Tennessee Titans show signs of improvement

By John Glennon | The Tennessean

The Titans have some issues -- especially on offense -- as they prepare for Sunday's home opener against the Chargers.

But after two games, Tennessee is well ahead of last year at this point, when they opened with one-sided losses to New England and San Diego.

Here are five early reasons to believe that the Titans (1-1) have made significant strides from last year's poor season:

Turnover ratio. In 2012, the Titans finished with a minus-four turnover ratio that was 11th-worst in the NFL. But after two games this year, the Titans are tied for second with a plus-four ratio. The Titans and Chiefs are the only teams without a turnover. Those are important numbers, considering the Titans never had a losing record in any of the eight seasons they recorded an even or positive turnover number.

Opposing passer rating. The Titans were carved up time after time last year, from the big names like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers to the lesser names like Chad Henne and Christian Ponder. By season's end, quarterbacks had combined for a 92.7 rating against the Titans, which was seventh-worst in the league. But the Titans have held two of the NFL's better QBs -- Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub -- to a combined 76.6, which is ninth-best. In a pass-happy league, keeping enemy quarterbacks under control is vital.

Locker under pressure. There's no doubt Jake Locker and his corps of receivers need to be more productive this week, but the third-year pro has performed better under pressure so far this year. In 2012, his accuracy rate under pressure was just 43.5 percent, one of the worst figures in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. But this year he has improved to 58.8, per PFF. And he's felt plenty of heat, as PFF has Locker as being pressured on nearly half his throws.

Getting off the field. The defense had all kinds of difficulty getting off the field on third downs last year. It allowed offenses to convert 40 percent of all third-down opportunities in 2012, the eighth-worst figure in the league. But thanks to a better pass rush and superior pass coverage, the Titans held the Steelers to just four third-down conversions in 13 attempts and the Texans to six in 17. Overall, the two opponents converted a combined 33 percent of third-down attempts, which leaves the Titans tied for ninth-best in the league.

Staying on the field. The offense hardly gave the defense a chance to rest in 2012, when the Titans had an average time of possession of 27:41 -- worst in the league. Through two games, the offense is still sputtering too often, but thanks in part to an increased emphasis on the run, the Titans are at least holding onto the ball longer. The Titans have had the ball for more than 30 minutes in both games so far, and their time of possession average of 32:38 is sixth in the league.


CHARGERS (1-1) at TITANS (1-1)


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