Tennessee Titans Players Facing Make-or-Break Training Camps
No coach likes it, but every year they have to make cuts.
Only 53 players can play on a team, and as tough as it may be, even good players occasionally get dropped because there's simply not enough room for them on the roster.
The only thing a player can do to avoid getting cut is perform as well as they can in practices and training camps to convince the coaching staff that they're worth holding on to.
Here are seven players who need to do well in training camp to stay on the team.
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It's strange to think that a player who made the Pro Bowl in his rookie year could be playing for his job at training camp, but that's the situation that Marc Mariani finds himself in.
Mariani was a fantastic returner in 2010, which is why he made it to the Pro Bowl. He was every bit as good in 2011, but missed almost the entire 2012 season after breaking his leg.
Since then, both Darius Reynaud and Tommie Campbell have proven themselves to be great returners as well.
There isn't room on the team for three kick returners.
Mariani will get plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his value, but he may have to outplay both Campbell and Reynaud to have a spot on the team at all.
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Safety Robert Johnson got his first substantial taste of playing time in 2012. He wasn't great, but he was arguably no worse than any other player at the position—and he's still very young.
Now, however, the Titans have brought in Bernard Pollard and George Wilson in free agency, drafted Daimion Stafford, and will likely see 2012 draft steal Markelle Martin return to playing shape.
Add in the fact that Michael Griffin has a very large salary and Alterraun Verner may start getting some reps at safety, and Johnson's job isn't so secure.
If he makes significant improvements over 2012, he could stay with the team. The Titans should like his size, but that won't be enough to keep him on if he doesn't prove that he's more valuable to the team than two or three of the other safeties on the roster.
Byron Stingily and Mike Otto
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I put these two together because they're pretty much in a competition with each other for one spot.
The starting offensive tackles are going to be Michael Roos and David Stewart. Everyone knows that.
Newcomer Barry Richardson doesn't have a great track record as a starting tackle, but as a backup, he'll be one of the best.
That leaves one spot available for either Mike Otto or Byron Stingily. Both have their strong points: Otto is the better player and he's more versatile, able to play either right or left tackle. Stingily is younger, may not have reached his potential yet and would come much cheaper.
If they play at around the same level, it'll be tough for the coaching staff to decide which of the two to keep. If one steps up and outperforms the other in training camp, he could secure his job.
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Tommie Campbell is an important special teams contributor and may have a spot on the roster solely based on that. Where he really wants to be, though, is in the starting lineup and if he wants a shot at that, it's now or never.
Campbell is a tall, athletic corner who could be what the Titans are looking for at the outside corner spot opposite Jason McCourty.
However, he now faces competition from two other tall, athletic corners: Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Coty Sensabaugh.
Last season, Sensabaugh ended up with more playing time than Campbell after Campbell missed a large part of the season due to injury.
Now, Wreh-Wilson steps in as an early-round selection who may start immediately. If Wreh-Wilson takes over, Campbell's chance may be gone. If he ever wants to start for the Titans, he'll have to seize the opportunity this season at training camp.
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Rusty Smith's fate may already be sealed, but the Titans kept three quarterbacks on the roster in 2012, so they may do it again in 2013.
Of course, in 2012, the Titans' starting quarterback was one that liked to run and the No. 2 was 36 years old, so that may have been why they kept three.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick as the new backup, head coach Mike Munchak and company may decide a valuable roster spot can't be wasted on a second backup.
It's up to Smith to prove his value. He has one start under his belt, and it wasn't a pretty one, but he still has a big arm and good height. If he can show the coaches that he's made the kind of progress you want to see out of a long-term backup, they may keep him on.
That said, with Fitzpatrick just coming from a starting spot, I think the Titans won't be worried about a Plan C.
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Zach Clayton was on the practice squad in 2012, but as the defensive tackle position becomes more and more crowded with the addition of Sammie Hill and Antonio Johnson, Clayton's spot may disappear.
He had an impressive preseason in his rookie year, but only managed to grab a spot on the practice squad in 2012. With players like Jurrell Casey, Mike Martin, Karl Klug and Hill on the team for several more years, the chances that Clayton will ever break into the rotation are getting slimmer.
Clayton may be able to secure a spot on the practice squad again, but if he wants to stay in Tennessee long-term, he'll need to be impressive in training camp.