Will Locker, new defense sink Titans?

ESPN analyst Field Yates sees four teams as regression candidates in the 2014 NFL season.

The Titans are one of them.

Yates hits on the obvious reasons -- the uncertainty surrounding Jake Locker, the necessity of Justin Hunter to become "a refined route-runner who can beat physicality with his length and burst" and the potential for a mismatch between the Titans' defensive personnel and the new 3-4 scheme of coordinator Ray Horton.

If all three of those things go badly, the Titans most certainly will regress.

From closer range and admittedly tainted by the default offseason optimism, I've got a better outlook in some of these departments.

Locker is undoubtedly the biggest question, and I can't say he's the answer until he shows he is.

I am, however, buying into the idea that Horton and the defensive staff can get better play out of the team's personnel and won't waste a guy like Jurrell Casey.

I also regard the Titans' offensive playmakers in a better light than Yates does. While Hunter and Bishop Sankey have to prove themselves, I think they could be good. And while Yates mentions Kendall Wright as a bright spot, he left out Delanie Walker who will also be a regular danger. Nate Washington isn't a long-term piece, but he can produce this year.

A lot can change in record from one year to the next. We see it every year in the NFL. Everything is conceivable right now -- the Titans can soar to a big improvement from 7-9, they can plummet to the 5-11 range Yates sees or they can be average again.

The quarterback question is a big one, of course. Better coaching and what should be an easy schedule are factors we should be conscious of as positives as well.