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Ask Vic: Quality draft picks helping Titans succeed

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Question: After Vince Young failed to live up to his hype at the beginning of the season, I heard a lot of people criticizing the way the Titans drafted in the last few years. It's true that Pacman Jones was a failure. And I have to admit that the last couple of draft days were rather frustrating, no one expecting either Michael Griffin or Chris Johnson to be first-round picks. However, I can't help but notice that Griffin, whose first year was solid, is currently tied for first in the league in interceptions along with Charles Woodson and another young Titan, Cortland Finnegan. Plus, Chris Johnson has made a lot of people change their mind about him. So what's your take on the way the Titans draft? Should we focus on the fact they seemingly missed on two high draft picks (Jones and Young), and spent three high picks in consecutive drafts on running backs? Or should we underline the fact that they manage to find quality personnel (Finnegan, Griffin, and Albert Haynesworth)? -- Jean H.

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After the 5-0 start, I am pretty comfortable with underlining the Titans' capacity for finding some very good players amidst some questionable choices.

The defensive acquisitions have clearly been a large part of the primary reason the Titans are the lone unbeaten team in the league and should be viewed as a serious contender.

Sure, Jones proved to be a huge mistake for the Titans and now for the Cowboys. But as shaky as Young has been, I'm not quite ready to give up on him altogether. He is bound to get another chance to start this season. Let's see how he handles it before determining if he was a flop.

Question: My question is in regard to the recent debate between who was a better draft choice between Mario Williams and Reggie Bush. While some writers were ready to write off either as busts at some point in their early careers, one player taken from that draft that I hear little about is Michael Huff. Considering that he was taken seventh overall and plays safety, do you feel that the Raiders are getting their money's worth or can he be considered a bust since the Raiders consistently rank in the bottom half of the league in pass defense despite having cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and now DeAngelo Hall? -- Ben S., Minneapolis

Although I don't think the Raiders' defensive shortcomings can be blamed on one guy, I would say that the team is not getting anything close to a sufficient return on its investment in Huff.

He has been virtually non-existent. The Saints repeatedly got the better of him on some long pass completions. Huff also hasn't always made the sort of contribution one would expect from him as a tackler.

Small wonder that Raiders coach Tom Cable told reporters this week that Hiram Eugene, a free-agent pickup in 2005 and a former NFL Europa player, could push Huff as a starter for Sunday's game against the Jets.

Question: Instead of bad-mouthing the Carolina Panthers, why don't you give them a chance to play Sunday to see what they can do before casting such a judgment?

I don't consider what I wrote about the Panthers in this week week's Tuesday Huddle ("Is success too hot for the Panthers to handle?") bad-mouthing.

I was simply pointing out a trend that, in fact, the Panthers recognize themselves: Time after time in recent years, they have shown an inability to handle success by following a big win with a big loss. No matter how you cut it, their lopsided loss at Tampa -- with a chance to take sole possession of first place in the NFC South -- after their lopsided win over the Chiefs is a clear example of being unable to handle success.

If the Panthers beat the Saints on Sunday, that would, of course, be a huge win in an extremely competitive division. But if the Panthers are to shed their dubious reputation, they would need to follow it with a victory against Arizona in Week 8. Although both games are at home, back-to-back triumphs against such formidable opponents would have to be viewed as an enormous accomplishment.

I can assure you I would be as quick as anyone to recognize the reversal of a disturbing trend.

Question: I like your analysis of the absence of an obvious Super Bowl team so far. It is too early yet to jump to a conclusion, but I would not overlook the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the following reasons: They seem to have a punishing defense like they had in 2002 (maybe not statistically yet, but don't forget they played two of the best NFL offensive teams already, New Orleans and Denver); they have a tandem of experienced quarterbacks known to be able to manage the game pretty well; they have a 4-2 record even with all the injuries they have faced at the beginning of the season; they are the sixth rushing offensive team in the league with an average of 136 yards per game (and we both know that a great defense and a good running game wins championships); Cadillac Williams is set to return in the next couple of weeks and should bring a spark on that side of the game. Let me know what you think. -- Karim M., Winter Park, Fla.

I like your arguments for the Bucs to be considered a Super Bowl contender.

I actually did give strong consideration to including them on my short list of three NFC teams and three AFC clubs that merit a closer look as teams that could win it all. I didn't because I wonder about their ability to hold up against some of those better offenses down the line.

I also wonder about the stability of their quarterback position. Jeff Garcia certainly proved he deserves to remain the starter, but given Jon Gruden's quick trigger when it comes to making a change at the position, how long will Garcia stay there? How comfortable can you feel about Brian Griese going back to the No. 1 spot after his struggles during his four-game stretch as a starter?

Still, I wouldn't be shocked if the Bucs managed to find themselves in serious contention through the second half of the season.

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