out," Fisher said. "And we'd love to find a way to make it so Keith finishes his career as a Titan."
But those are big ifs.
Worse-case scenario, though, Fisher is confident the team has players who can step up and become true team leaders.
"(OLT) Mike Roos, for one, is a guy who's done a terrific job," Fisher said. "And although he's quiet, (WR) Justin Gage has become more influential."
Speaking about the process the Titans are employing in Indy this year, Fisher said the team is conducting two different types of interviews.
"There are the scheduled interviews, which you can have for a maximum of 60 players," Fisher said. "Our scouts have identified that many players to talk to, with specific issues they will address.
"Then there are the unscheduled interviews, where our coaches informally walk around and just introduce themselves."
Speaking generally about the strengths of this year's draft, Fisher mentioned defensive ends and defensive tackles.
"Our tackles are typically very explosive and intense with big motors," Fisher said when asked if there was a prototypical Titans DT. "They can both protect their gaps and get upfield in one-on-one pass situations and also tackle guys from behind. They'll take a break on the sideline and breathe hard next to me, and then get right back in there."
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