The Redskins on Sunday play host to the Tennessee Titans at FedExField. TitansOnline.com writer Joe Fann gives us an insider's look at the major storylines for the opposing team heading into the matchup.
Redskins.com: **How has the team responded under first-year head coach Ken Whisenhunt? Has the culture changed much around the facility and in the locker room?
Fann:"The attitude going into training camp and the start of the 2014 season was noticeably different than prior campaigns and the players said so themselves. Whisenhunt has the unique ability to hold players accountable for their actions, while still allowing them to govern themselves in the locker room. He lets leaders on the team be the leaders of the team. For that reason, players have deemed him a 'players coach.'
A look back at some of the top images in games between the Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans.
Much like what Jay Gruden told Titans media on Wednesday, the results through six weeks this season have been a surprise to everyone in the building. The players and coaching staff believe the talent is in the locker room to win now, and there has been zero discussion of a rebuild. Furthermore, Whisenhunt continues to compliment the work ethic of the team during his media sessions, which makes it more frustrating for the players to lose on Sundays. Everyone wants to see the hard work pay off and that's what the focus is right now in the Titans locker room."
Two teams in eerily similar positions will make this weekend's game a fun one to watch.
Redskins.com:Delanie Walker leads the team in receiving yards and receptions so far this season – what makes him so important to the offense? How is he used that makes him such an effective weapon?
Fann:"Walker is one or the more versatile and underappreciated tight ends in the league. It's not surprising however since he spent six seasons in the shadow of Vernon Davis in San Francisco. In his first year with the Titans (2013) and his first season as a team's featured tight end, Walker became the first Titan to catch 60 passes at the position since Frank Wycheck in 2001.
He's picked up where he left off as you noted, leading the Titans in receiving yards (421) and receptions (29) thus far in 2014. His three receiving touchdowns are also tied for the team lead. Walker has a unique skillset in that he's built like a fullback but has the speed of some wide receivers. He was drafted by the 49ers as a wide receiver before they converted him to tight end. Walker is comfortable wherever coaches want to line him up and you'll see him motion pre-snap plenty on Sunday.
Other Titans receiving targets are starting to step up, but there's no doubt that Walker has carried the team's passing game through six weeks."
Redskins.com: How much does losing a nine-year veteran like safety Bernard Pollard impact the Titans' defense?
Fann: "Pollard's loss can't be measured by numbers and statistics. There's no question he was the vocal leader of the Titans defense and a huge veteran presence on the field. Pollard's absence gives second-year pro Daimon Stafford and veteran George Wilson a chance to step up.
Unfortunately, Pollard hasn't been the only veteran to be lost for the season on IR.
Last week, long-time starting left tackle Michael Roos underwent knee surgery and it was announced Wednesday that tight end Craig Stevens will miss the rest of the year with a torn quadriceps tendon. All three players have already undergone surgery."
Redskins.com:How has the rushing attack moved on after the departure of Chris Johnson? Bishop Sankey and Shonn Greene each obviously bring their own flavor to the field – how do they complement each other and benefit the offense?
Fann: "The Titans have filled the void of Chris Johnson with a four-man running back by committee. Greene, Sankey and Dexter McCluster get a bulk of the carries with Leon Washington getting most snaps on third-and-long.
Early deficits have forced the Titans to abandon the run game more than they'd like to, but they still own a 4.7 yards per carry average on the season (6th in the NFL).
Greene is currently dealing with a hamstring and if he's unable to go Sunday, expect to see more Sankey. Last week the rookie carried the ball 18 times for 61 yards in Greene's absence with McCluster leading the team in receptions with six."
Redskins.com:For various reasons, Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst have both seen time at quarterback. How does the offense differ (both schematically and in overall production) between the two?
Fann: "Schematically the offense doesn't change with either guy. What you get with Locker in the game is the opportunity for him to break the game open with his athletic ability.
In the first half against the Browns (week 5), Locker ran the ball four times for 34 yards, resulting in two first downs and one score. He is by no means a scramble-first quarterback, but his speed adds another element that defenses must prepare for and be aware of. For Locker, it's just about staying on the field, which seems to be an area where the Titans QB has been snake-bitten. Hitting his right thumb on the helmet of a Browns defender is the most recent stroke of bad luck that kept Locker out of last week's game vs. Jacksonville.
Whisenhunt spent last season with Whitehurst in San Diego and brought the quarterback here specifically because of his knowledge of the system. That makes him such a valuable backup to Locker. Whitehurst isn't flashy, but is very efficient with the football and rarely turns it over. In two-plus games, the Titans backup has thrown three touchdowns to just one interception for a quarterback rating of 93.8 – better than Eli Manning (93.3), Ben Roethlisberger (93.3), Matt Ryan (92.7) and Drew Brees (91.8)."