8 Early Winners and Losers of the Tennessee Titans Offseason
With organized team activities are all but wrapped up and training camp a little more than a month away, now is the time when NFL coaches and general managers hope their players stay out of trouble until reporting back to the team.
While the players for the Tennessee Titans enjoy their time away and, hopefully, stay in shape, the Titans' coaching staff will be hard at work discussing more of the wholesale changes that have been made to the passing game and the more aggressive defensive approach being taken.
OTAs have shed some light on the abilities and characteristics of some newcomers that may not have been known before, allowing for a better understanding of what the Titans need to address.
While a positive offseason attitude has been the constant so far for the Titans', negativity isn't far behind. Let's take a look at the top winners and losers through the first no-contact team activities of the offseason.
Loser: Andy Levitre
We're going to start with the bad news first, namely the Titans' big free-agent acquisition who has been either ruled out, or limited, in any team activities due to injury and has only been involved in light running.
I am, of course, talking about Andy Levitre.
Levitre went in for arthroscopic knee surgery in late May and has fallen behind in his expected recovery.
Coach Mike Munchak told John Glennon of The Tennessean that he is optimistic that Levitre will be ready when the real action starts, but he is being cautious with the big-money free agent:
He looks good. If he had to play a game Sunday, he could probably line up in practice all week and play. But right now that wouldn’t be real smart for us to do with him.
It's far from time to panic, but it would be nice to see the revamped offensive line begin to show some cohesion before preseason action starts.
Winner: Nate Washington
Early in the offseason, rumors began to spread that Nate Washington was on the trade block, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, and the team using a second-round pick on Justin Hunter didn't help quiet things down.
However, through it all, Washington has maintained his focus and has remained a regular fixture with the first-team offense. Washington signed a six-year, $27 million contract with the Titans in 2009 and has been a starter ever since.
He has packed on five extra pounds of muscle this offseason and told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean that he feels as though he's in the best shape of his career:
This is the strongest I’ve been, the fastest I’ve felt. I’ve never understood the game more at this point. I feel great.
There's no guarantee that Washington retains hold of his starting position given all the talent surrounding him, but as the team's leading receiver the last two years, it's good to see him still improving his game.
Loser: Justin Hunter
"Justin needs to get his (butt) going."
That's what new Titans wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean about Justin Hunter's offseason to date.
Tell us how you really feel, coach.
Jefferson obviously was not referring to someone having the best offseason, but Hunter did show well during rookie orientation before suffering a hamstring injury, according to the Daily News Journal.
The Titans see a lot of potential in their second-round selection. Why else would they trade so much to move up and snag Hunter during the draft?
Now is the time for Hunter to make the strides necessary to beat out Nate Washington for the starting position, but his time is quickly running out.
Winner: Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle is an undrafted free agent who is hoping to the make the roster on a team with the likes of Delanie Walker, Crag Stevens and Taylor Thompson standing in the way as locks to make the roster.
Despite that fact, Doyle has put together a string of strong performances during organized team activities, catching more than six passes and a touchdown in one practice, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennesseean.
Doyle will need to keep performing well when the pads go on and has to show that he has some special teams value in order for the Titans to use a roster spot on him.
Loser: Colin McCarthy
For the oft-injured Colin McCarthy, the 2012 season was one to forget.
The Titans have found a quality duo of outside linebackers in Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown, but the team missed McCarthy's knack for making splash plays in the middle last season when he was out of the lineup.
McCarthy hasn't been the picture of health he had hoped to be during OTAs. McCarthy has struggled with injury once again, missing several days during OTAs.
As a result, McCarthy is now facing a challenger for starting duties who may be able to be better relied upon.
Winner: Tommie Campbell
Last summer, Tommie Campbell ran with the first-team defense for a second straight offseason over Alterraun Verner.
However, when last season rolled around, Campbell was nowhere to be found.
"Accountability is one of the reasons why I wasn’t out there," Campbell admitted to The Tennessean. "If they can’t trust a player to do things they ask him to do on the field or off the field, then they aren’t going to be able to trust him in a game. So that is one of the things I’ve worked on. I want to prove I can be trusted."
At 6'3" and 200 pounds, Campbell is the ideal candidate for a starting corner spot in the ultra-aggressive defense of Gregg Williams and Jerry Gray.
The Titans are counting on Campbell's progression this offseason to allow them to utilize Verner in the slot and use more blitzes.
Loser: Alterraun Verner
Alterraun Verner has unceremoniously been ousted from the starting lineup due to a scheme change.
The Titans have been giving third-year player Tommie Campbell several reps along with this year's third-round draft selection Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
Verner spent the last couple of practices during OTAs playing at free safety. The depth behind Michael Griffin is pretty much non-existent with Robert Johnson struggling with an injury.
The team has moved Verner back to his natural position for its mandatory minicamp, but it's very clear that the Titans are headed in another direction at corner.
Winner: Moise Fokou
The Titans took notice of how sharply the play of the team's defensive play declined when McCarthy was out of the lineup and made it a priority to add a more talented backup at the position in case Colin McCarthy is a regular visitor to the infirmary.
Enter former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Moise Fokou who has been running with the first-team offense while McCarthy continues to recover.
"He’s got a lot of confidence," Titans coach Mike Munchak told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. "He’s flying around the field. He has great speed. He is a communicator. So he’s what we hoped he’d be — so far, so good."
The competition between Fokou and McCarthy is sure to bring out the best in both players, but for now, Fokou is in the driver's seat.