Breaking Down the Tennessee Titans' Rookie Class After the Preseason
Four preseason games have come and gone, and all but one of the Titans' rookies have seen their share of the action.
There's been some good, some bad and some unexpected performances among them, but of the six who saw playing time, we now have a much better idea of what to expect out of them.
Here's a breakdown of what we've seen from all seven of them so far, and what we can expect of them going forward into the season.
1. Kendall Wright, WR
Of course the guy who's made the biggest splash is Kendall Wright. After all, he's a receiver and he was the first pick the Titans had.
So far, Wright has been as advertised. He's a speedy deep threat and looks like he catches on (get it?) quickly. He seems to have already become one of Jake Locker's go-to guys.
Wright made an instant impact the second he showed up to Titans training camps, and even hurt his shoulder diving for a pass. He also came into camp without being signed yet, since he was still in negotiations with the team.
Wright's numbers tended to rise and fall with Locker's, so his performances in preseason games are hard to judge strictly by the numbers. Either way, his best performance in the preseason was Week 3 against the Cardinals.
Wright had four receptions (out of five targets) for 44 yards and a touchdown. Overall, he's averaged just under 13 yards per catch.
With Britt suspended, I think Wright will be a big factor in how the Titans perform offensively against the Patriots. If Locker can get the passes to Wright, he's left no doubt that he'll be able to catch them.
2. Zach Brown, OLB
At this point, Zach Brown is the rookie I've been the most impressed by. And yes, that includes Kendall Wright.
Brown was a low-end first-round prospect up until a few weeks before the draft, when Mike Mayock commented that Brown looked "allergic to contact." This turned a lot of teams off of him, and he became the second outside linebacker in a row to fall to the Titans in the second round.
If you've watched him this preseason, you know he's anything but allergic to contact. He led the Titans in tackles against the Buccaneers, and led the team in solo tackles against the Saints. In four games, he has accumulated 24 total tackles (16 solo), three tackles for loss and a defended pass.
With his speed, ability to defend against the pass and his already sizable contribution to the Titans defense, starting Brown against the Patriots should be a no-brainer. He ought to do a much better job guarding the Patriots' tight ends.
3. Mike Martin, DT
He's been good, but I think Mike Martin might be the player I was the most disappointed in this preseason. That's not to say he did a poor job, I just had very high expectations for him.
He was pretty quiet in the first two games, registering just one tackle in each game, but he did collapse the pocket a few times when he was on the field, even when he didn't get the numbers to back it up.
Against the Saints, he had a great game. He was more disruptive than he'd been up to that point, and he had three total tackles (two solo), along with two hits on the quarterbacks.
When he was drafted, I assumed he was going to be the starter next to Jurrell Casey, but I was a little puzzled since they're both the same kind of player. Now, I see that he was meant to be Casey's backup.
Of course, Tracy Rocker likes to rotate his linemen in and out, so having depth is important. Since Casey will be if the field an awful lot, it's important that the Titans have a guy behind him that they know they can rely on.
4. Coty Sensabaugh, CB
Coty Sensabaugh didn't see much playing time until the last two preseason games, but in those two outings, he had 13 total tackles (nine solo) and two defended passes, so he's shown some promise.
Like they did with Tommie Campbell, the Titans drafted Sensabaugh mostly for his athleticism, which is substantial, and he clearly has a lot of potential.
That said, he's made his mark against backups mostly, and he made quite a few big mistakes, but it happens. If he can fine tune his technique the way Tommie Campbell has, he could be a big asset for the Titans in a year or two.
For now though, I expect him to only come in as a backup and on nickel and dime packages. He has shown that he could be very good in the future, but for now, he's a work in progress.
5. Taylor Thompson, TE
Speaking of a work in progress, Taylor Thompson hasn't shown much on the field just yet, and that should surprise no one. He's a rookie and he's changing positions, so I think it'll be a season or two before we see what he can really do.
His work in the preseason reflects that. Thompson spent time on the field in all four outings and caught six passes (out of 11 targets) for 38 yards. He clearly needs to work on his hands, but like I said, he's a work in progress.
Like many of the players the Titans drafted in 2012, Thompson is all upside. There's a good chance that he could never develop into a starting-caliber tight end, but there's also a chance he could get his catching down and be a big, strong, mismatch-creating target for years to come.
Either way, it'll be a while before we find out.
6. Markelle Martin, FS
Unfortunately, Markelle Martin hasn't taken the field yet, as he's spent the entirety of the offseason on the PUP list.
It's too bad, because Martin was thought to be a third or maybe fourth-round pick, but he slipped to the Titans in the late sixth round because of his knee injury.
We've seen nothing of him yet, so he'll be impossible to evaluate until he's physically able to perform.
7. Scott Solomon, DE
Scott Solomon was a surprise pick to me. When I saw that the Titans had traded back into the seventh round, I was almost certain it was to pick up Ohio State center Mike Brewster, but instead they took a small-school defensive end.
Now I thought Solomon was picked up to mostly play as a special teamer, but I've been surprised by how often I've seen him get into backfields during the preseason.
He doesn't have the numbers to show it, but he was able to rush around tackles and pressure the quarterback quite often. In his three preseason appearances, he had one sack, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit, all coming against Arizona.
Since Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Pannel Egboh and Keyunta Dawson are all in front of him, I don't think he'll see much of the field this season as an end. However, he does look like a tough, relentless rusher who will be a valuable asset to special teams.