The Tennessee Titans end training camp with hopes of competing for an AFC playoff spot. Despite the highly-publicized quarterback battle, Titans camp ended with little drama, which is usually the best-case scenario for any team entering the season.
The Titans will look to compete with the Houston Texans for the AFC South crown. If they plan on giving last year's division winner competition, they'll have to make significant improvements on both sides of the ball.
Jake Locker will be asked to lead Tennessee's offense. Entering his first year as the starter, Locker will need help from his supporting cast if he's going to have success early on.
Tennessee's defense will look to improve under Jerry Gray, who enters his second year as the team's coordinator. This unit should be more comfortable and much improved after breaking in several young players last season.
The Titans appear to be a better team this year on paper, but that won't matter if they fail to prove it on the field.
Here are the six biggest things to take away from training camp.
The early decision to make Jake Locker the starter allowed the young quarterback to settle in and prepare for the 2012 season. The Titans will only go as far as Locker takes them. Allowing him to prepare for the job as soon as possible helped give the quarterback the best chance for early success.
Early success could be hard to come by, however, as Tennessee's first four games of the season are brutal. The Titans will face the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans to open the season.
While Houston's defense is probably the only elite unit out of those four, Locker will have to keep pace with the offenses all of those teams feature. The Titans won't be able to compete with those teams merely running the ball and controlling the clock.
Locker will have to pick up chunk yardage for the Titans in the passing game, and it might be too soon for the young quarterback to win a shootout.
The Tennessee Titans have one of the strongest defensive tackle rotations in the NFL. Jurrell Casey emerged last year as one of the better interior lineman at holding the point of attack. He provides a stout presence in the middle, keeping offensive lineman off of Tennessee's young athletic linebackers.
Karl Klug also emerged for the Titans last season, as he registered seven sacks as a rookie. The fifth-round pick from 2011 will be an important part of this rotation because of his ability to get to the quarterback.
The Titans surprised some when they drafted Mike Martin in the third round of this year's draft. Heading into the 2012 season, Martin will be counted on to contribute right away in Tennessee's defensive tackle rotation.
The rookie did nothing to disappoint in preseason, and could breakthrough with a big rookie year.
Chris Johnson hasn't had the type of preseason that would make you think he's on track to rush for over 2,000 yards again. Regardless, head coach Mike Munchak appears confident in his lead back. He spoke to Brian McIntyre of NFL.com about it.
C.J.'s had a great camp as far as, and offseason, about being here, having a great sense of what we're doing, running with confidence -- he's doing exactly what we want him to do. Now it's just a matter of us getting into the regular season and hopefully putting last year behind us.
Johnson's struggles in 2011 put a strain on the entire offense. The Tennessee Titans have always been an offense predicated on controlling the ball and running the clock. The team will look to return to that formula, but they won't be able to without a bounce-back year from their star running back.
The Titans won't hold him back. Johnson will be the focal point of the offense, as they'll try to take as much pressure off of Locker as possible.
With Kenny Britt scheduled to miss Week 1 to suspension, the Titans offense will look to function with only four wide receivers until he returns.
Britt has shown the ability to be an elite receiver when he's healthy, and the Titans need him more than ever this year with Locker becoming the starter.
On top of the suspension, Britt is also coming off of an ACL tear that ended his 2011 season.
Munchak seems to believe all of those issues are in the past now, and that the star wideout will be ready for this season. He spoke to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean about Britt.
Physically he is in great shape. Mentally he should be fine with what we are doing. So we have to be smart and know it is a long football season, Munchak said. He knows what he needs to be doing the next week before he comes back in. I think he is going to come back in and he’ll have a chance to come in and play against San Diego.
Tennessee likes their receiving group of Nate Washington, Lavelle Hawkins, Damian Williams and Kendall Wright. Locker appeared to have growing chemistry with this group in preseason.
The Titans can get by with those four, but adding a healthy Kenny Britt will give Locker a big-bodied deep threat most NFL quarterbacks don't have.
The loss of Eugene Amano to IR was probably the biggest negative to come out of Tennessee's camp. Fernando Velasco replaces Amano as the team's starting center. The undrafted free agent from 2008 will be tested early and often, as he lacks the experience Amano brought to this group.
Mike Munchak has a history of developing offensive lineman who weren't top draft picks, so it shouldn't discourage fans too much. Mike Munchak doesn't get the credit he deserves for developing offensive lineman in Tennessee, so he should be given the benefit of the doubt with his decision to go forward with Velasco.
The Titans flirted with free agent centers Scott Wells and Chris Myers this offseason, an indication that they weren't all that happy with Amano at center anyway.
Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy are one of the most exciting young linebacker duos in the NFL. Both linebackers play sideline to sideline and have a knack for making big plays.
When Tennessee's defense is controlling the game, it's because their linebackers are freed up to see what's in front of them so they can diagnose and hit. Ayers and McCarthy are quickly becoming two of the best in the league at doing this.
In a division that features two of the best running backs in the NFL, it's essential to have linebackers athletic enough to keep up with those backs.
The Titans are fortunate enough to have two up-and-coming hitters like Ayers and McCarthy to build their defense around.