Tennessee Titans: Young Players Wrap Up Mini Camp with a Ton of Promise

Chad MintonCorrespondent IJune 23, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 01: Running back Ben Tate #44 of the Houston Texans rushes against middle linebacker Colin McCarthy #52 of the Tennessee Titans on January 1, 2012 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Titans won 23 to 22. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

There's no reason to ever get too excited after minicamps, but head coach Mike Munchak echoed a lot of positives out of this particular minicamp.

We had no clue where the Titans stood at this point last offseason thanks to the lockout. The predominantly young team was heading into the regular season with no sense of direction.

The complete opposite can be said about the Titans in Munchak's second season as head coach of the Titans.

One of the biggest positives coming out of minicamps is how much improvement has been made from the 2011 draft class, especially that of Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy.

"You see Akeem Ayers look like night and day difference, McCarthy taking control," Munchak said on the Titans official team website.

Expect Ayers to play a much bigger role in the pass rush next season, which should in turn help those horrible team sack numbers from last season.

As for McCarthy, this guy is a defensive captain in the making. He only started seven games last season and still managed to leave his mark as a rookie.

These guys, along with the other second-year players, are going to have to show up ready to go in Week 1 to avoid embarrassment at the hands of the Patriots.

Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug will also have to build off their strong rookie seasons as well.

The Titans don't have the luxury of relying on veterans at key positions, but these young players created plenty of optimism in OTAs and minicamp.

It's fair to say that the Titans are definitely getting close to being a contender in the AFC again, but how well the young players play will be critical to if that happens this season.

It's also looking like there will be plenty of position battles to go around in training camp, with quarterback and wide receiver being the two biggest battlegrounds to watch.

Jake Locker will have an opportunity to jump ahead of Matt Hasselbeck on the depth chart, but it's never easy taking a seasoned veteran's job.

Taking a starting job becomes even more challenging when that veteran is coming off a very solid season that almost got the Titans an unlikely playoff berth.

With the Patriots being the Week 1 opponent, the Titans will probably want a veteran under center to start the season.

Perhaps nothing is going to be more interesting to watch than seeing who gets in at wide receiver. Suddenly the wide receiver position has become a crowded one, and someone is going to be left on the outside looking in.

Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright are all locks. The rest is really anyone's guess.

Even though Marc Mariani has done very little at wide receiver in his two seasons with the Titans, he actually looked very impressive in minicamps.

Mariani may earn himself a spot on the team just for his special teams value, but an injury or two could get him a major role at wide receiver.

However, if he slips up during training camp, then it could mean his time in a Titans uniform will come to an end after two special seasons.

The offensive line has plenty of competition as well, with Eugene Amano battling to keep his starting job at center.

If there's one thing to pull out of this minicamp, it's that these second year players are finally getting the benefits from an offseason program that they deserved last offseason during the lockout.

Now the team will break for five weeks until training camp starts at the end of July, and that's when the real fun will begin for this team that appears to be moving in the right direction.