The 6 Most Important Non-Skill Players on the Tennessee Titans Roster
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Skill players get all the attention, so it seems. Wide receivers, running backs, quarterbacks, corners, safeties, pass-rushers and tight ends all get the touchdowns and interceptions, but as anyone who knows anything about football will tell you, they aren't the whole team.
Guys in the trenches make it possible for them to do what they do, and some of the more important positions on the team are going to be guys who won't put up pretty numbers.
Here are the six most important non-skill players on the Titans' roster right now.
Fernando Velasco/Kevin Matthews, C
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Just to remind you, this isn't a list of the best players, just the most important, which is why these two start us off.
The Titans already were weak at the center position, and now that Eugene Amano is out, it could be bad. Center is arguably the most important individual position on the offensive line next to the left tackle, and whoever the Titans have holding down that position will have a big burden to shoulder.
Fernando Velasco will probably get the job, since Kevin Matthews is sidelined with concussion-like symptoms for the time being. He's getting the first-team reps and apparently looked pretty good, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, against the Falcons.
Of course, Matthews was the favorite behind Amano before this, so he may come back and take the starter spot when he gets over his concussion. We'll have to wait and see.
Craig Stevens, TE
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Now, I know that I grouped tight ends in with the skill positions in the opening slide, but let me go ahead and backtrack a little bit.
Pass-catching tight ends, like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski are skill players. Blocking tight ends, like Craig Stevens, are not. Now, Stevens may catch an occasional touchdown pass, but he's mostly there to block.
In the Titans' new pass-first offense, a blocking tight end becomes increasingly valuable. Since the fullbacks won't be on the field very much and you need someone who can block downfield, tight ends are perfect.
Since Stevens can also catch, that means that having him on the field gives the Titans a guy that will block for the receiver, or in a bind, can be the receiver himself.
Stevens was solid last season, so let's see if he can keep up the good work this year.
Steve Hutchinson, OG
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Steve Hutchinson is the only upgrade that the Titans made to the offensive line this offseason, and so, he'll be an important piece in the unit in the upcoming season.
Now that Eugene Amano is now out for the season, Hutchinson will be even more critical to the run game than he was before.
With a new center, be it Matthews or Velasco, and a shaky right guard in Leroy Harris, the Titans will need a great performance from Hutchinson to keep the interior offensive line solid in 2012.
Luckily for the Titans, Hutchinson is a seven-time All-Pro and two-time offensive lineman of the year, so chances are that he'll perform up to par.
Jurrell Casey, DT
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You have to be good in the trenches on both sides of the ball if you want to win. The best man in the Titans' trenches might be sophomore defensive tackle Jurrell Casey.
Casey was fantastic as a rookie, and I hope he builds on that great campaign in his second year. With Derrick Morgan losing first-team reps to Pannell Egboh (who I bragged on in the preseason a year ago, by the way) according to ESPN's Paul Kulharsky, Kamerion Wimbley playing his first year as a Titan and Mike Martin probably starting at the other tackle spot, Casey will need to lead.
Casey outplayed all but a couple of rookie defensive tackles in 2011. He doesn't need to repeat this feat in 2012 to be successful, he just needs to be a leader in a defensive line that will need a leader. He can do it, let's just hope he does.
Colin McCarthy, MLB
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One of Tennessee's problems in 2011, at least early on, was that they couldn't stop the run. A lot of that was Barrett Ruud's fault, and that was proven when Colin McCarthy took over at middle linebacker, and those problems went away.
McCarthy, like Casey, had a great rookie year. Apparently, there are some questions about his durability, according to John Glennon of The Tennessean, but since he didn't miss any time last season for injuries, I don't know if those concerns are real or just overblown.
Hopefully, he'll continue to hold down the fort the way that Steven Tulloch did for all those years and not turn into yet another injury concern for the Titans.
Michael Roos, OT
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Of course, I pick the left tackle as the most important non-skill player. Who wouldn't?
It doesn't hurt that Michael Roos is one of the best tackles in the league. The Titans' offensive line was a top-five unit in sacks surrendered in 2012 largely because of Roos.
Now, David Stewart also deserves praise as a great right tackle, but it's the left tackles that keep a quarterback's blind side free of pass-rushers, and so, they get the lion's share of the credit for it.
Roos is getting close to the point where his age is a concern, but he's not there yet, and the Titans have several good years left to look forward to before they need to find his replacement.
In a division that still has Jeremy Mincey, Dwight Freeny and Robert Mathis, and now, has Whitney Mercilus and Andre Branch too, having a legitimate left tackle is absolutely necessary if you want to contend. The Titans are covered in that department.