Predicting Titans' Starting Lineup Post Week 1 of Free Agency
The Titans made some big moves in free agency in 2013. They let a lot of free agents go, but they signed a few big names too.
So of course, many of next season's starters will be veterans, some will be draft picks, and some will be guys who are new to the Titans, but not to the NFL.
With all that in mind, here's the projected Week 1 lineup after the first week of free agency.
Quarterback: Jake Locker
No surprise here. While some may think that signing former Bills starter Ryan Fitzpatrick could create a quarterback controversy, there simply isn't one right now.
He showed a lot of good stuff in 2012 before reinjuring his shoulder against the Houston Texans. After the injury, he wasn't the same and put up some of the worst numbers among starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
However, even with his poor performance in 2012, Locker is still young, and I expect him to make big strides in his third year in the league. Either way, Mike Munchak's fate lies with Jake Locker, so Locker will be the quarterback going into 2013. Period.
Running Back: Chris Johnson
Again, no surprises here. Chris Johnson is being payed like an elite player, so he'll play the majority of the snaps in 2013, even with the addition of Shonn Greene.
Greene will see a lot of playing time, but most of his snaps will probably come in third down or goal-line situations.
As much as both of them are getting paid, the Titans will probably be running the ball a lot.
Wide Receiver: Kendall Wright and Nate Washington
In three receiver sets, Kenny Britt will be on the field, but when there are just two, expect to see Kendall Wright usurp Britt's starting spot at the X position.
First of all, Britt was awful last season. There were several times where he completely disappeared on the field, not to mention lots of drops.
Second, Britt is a headcase, and no one expects the Titans to re-sign him when he finishes out his rookie contract at the end of 2013. The Titans should see just what they have in Wright, who will be in Tennessee for much longer.
Lastly, if you watched many games last season, it was clear that Locker likes to throw to Wright. The Titans will field whichever targets Locker makes the most use of, and right now, that'd be Wright.
If Washington is still with the team by the season's start, then he'll probably stay at the Y position he's filled for the last couple of seasons.
Tight End: Delanie Walker
Jared Cook got the heck out of Dodge once free agency started, and so the Titans replaced him with former 49er Delanie Walker.
Craig Stevens is mostly a blocking tight end, and while Taylor Thompson has potential, he's still very much a work in progress as a pass catcher, so Walker will be doing most of the playmaking at the position.
Walker was the No. 2 option in San Francisco, but he amassed 246 yards and two touchdowns in the last six games of the season, when he saw more playing time.
Thompson will probably see a lot more snaps than he did in 2012, but Walker will be the go to guy.
Left Tackle: Michael Roos
Michael Roos has been Tennessee's left tackle for a decade now. I don't see any reason that will change in 2013. He's still one of the league's best.
Left Guard: Andy Levitre
The Titans' biggest move in free agency was the acquisition of the top guard available this year, Andy Levitre. Levitre is one of the best left guards in the NFL, but he has also spent time at right guard and even left tackle, showing his versatility.
Putting him at left guard instantly turns one of the Titans' weakest positions into one of its strongest. He'll be starting at left guard for years to come in Tennessee.
Center: Fernando Velasco
The Titans have placed a second round tender on Fernando Velasco, so re-signing him is almost just a formality at this point.
If he returns to the team, he'll be the presumed starter at center. He came from nowhere in the depth charts to turn into a pretty good starting center, and now that he's playing next to Levitre, his job should only get easier from here on out.
In the unlikely event that a team does try to steal him, the only other center the Titans have on the roster is Eugene Amano.
Right Guard: Kasey Studdard
Right now, the Titans only have two guards on their roster. One is Andy Levitre, the other is Kasey Studdard.
Of course, chances are that Studdard will be replaced by a rookie after the draft. The Titans will have their choice of the top two guards in the class (Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper) if they use their first pick on one.
If they wait a round or two, there will still be several capable guards to be picked up, and one of them will likely end up starting.
Right Tackle: Mike Otto
People may be expecting to see David Stewart's name here, but until more comes out about the status of his broken leg, I assume that he won't be ready to play by Week 1.
That's where Mike Otto comes in. He was the better of the two backup tackles the Titans fielded last season, so if Stewart has to miss playing time, Otto will be the guy on the field.
That said, once Stewart is healthy, he'll return to the lineup.
Defensive End: Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan
Derrick Morgan had a breakout season in 2012, while Kamerion Wimbley experienced some growing pains readjusting to the 4-3 defense.
Both will be returning to start at their respective positions in 2013. Although the Titans need depth at defensive end, it's unlikely that they'll spend a high enough draft pick to unseat either of the current starters.
Of course, anything could happen and I expect the Titans to try to find a third pass rushing threat somewhere in the first few rounds of the draft.
Defensive Tackle: Jurrell Casey and Mike Martin
Mike Martin saw fewer snaps than Sen'Derrick Marks last season, but he was only a rookie. Overall, Martin put up better numbers than Marks did, with five tackles for loss, three sacks and 37 total tackles.
In his sophomore season, there's every reason to assume that he'll make a reasonable improvement.
Jurrell Casey is a no brainer, as he regularly commands double teams and even gets to the quarterback every once and a while.
New addition Sammie Hill will see a lot of snaps, but he's likely to be the third guy in rotation behind Casey and Martin.
Outside Linebacker: Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown
Two of the best players on the Titans defense last season were outside linebackers Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown.
Ayers started the season strong, while Brown burst onto the scene at the season's end. A whole season with the two of them on the edge will give the Titans maybe the best pair of outside linebackers in the league.
There's no question that the two of them will return in 2013 as starters.
Middle Linebacker: Colin McCarthy
Colin McCarthy had a horrible 2012 season, but that was mostly due to constant injury.
When he's healthy, McCarthy is a great middle linebacker who can lead a front seven effectively as well. However, that was so rarely the case in 2012 that the Titans may look to replace him.
I expect he'll remain the starter for the 2013 season, but it will be his make or break year.
Safety: Michael Griffin and George Wilson
Michael Griffin is a two time Pro Bowler, but 2012 was not his best year. The Titans were torched deep almost as often as they were torched by tight ends, which was a lot.
However, if the Titans planned on using someone other than Griffin at free safety, they would have released him by now. He'll be the starter in 2013, but if he doesn't return to form, he'll likely be looking for a new job in 2014.
George Wilson is getting on in years, but he's better than anything else the Titans have at strong safety. However, if the Titans spend a high draft pick on a strong safety, then he may lose his job to a rookie.
Even if that were to happen, I'd expect an experienced and proven veteran like Wilson to see a good bit of playing time.
Cornerback: Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner
Jason McCourty isn't going anywhere, no matter who is drafted. Alterraun Verner won't see much of a loss in playing time, but he might move around if the Titans use one of their first two picks on a corner.
Before 2012, Verner played mostly nickel corner and rotated in the outside positions regularly, but he spent most of his time covering the inside. That's what he does best.
As it stands right now, the Titans don't have a third capable corner to take the other outside starting spot which would allow Verner to move back inside, so he's stuck outside of his natural position.
I fully expect the Titans to either use their first or second round selection on a cornerback to do just this, but until that time, McCourty and Verner are the starters.