Secret Superstars 2014: Titans
With the Secret Superstar series nearing the end for another year, it is time to take a look at the penultimate team, the Tennessee Titans. You know how much we love out lead blockers at PFF so it should come as no surprise that we’ve opted for another fullback here in Collin Mooney. The very definition of a Secret Superstar, Mooney entered the league in 2012 as an undrafted free agent out of Army.
At the start of last season Collin Mooney had to fight in camp for the starting fullback position against Quinn Johnson. However, in week 13 Mooney’s season took a turn for the worse when he tore his hamstring. That being said, in the 13 games Mooney played he was an excellent asset for the Titans.
Last season Mooney was second only to Anthony Sherman in terms of his run blocking grade, recording an impressive +9.9 run blocking grade on just 105 snaps. His 2013 season also saw him a model of consistency, with only the one outing against the New York Jets in Week 4 seeing him finish with a negative run blocking grade.
Prehaps the Titans didn’t use Mooney enough as he saw 15 snaps or more in just four outings, with his three best games of the year coming in those four games. Those three big performances contributed to +7.4 of his +9.9 run blocking grade on the year, though he still managed to grade positively when being used less.
His strength as a run blocker is highlighted in the play below, which came in the season opener on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though the run on 2nd-and-6 went for no gain, watch how easily Mooney controls safety Troy Polamalu, driving him to the ground and clearing space for Chris Johnson. Were it not for the struggles of his teammates, who missed blocks on LaMarr Woodley and William Gay, there would have been plenty of space for a big run there.
Hiring of Whisenhunt
So far it seems that the hiring of Ken Whisenhunt as head coach will lead to more opportunities for Mooney. Though the San Diego Chargers used fullback Le’Ron McClain on just 134 snaps last year, it’s worth noting that McClain has never been much of a lead blocker. Furthermore, when Wisenhunt was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2012, Sherman and Reagan Mauia combined to play 300 snaps.
Whisenhunt is a coach known to adjust well to the players at his disposal, and last season the Titans ran a lot 12 personnel packages with Craig Stevens and Delaine Walker at tight end. If Mooney can show some ability in the passing game, it will only increase the likelihood that Whisenhunt will feature him more in 2014.
Bigger Role on Special Teams?
Though he played just 80 snaps on special teams all year, Mooney did flash potential that this may be a role which can be expanded on — a particularly impressive showing on the kick coverage team in Week 12 against the Oakland Raiders, beating Miles Burris twice to record tackles, was one to note.
The first came with 3:38 left in the first quarter, with Mooney speeding downfield from the L3 position before beating Burris inside and making the tackle. Lining up in the same spot with 11:55 left in the second quarter, he once again made light work of attempted block by the reserve linebacker and again finished the tackle. While it’s a small sample size to go on, despite forcing a cut and making another tackle on another two kickoffs that day, it shows that Mooney is a more-than-willing special-teamer, something that you have to be if you are more of a niche player in today’s NFL.
The future for Collin Mooney could rely on how the Titans use their running back situation with Bishop Sankey and Shonn Greene in the front line to receive the majority of carries. We know that Shonn Greene has experience running behind a fullback, while Sankey comes from playing a spread style offense. If Sankey is able to adjust to life running behind a lead blocker it would be another positive pointing to Mooney getting on the field more frequently than in 2013.
No matter the role Mooney is handed in 2014, he has shown the ability to capitalize on his opportunities. Mooney was one of the few outstanding players on the Titans’ offense and with Quinn Johnson already cut, the playing time decision will be between him and surprising Jackie Battle who the Titans want to check out at fullback.
Follow Michael on Twitter.