1. The Titans have gotten off to a rough start so far this season, having been outscored a combined 72-23 in their first two games. Is this more a product of playing good teams (Patriots and Chargers) or the Titans having issues of their own? Or is it a combination of these two things?
It's a big helping of both. While opening the season against the Patriots and Chargers (especially in San Diego, which has been a black hole for us historically) is a rough stretch for any team, there's never an excuse to be beaten as badly as we have been. Basically, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong so far: the middle of our offensive line is a disaster, Chris Johnson is dancing around and missing holes, the WRs have logged more drops than any other team over the first two weeks, the defense can't get on the same page and the underappreciated heart of our defense (Colin McCarthy) can't stay healthy.
I used it in a headline earlier in the week, but we're at that lovely place where 0-2 feels a lot like 0-∞.
2. Now the starting quarterback, how has Jake Locker developed since entering the NFL? Are Titans fans pleased with the progress he's made or is there still a long way for him to go in terms of being ready to lead this team?
Coming out of the preseason we were all pumped about the progress he'd made so far. Jake was stellar in his brief appearances last year, and it's immediately evident that he's got that "it" factor an NFL QB needs. It's going to take some time for his accuracy and decision making to become more consistent, but I can't judge him too harshly considering how awful the rest of the offense has been in these first two games. I think we all have good reason to believe he'll be an excellent QB sooner rather than later.
3. Chris Johnson currently has only 21 yards on 19 carries, which is pretty surprising, to say the least. What has been the problem with the Titans' running game?
Everything. Seriously, there isn't one good thing that can be said about this running game right now. I know it's easy for outsiders to thrash CJ, but none of his backups are effective either. The blocking is bad, and the play calling has been questionable. (For example: At some point early in this game we will run one stretch play to the right that will result in a loss of 4-6 yards. When that happens, know that somewhere I'm having an aneurism.) The frustration is palpable. We just keep hoping that at some point it all clicks together, but that faith is wearing thin.
4. The Titans have a few players from local colleges on their roster. Former Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin was drafted this year and is in his rookie season, and fellow former Wolverine Steve Hutchinson is in his first season with the Titans. How have they looked so far this season, and what's going on with former Michigan State running back Javon Ringer?
Mike Martin has been a draft gem. He is absolutely worth all of the praise Mel Kiper heaped on him when we drafted him. With Sen'Derrick Marks out with an injury, Martin actually got the start last week and did a fantastic job. Hutchinson has been ok, but not great. He gets a lot of days off during the week, and it's tough to tell how much of that is age and how much of it is injuries. Ringer, sadly, damned near lost his arm due to a freak infection just before the season opener. He's doing well now and may be active for Sunday's game. He's a very capable backup but was losing snaps to Darius Reynaud, who made lots of big plays in the preseason.
5. Where do you see the Titans finishing in the standings this season? Is this team poised to bounce back and make a run at the playoffs, or are they more likely than not rebuilding in 2012?
I still think this team has way too much talent not to be pushing for a wild-card spot. However, for them to get there, Mike Munchak is going to have to show that he really can coach on this level. Far too many of the mistakes we've seen come from a lack of focus and intensity, which is disturbing. If he can circle the wagons and navigate these guys through the first four games without the wheels coming off, I think they'll get hot coming down the stretch.
Of course, I'm also an unabashed optimist.