With the draft over, we are that much closer to the beginning of the 2013-14 NFL season.
The Tennessee Titans certainly made their mark in both the free-agent market and the draft itself. With the addition of guys like George Wilson, Bernard Pollard, Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack, this team is seemingly primed to make waves in the AFC wild-card hunt this year.
Here are a few players who could either make an impact, are on the bubble or are on the proverbial hotseat heading into minicamp and OTAs.
Three Players Who Could Make An Unexpected Impact
S Daimion Stafford
Yes, I know that he was drafted in the latter part of the seventh round, but I like what I saw from the rookie safety out of Nebraska
Stafford brings a type of physicality that the Titans were missing in the secondary all of last season. He has the ability to flatten receivers who come across the middle of the field.
He's not very good in coverage and struggles in pursuit as well, which is why some believe he was lucky to be drafted at all.
I don't expect him to start, but he might end up getting some looks considering the fact that the Titans run some defensive packages that include three safeties being on the field.
Especially if free safety Michael Griffin continues to struggle the way he has over the past few seasons.
C Brian Schwenke
Trust me when I say that the starting center position is Schwenke's job to lose.
Last season with the California Golden Bears, he was the only offensive lineman on an otherwise leaky offensive line that did not give up a sack or quarterback pressure.
Considering the Titans' struggles in protecting quarterback Jake Locker last season, as well as the ineptitude on the offensive line, I would not at all be surprised if Schwenke were named the Week 1 tarter over Fernando Velasco.
WR Kevin Walter
Let's be honest: The Titans did not have a single reliable pass-catcher on the team last season.
Walter has spent the last seven seasons terrorizing the Titans as a member of the dreaded rival Houston Texans.
While Walter doesn't put up huge numbers, he is an excellent route-runner who also has very good hands. Of the 61 passes thrown to him, he only dropped one. Current starters Kenny Britt and Nate Washington were targeted 90 times each, and had seven and five drops, respectively.
While Walter won't compete for a starting job, he certainly will find his way onto the field in four receiver packages.
Three Players On The Bubble
HB Jamie Harper
Some people may find it ludicrous that I have Harper on the bubble.
Well, keep in mind that he only ran for 30 yards on 19 carries last season. He also had three touchdown runs as well.
Still, Harper was mostly ineffective, even after Javon Ringer went down once again for the season.
The Titans brought in Shonn Greene to be what Harper was supposed to, which is a very bad sign for his future in Nashville.
WR Marc Mariani
It's very unfortunate what happened to Mariani last preseason.
After suffering a Kevin Ware-esque leg injury against the Arizona Cardinals, Mariani missed all of last season and was replaced by Darius Reynaud as the kick returner.
Now Mariani is in a bad situation. The team just released Lavelle Hawkins earlier this week. And with Reynaud holding down the kick return duties, barring an injury to Reynaud or at the receiver position (knock on wood), Mariani is likely to be elsewhere in the NFL.
C Eugene Amano
Amano went down with a torn triceps muscle in the first preseason game last year. Even if he were to stay healthy, Amano really did nothing to merit him being guaranteed the starting center job.
Since Kevin Mawae's retirement in 2009, Amano has been ineffective at best as the team's starting center. Drafting Schwenke may be a sign of things to come at the center position.
With five other centers or center-hybrids on the team (Schwenke, Rob Turner, Chris Spencer, Kevin Matthews and Velasco), Amano will be in a dogfight not only to win back his starting job, but also keep his spot on the roster.
Three Players On The Hot Seat
QB Jake Locker
With all of the additions over the offseason via free agency and the draft, the honeymoon is now over for the Titans' first-round pick from the 2011 draft.
Locker played most of the season last year with a separated shoulder that never fully healed, so his struggles were somewhat understandable. Especially when you also take into account the amount of passes his receivers dropped, and the ineptitude of the running game.
Still, in many close games last season, Locker was unable to lead the team to victory. He would often throw interceptions late in the game that proved costly.
This is a "do or die" season for Locker.
With a much better offensive line and all of the money spent on the team, if the Titans don't at least find themselves in the playoff hunt, Locker may end up in a different uniform for the 2014-15 NFL season.
WR Kenny Britt
One thing that drafting Justin Hunter told me was that the Titans do not trust Kenny Britt.
And for very good reason.
This past January, Britt was again involved with the police. But this time it was due to an incident that involved his brother.
Regardless, any sentence with "Kenny Britt" and "police" is a problem for this organization. Britt has now had nine incidents involving the police since he was drafted in 2009.
He has what it takes physically to be one of the greatest receivers in the league, but mentally, he still is seemingly immature. The only way that I see the Titans franchise tagging him or even considering re-signing him to a long-term deal would be if he stayed completely healthy, kept his nose clean and put up huge numbers this season.
If that doesn't happen, I doubt the Titans will want to keep him around.
DE Derrick Morgan
Morgan didn't have a terrible season last year. As a matter of fact, he led the team in sacks with 6.5.
Considering the Titans' struggles with pass-rushing last season, this isn't really saying much in the grand scheme of things, but it is definitely better than what he had been.
This season, however, he needs to prove his worth.
In three seasons he's only had 10.5 sacks, which is unacceptable. I know that the Titans defensive line has not been great, but he isn't helping matters at all.
Now, here is my projected Week 1 depth chart.
PROJECTED WEEK ONE DEPTH CHART
Any starters will be underlined, while rookies will be in italics.
Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rusty Smith
Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene, Jamie Harper, Darius Reynaud (KR)
Wide Receiver (6)
Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Damian Williams, Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Kevin Walter
Tight End (4)
Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson, Beau Brinkley (LS)
Michael Roos, David Stewart, Byron Stingily, Mike Otto
Andy Levitre, Chance Warmack, Rob Turner, Chris Spencer
Brian Schwenke, Fernando Velasco
Defensive End (3)
Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Lavar Edwards, Scott Solomon
Defensive Tackle (5)
Jurrell Casey, Sammie Lee Hill, Karl Klug, Mike Martin, Ropati Pitoitua
Outside Linebacker (4)
Akeem Ayers, Zach Brown, Moise Fokou, Zaviar Gooden
Middle Linebacker (2)
Colin McCarthy, Tim Shaw
Jason McCourty, Alterraun Verner, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Tommie Campbell, Coty Sensabaugh
Michael Griffin, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson, Daimion Stafford
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