Projecting Tennessee Titans' Most Heated Roster Battles This Offseason
In the 2013 Draft, the Titans selected two players at positions that had established starters, and they did it early on.
Justin Hunter gets added to an already talent stacked wide receiving corps, and Brian Schwenke finds himself drafted early to a position where the Titans had just used a second round tender.
But even these are not the only shakeups that the Titans are going to have in a few weeks, position to position.
Here are seven positional battles that will be the most heated.
1. Marc Mariani vs. Darius Reynaud vs. Tommie Campbell
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The Titans have three excellent kick returners on their roster right now, and all three occupy crowded positions.
Darius Reynaud had four touchdown returns last season, but wasn't consistently getting good returns. He's also going to be behind Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene, and possibly Jalen Parmele or Stefphon Jefferson in the running back depth chart.
Marc Mariani made the Pro Bowl as a rookie returner, then had an even better average kick return in 2011, but suffered a broken leg before the 2012 season. He's a backup receiver, where the Titans are stacked, so if he isn't back at close to 100 percent, he could be cut.
Tommie Campbell is a special teams contributor and a solid kick returner in his own right. With Blidi Wreh-Wilson now on the team, Campbell won't see much time as a backup corner, and he's also coming off of an injury.
Since the biggest part of their job is to return kicks, I don't think the Titans will keep all three players, so they'll be competing for a job.
2. Lavar Edwards vs. Ropati Pitoitua
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The starting defensive ends are well established, but the third spot behind them is wide open. Scott Solomon could be in the mix, but he showed little in 2012, so he probably isn't really in the running.
The real battle is probably between the Titans' newest additions at the position, Lavar Edwards and Roptai Pioitua. Edwards was just drafted, so he has more potential, while Pitoitua is more proven.
In 2012 at LSU, Edwards had 4.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, and three quarterback hurries in limited playing time. Pitoitua had two sacks, five tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a defended pass playing for the Chiefs in 2012.
I think either player could claim the third spot, and it'll come down to who looks more impressive in training camp. My money is on Edwards since he's a better scheme fit.
3. Collin Mooney vs. Quinn Johnson
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This was a battle that came down to special teams play last season, and Quinn Johnson won out. However, the Titans kept Collin Mooney around, so they're obviously still interested in seeing what he can bring to the table.
Now there is only room on the roster for one fullback, so the best that the loser can hope for is a spot on the practice squad.
Both players are young and bring a similar skill set, so who wins the job will just come down to which of the two improved more over the last season. Johnson has the advantage right now, but the starting fullback job is still very much up for grabs.
4. Sammie Hill vs. Mike Martin
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Mike Martin had a great rookie season, and he'll be getting a ton of playing time this season. However, the newest defensive tackle on the team will push him for some playing time, and potentially even a starting spot.
In the last two years, Hill has 39 total tackles, three defended passes, a forced fumble, and 1.5 sacks. That doesn't sound great, but he only had six starts in that time.
For the sake of comparison, Martin had 37 total tackles and three sacks in 2012 with only one start, but significant playing time.
If Martin takes a step forward instead of back, he'll probably beat out Hill for more playing time, but if Hill keeps it close, his size will get him time in a lot of specialty packages.
I expect Martin to win out, but hopefully Hill will push him to keep improving.
5. Fernando Velasco vs. Brian Schwenke
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Another starting spot that's up for grabs is center. Fernando Velasco came from the depth chart and played pretty well in 2012. Brian Schwenke was a highly regarded prospect who Munchak felt was the best center in the class.
Either could take the starting position in 2013. While the Titans clearly like Velasco (they gave him a second round tender), they can't be in love with him if they considered taking a center that early.
Since the running game seems to be the emphasis this upcoming season, I think Schwenke will end up winning out.
6. Blidi Wreh-Wilson vs. Coty Sensabaugh
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This battle seems obvious at first. Blidi Wreh-Wilson was considered a steal when the Titans drafted, while Coty Sensabaugh did little his rookie year.
However, keep in mind that Sensabaugh was drafted as a developmental prospect, and he showed flashes of tremendous talent. In the preseason game against the Saints, he had seven total tackles (six of them solo) and a defended pass.
In the regular season, he only had 31 tackles and three defended passes, but 22 of those tackles and all three defended passes came in the last seven games of the season, so he showed some improvement, and could be much better by the beginning of the season.
Wreh-Wilson, on the other hand, has a career eight interceptions and 27 defended passes in college, not to mention his great height for a corner (6'1") and speed that's almost as good as Sensabaugh's.
If Sensabaugh has improved his technique in the offseason, this battle will be neck and neck, but if he hasn't, Wreh-Wilson will win out easily.
7. Justin Hunter vs. Kenny Britt vs. Kendall Wright
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Now I'll start by saying I expect to see all three of these guys on the field quite a bit, but who sees the most time is anyone's guess.
Kendall Wright was the highest draft pick of the three, but the difference between 20th overall, 29th overall, and 34th overall is small.
Wright will get the benefit of the doubt, since he was the most important receiver by the end of the season in 2012. After Wright, Britt and Hunter's status could come down to who has the healthier knee.
The Titans have to love Hunter with what they gave up for him in the draft, and I'll think he'll have more of a shot to show his potential than Britt will, at least early on.