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Notebook: Titans Clear Lockers, Enter Offseason

Posted Dec 31, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans players loaded up clear bags of signed jerseys, helmets and other mementos on Monday and walked from the locker room into the unknown that is every offseason with the NFL.

Titans rookie Justin Hunter clears out of the locker room with mementos from his first pro season. Slideshow.

Some players expect to be back with Tennessee, some don’t and some weren’t quite sure. Regardless of the situation, the general feeling was that the 2013 team had unfinished business, and like players on 19 other teams not going to the playoffs, the season was ending too soon.

Tennessee made offensive strides and multiple improvements on defense from the season before but finished 7-9, surpassing the 2012 mark by one victory. Six losses were by eight points or less, three of the Titans’ five home losses were by three or less and two games were decided in overtime.

“We lost too many close games, so we can learn from those things and make sure we take advantage of opportunities,” said defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who led the team with 10.5 sacks.

Cornerback Jason McCourty planned to head to New England this week to spend time with his twin brother as Devin McCourty and the Patriots prepare for the playoffs. Jason McCourty said it was frustrating the Titans didn’t clear hurdles in the close games.

“You can go to each game and say, ‘In this one or on each play, this guy could have stepped up and made a play,’ so it’s different areas,” McCourty said. “There were times when we may have had a special teams mistake that hurt us in the game, maybe a time where I could have made a play on a pass or something to help us win a game, so I think it’s kind of spread out and they’re going to evaluate which people can make us better or which assets they can bring in. We’re close, and I think they’re going to make the necessary moves to get us closer.”

Titans safety Michael Griffin, whose interception sealed Sunday’s season-ending win, said finishing the schedule with two victories stemmed from doing “all the right things” especially late in the games.

“Whether it was people filling the right gaps, hitting their holes, people dropping into coverage, everybody doing the right things,” Griffin said. “In the games we lost, there were a couple of games we lost by less than seven points, and allowed late touchdowns because people were not hitting their gaps and not dropping correctly. I don’t think it was necessarily the play call. I think it was the players out there, somebody may have done their own thing. We just did the correct things the last two games.”

In the final team meeting, Titans coach Mike Munchak distributed game balls from Sunday and talked about the importance of each player having a plan (personally and professionally) for the offseason. Most players will catch up on some family time and rest a little before starting their own workout programs to get in shape for organized team activity practices that are scheduled to begin in April with the goal of playing beyond next December.

Munchak said he and players should feel disappointed by not making the playoffs and optimistic for the way the team improved this season.

“We sat in this room in April eight months ago and had a plan. The plan was to be playing this weekend,” Munchak said. “Good things have happened, no doubt, and players had some of their best years. I thought we improved in a lot of areas, and all that stuff’s good. But, the bottom line as we all know is we need to be playing this weekend. Like I said about having a plan, what can they do to help that happen next year?”

OFFENSIVE LINE GRADES: One of the aspects Munchak most wanted to see in Sunday’s game was young Titans offensive linemen Chance Warmack, Brian Schwenke and Byron Stingily going against the Texans’ solid defensive line.

“I thought it was a great battle for them. I was excited to see Chance play against those guys again, you know, (J.J. Watt), and Stingily having a chance to play against a guy of that caliber,” said Munchak, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman. “There was a lot of good stuff going on, good battles. They won some, we won some. We ran the ball well against them. They got some hits on our quarterback at times, but I felt overall that it was a great experience for them.

“I thought Chance played much better this time than he did back in Week 2. He was physical, we had some great runs, he pass blocked well, he was in position better and just understanding the game better. You could see what a difference he’s at,” Munchak continued. “Schwenke didn’t play the last time, but he was solid. He needs to get healthy. His ankle (injury) shows up when you watch him and change of direction is not great, playing with that ankle, but I thought it was good for Byron to play against a player like J.J. Watt. He didn’t have him every snap but when he had him, he did nice. He realized how hard, how good you have to play against a guy like that, what it takes play-in and play-out to shut a guy like that down and you can’t just do it once in a while. It has to be exact or he can make you look bad.

Stingily started his second straight game in place of David Stewart (shoulder), and Munchak said guard Andy Levitre “tweaked his knee” in Sunday’s game.

“He’s walking around (Monday). I’m not sure if he’s going to need any work,” Munchak said. “Those are the things we’ll find out the next couple days then have a plan, sit there and have a meeting about those guys, the guys we have that need work done or don’t. If they need it, you want to encourage them to get it done now so we can get the rehab process started. We’re kind of wait and see.”

FUTURES CONTRACTS: While free agency is scheduled for March and the NFL Draft is set for May, the Titans on Monday signed the following players to futures contracts: T Jeff Adams, DT Chigbo Anunoby, CB George Baker, LB Brandon Copeland, C Tyler Horn, DE Adewale Ojomo, TE Adam Schiltz and LB Jonathan Willard. All of the players spent time on the Titans practice squad this season.

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