Titans pin hopes on second-year QB Young

Sep 4, 2007 - 8:38 PM By Chip Cirillo PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NASHVILLE, Tennessee - Vince Young says he's just going to take what the defense gives him this season.

If it's anything like last season, that will be a lot.

The Tennessee Titans' second-year quarterback was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 after amassing 2,751 yards in total offense - 2,199 passing and 552 rushing.

"My expectations are whatever the defense gives us," Young said. "We can't jump forward. We've got to stay in our offense. You know, the defense is trying to make you do things. We've got to play our game and that's basically it."

Young's supporting cast may not be as strong as last season - among the departures were running back Travis Henry and wide receivers Drew Bennett and Bobby Wade - but he seems optimistic.

"They're gone, and those guys did a whole lot for the team last year and we're going to miss them a whole lot," Young said. "But we've got some guys that are stepping up right now and starting to fill in their positions."

Brandon Jones, a third-year wide receiver out of Oklahoma, is one of the players who is expected to step in to fill the void. Jones has learned that the play is never really over with Young because of his mobility and running ability.

"You have a lot more time than you think because he can buy time with his legs," Jones said. "That's always a good thing for a receiver because in this league everybody can run, everybody can scheme, you know what you're going to do. "So having a guy like Vince, they wouldn't know what to expect.

Titans cornerback Nick Harper, who signed as a free agent in March, knows what it's like to defend Young after playing against him twice as a member of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts last season.

"With him being as mobile as he is, it stretches your defense out," Harper said. "You have to stay in coverage. You can't bite up on play-action or run-fakes because once you do that he can scramble out. And once a quarterback scrambles out of the pocket, the No. 1 thing for the receivers is to take off for the end zone. So if you bite up, he beats you deep.

Most quarterbacks try to release the ball in three seconds, but Young's scrambling ability can extend coverage time to more than twice that span.

"Seven seconds is an eternity on the football field for a defensive player," Harper said. "After that last game (in December), we had him third-and-long I can't even remember how many times, and he got the first down every time. That was the most frustrating feeling in the world, for a quarterback to convert that many long third downs.

"And he did it on his own. It's not like he was throwing the ball downfield. He was doing it with his legs."

At 6-5 and 233 pounds, Young is surprisingly mobile and also has a knack for getting out of bounds to stop the clock.

Young went 8-5 as a starter last season, the fifth-most wins by a rookie quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. The Titans finished 8-8, narrowly missing the playoffs after a loss to the New England Patriots in the regular-season finale.

"We certainly have seen improvement in Vince throughout the offseason and throughout camp," Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said. "We feel like his improvement as he works to refine the techniques specific of the position will carry over and translate into more wins than we had last year.

Young has the luxury of working under Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who has a long history of developing talented quarterbacks such as Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Philip Rivers and Matt Leinart.

"Vince is so unique because of his athleticism," Chow said. "I think what they all have in common is this deep inward desire to do well and to be the leader and to be the one that everybody focuses on and expects to make plays. And he's that kind of guy."

Titans wide receiver Eric Moulds, an 11-year veteran who signed as a free agent a week before the start of training camp, said Young makes the receivers' jobs easier.

"Against Vince, you're not going to see a lot of what they call two-man coverage where they double the receivers on the off side and just play man on the inside," Moulds said. "You're not going to see a lot of those coverages because they know Vince can take off running and get yardage with his legs.

"So I think we're going to see a lot of zone coverages, and you'll rarely see teams try to blitz Vince because he's so athletic and he can maneuver from the blitz. And, of course, when you blitz you leave the receivers one-on-one, and he'll find the guys."

Titans running back LenDale White, a former Southern California star, saw Young work his magic in the 2006 BCS national championship game, when he led Texas to a 41-38 win over the Trojans with 467 yards in total offense.

"I was unfortunate to get his wrath, and he marched the ball down and scored on us," said White, referring to a drive that culminated on Young's winning 8-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 19 seconds left. "He's an untamed lion when it comes to football. He does everything he can to win, and that's what he's about."

Titans tight end Bo Scaife has grown accustomed to seeing big plays by Young after being his teammate for three years at Texas.

"I've been with him for a long time now, and I'm used to seeing that," Scaife said. "I don't think a guy like that feels a lot of pressure. "He knows what he has to do. "When you see your quarterback real confident in the huddle, everybody feels that. "That makes everybody else have confidence as well."

Young earned a starting job in Week Four of 2006 and was in the Pro Bowl by the end of the season. He directed a six-game winning streak, surprising for a young team that started the season 0-5.

He became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to lead two comebacks of 14 points or more. Young is on the cover of the "Madden NFL 08" video game, which has supposedly jinxed some NFL stars in the past.

"That's not a factor," Young said. "If we thought that was a jinx, we wouldn't be on the front cover. It's a dream for all athletes, all football players to be on that cover."

What does concern Young is his 51.5 completion percentage - the worst among the league's starting quarterbacks in 2006. He said it's an area that he's trying to improve upon the most.

"If it's not there, checking the ball down and not trying to force it into these different coverages," Young said when asked about improving his percentage. "You've got two men in the area of one receiver and just try to find out where the next guy is and get the ball to him."

In other word, just taking what the defense gives him.

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