Early Projections for the Tennessee Titans' 53-Man Roster
Senior Executive VP and COO Mike Reinfeldt was fired after a one-year tenure in the position, a massive coaching staff overhaul was made on all sides of the field, 12 free-agent signings were made along with eight draft picks and more than a dozen UDFA signings.
How quickly all these new parts meld together will ultimately determine their success for the upcoming season. With competition expected at positions across the board, the fight to make the final roster will excite to the end.
*Player names listed in bold signifies a starter.
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- Jake Locker
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Rusty Smith
Quarterback is an easy position to solve. The Titans have remained fairly steadfast in their support of Jake Locker throughout the offseason, but they've also made some veiled assertions that the onus is on him to succeed.
The Titans have made a major effort to improve Locker's supporting cast, improving his offensive line and adding to both the running back and receiving corps.
With Munchak on the hot seat, if Locker doesn't perform to a certain level, there's a new backup quarterback in town with playing time still left on his clock in Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick should prove to be an upgrade over Matt Hasselbeck and his fast-waning arm strength. I fully expect the plug to be pulled on Locker, if his play regresses as it did in 2012.
Rusty Smith is sure to take up the third quarterback slot, barring a surprise at the position or a decision to provide more depth at another position.
Running Back (5)
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Running Back (4): Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene, Jamie Harper, Darius Reynaud
Fullback (1): Quinn Johnson
Running back is ripe for some surprises to make the roster after Johnson and Greene. Harper's footing with the team is on thin ice.
Heading into his third NFL season, Harper has only managed to garner 41 touches—that's carries and receptions.
While CJ may not like it, Greene is a perfect fit as a complementary back. Johnson won't have to pick up the tough yardage as often as he has since LenDale White's departure.
Darius Reynaud stays with the team due to his consistently strong performances as a return man in 2012. There is a big question mark on whether Quinn Johnson makes the team, however, due to the signing of Delanie Walker.
Walker is versatile enough to lineup in the backfield and could ultimately void out the need for an actual fullback on the roster.
The Titans major investments in both backup running back and the offensive line signal a change back to a more run-heavy offense that Titans fans are used to.
Wide Receivers (6)
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Split End (X): Kenny Britt, Damian Williams
Flanker (Z): Justin Hunter, Nate Washington
Slot (Y): Kendall Wright, Kevin Walter
The receiving corps is a bit muddled at the moment. The Titans have spent high draft picks at the position in consecutive years, signalling a lot of turnover in the group.
Kenny Britt typifies what this group is: Loaded with talent, but still figuring out how to tap into it. Britt is in the final year of his rookie contract and is yet to put it all together for a full season. He will keep the No. 1 receiving spot for at least one more year.
Nate Washington's time with the team may be drawing to a end, If a suitable trading partner cannot be found, then he'll remain on the roster. Washington will be competing with second-round pick Justin Hunter for snaps, but Kendall Wright is expected to step into the starting lineup this season.
What the team's selection of Hunter says is that they are looking for someone capable of stretching the defense and go up and get the ball. Teams will need to choose whether to drop down and stop the run or cover the team's two explosive receivers in Britt and Hunter.
Tight Ends (3)
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- Delanie Walker
- Craig Stevens
- Taylor Thompson
Jared Cook was widely touted as the team's most important free agent this offseason, before signing on with the St. Louis Rams. After the price tag for an either underutilized or underachieving talent went too high for GM Ruston Webster, Delanie Walker was swooped up as a high quality backup plan.
Walker went largely unnoticed in his time with the San Francisco 49ers, playing second fiddle to Vernon Davis. Walker's versatility and superior blocking better suit what the Titans want in a tight end.
Think Bo Scaife with more athleticism. Scaife was great for what the offense needed, but would never really lead the team anywhere. Craig Stevens will return as the team's primary blocking tight end and Taylor Thompson should get on the field a bit more in two tight-end sets.
Offensive Line (8)
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Tackle: Michael Roos, David Stewart, Byron Stingily
Guard: Andy Levitre, Chance Warmack, Robert Turner
Center: Fernando Velasco, Brian Schwenke
This is the group on the team with the most new faces. The entire interior of the offensive line has been overhauled to the point that no changes are likely to be made until Roos and Stewarts' talent begin to fall off.
The need for improved play at both guard positions was imperative for the offense's success. Over the last three seasons, the Titans have finished 32nd, 31st and 32nd in average time of possession per game.
Establish an offensive line capable of giving more time to pass and more room to run should go a long way in helping improve the team's abysmal ranking in the stat.
When prognosticators question the Titans thinking in going offense with its first two draft selections, the answer is so the defense can spend some more time on the bench.
Andy Levitre was the prize talent of this year's free agency class and should be a mainstay on the team's interior with Warmack for years. Velasco is likely to retain his starting job for one more year, unless last season was a fluke. Schwenke will be breathing down his neck all season though.
Nothing changes at tackle unless an unforeseen signing is made.
Defensive Line (9)
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End: Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Ropati Pitoitua, Lavar Edwards, Scott Solomon
Tackle: Jurrell Casey, Sammie Lee Hill, Mike Martin, Karl Klug,
The only change here is that sieve off a defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks is out and Sammie Lee Hill steps in. Hill hasn't had any experience as a starter since jumping to the NFL, playing in the Detroit Lions deep rotation.
The hope is that his added size and pass-rushing ability will prove to be a better complement to the run-stuffing Casey and collapse the pocket.
Coming into 2012, one of the main points of focus was improving on a lackluster pass rush. The Titans finished 2011 tied for 31st in sacks with 24. After this past season, their sack number jumped up to 39 giving the team a ninth-place ranking.
That stat may come as a surprise to many, because watching the Titans throughout the year, this team's defense did not seem like it was consistently putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
That's because they didn't. Twenty of the team's sacks came during the month of December when the unit was playing its best football of the year.
The approach taken to help improve the unit has been to add more size and depth. Every addition to the unit has size as one of their main traits. Expect a more physical defensive front from the Titans defensive front.
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Strongside: Akeem Ayers, Patrick Bailey
Middle: Colin McCarthy, Moise Fokou, Tim Shaw
Weakside: Zach Brown, Zaviar Gooden
The Titans have done well to find some quality talent at linebacker via the draft in recent years. While Ayers and Brown have shown nothing but promise, McCarthy does the same but it's overshadowed by injuries.
This will be a make-or-break season for McCarthy to prove that he can handle the rigors of a full football season. The Titans were wise to sign Fokou to improve their depth should a problem arise again.
Zaviar Gooden will slide in as backup to Brown, but could prove to be quite valuable on nickel defense sets. Ayers and McCarthy both are not the most adept in pass coverage. Instead of leaving either of the veterans on the field, the coaching staff can now put Gooden on in a situational capacity.
Bailey and Shaw should be able to hold on as special teams aces for yet another year.
Defensive Backs (9)
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Corner: Jason McCourty, Alterraun Verner, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Coty Sensabaugh, Khalid Wooten
Safety: Michael Griffin, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson, Markelle Martin
The biggest hole on the league's worst scoring defense was safety. The Titans' brass knew something needed to be done. Insert George Wilson and Bernard Pollard? Suddenly, things look a lot better. Pollard's unique brand of physical football along with his brash attitude should give the 2013 Titans defense a swagger it has lacked for some time now.
Wilson will provide quality depth, veteran leadership and come in on DC Jerry Gray's "Ruby" defense package, which calls for three safeties to be on the field.
At corner, Verner will remain the outside corner but will shift inside when the defense is in nickel formation, allowing Wreh-Wilson to cover the outside in his stead. Sensabaugh was developing nicely last season and will be given another year of seasoning.
Wooten gives the team another return man after WR Marc Mariani, sadly, comes back to a team that no longer needs him.
Special Teams (3)
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K Rob Bironas
P Brett Kern
LS Beau Brinkley
The Titans have a pretty solid group here. Kern averaged nearly 48 yards per punt in 2012, good for seventh in the league. Bironas had a bit of a down year after making just more than 80 percent of his field goal attempts.
As long as Bironas is able to return back to his usual form, the Titans will continue to field one of the league's top kicker and punter tandems in the league.