Mike Munchak on What to Expect From Titans’ Rushing Attack in 2012: “I Think You’ll See a Huge Improvement”

The Tennessee Titans spent nearly two weeks this offseason chasing a legendary quarterback in an attempt to improve an offense that lacked electricity throughout a mediocre 2011 season. But they swung and missed on Peyton Manning, and now they’ll have to pick between young Jake Locker and old Matt Hasselbeck. Perhaps more importantly, the Titans are counting on the reemergence of Chris Johnson and the running game next season. Titans coach Mike Munchak joined WGFX in Nashville to talk about the progress the Titans are making this offseason in free agency, his expectations for the running game going forward, and — of course — last month’s Peyton Manning circus.

On the Peyton Manning sweepstakes:

“For me, I just enjoyed spending time with him. We had never really spent that kind of time together. When you’re around a player of his caliber, what he’s accomplished, how smart a player he is — and for us to have him here and just watch tape with him for four, five hours, and go through protections, and talk to a quarterback that’s into so much detail. And you kind of got a little glimpse of how he thinks and the things that go through his mind in a short period of time, and you start realizing why he is the special player he is. So that part of the process, as a coach, I really enjoyed. The other stuff, I mean, that’s the stuff you have to deal with, but we knew that (with) Peyton Manning. And that’s why Mr. Adams, we were so interested in taking a good look at him and seeing if it would be a good fit with him coming here. And so there’s some excitement to it. But we had to be careful on things just to try to make it to where things didn’t get out of hand. But the workouts, everything worked well. I thought we did our homework, and it was 10 days of getting a chance to know him really well, and obviously he ended up going to Denver so we moved on.”

On if the team would be comfortable with Eugene Amano starting at center despite the fact they chased free agents at that position:

“No, we would. I think it’s just competition. We’ve been looking (at) a lot of positions, offensive line being one of them. The (Steve) Hutchinson thing became available — he wasn’t even a free agent when the season ended so that was something I thought we…just like (Kamerion) Wimbley, I thought we acted quickly when those guys became available to add them to our roster. I think they’re gonna be two huge additions. … And we’re not done, not only there, but other positions. So that’s the goal, and if Eugene ends up being the guy, I think he’s a very good football player and we’ve done a lot of great things with him at center and at guard. So, I think we’re just trying to add competition to the position.”

On how Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck handled the pursuit of Manning:

“I think it just shows what we’ve been saying about them. They’re two professionals. They handled things well. I think myself (and) Ruston (Webster) did a good job of talking to them immediately when we knew we were going to head in that direction and take a look. We let them know throughout the process. We talked to both of them and let them know exactly what we were doing and what was going on. So I think it was, it’s tough on everybody. But they handled it well. It’s over with, we’re moving forward. We’re excited about both of those guys, and they know that. And that’ll be the next stream of questions is, What’s going to happen at quarterback? Because someone’s gonna be disappointed when it’s all said and done, and that’s how it always is in football. And it’s definitely something in that position that’s gonna be fun to watch. And that’s another thing where it’s gonna be fun to watch the development of both those quarterbacks.”

On how he’ll use Chris Johnson this season after he struggled so badly in:

“I think when you watch (the tape), you feel better about certain things. You realize you’re not that far away in a lot of areas. You realize there’s a lot of runs that we left on the field. I feel he had some bad luck with some penalty calls, and situations — there’s games where we ran the ball 10, 12 times. Especially early in the season, we never got things going, and then we just kind of got in a little slide there and just couldn’t really get out of it for a while. And then we had flashes during the year where we ran the ball very, very well. Especially the second half of the season. … This is one of the things with the staff being together and finally having film to study our system and what we’re trying to accomplish. … So we have a really good feel for things, as a staff we can do better, open things up more that’ll give us some more run lanes. There’s things that we know we can do that way. And then the players (have) gotta do their thing. I mean, CJ no doubt’s gotta come back. He’ll have the offseason. He’ll be in obviously much better shape. He’ll have a better feel for what we’re doing. But Chris, the line — like you said, we made some changes there — there’s still things we’re working on. The fullbacks. There’s a lot of things, pieces to the puzzle, and I know it’s gonna be much, much improved. I mean, that’s something that’s easy to say when you’re 31st (in rushing). So I think we’ll get back to — we’re very prideful. I think we’re humbled a little bit by the fact that that was the first time in a while we’ve struggled in that area, when everyone thought that would be one of our strengths. So yeah, we’re gonna work hard at it and I think you’ll see a huge improvement.”

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