5 Biggest Storylines Heading into Tennessee Titans Training Camp
After falling to 6-10 after a surprising and inspiring 9-7 rookie season under head coach Mike Munchak, the Tennessee Titans spent the offseason doling out dollars like no one's business.
The team signed more than a baker's dozen of free agents, bringing in talent that could either start or provide leadership and experience.
The theme of the offseason has been creating competition at every position on the field, and for the most part, the Titans appeared to have accomplished that goal.
This young roster has a lot of promise, but much of the team's success will be decided by the outcome of the following storylines.
Go ahead and flip through and then let me know what you think.
Will Jake Locker Make Headway in His Development?
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While everyone focuses on head coach Mike Munchak being on the hot seat in just his third season, much more worrisome is the state of starting quarterback Jake Locker.
Not long ago, it would have been out of the question to place the weight of a franchise on the shoulders of a quarterback who has appeared in only 16 games with 11 starts.
However, with players like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, the slow and steady method of development has gone by the wayside.
Owner Bud Adams has grown impatient as he's aged and is willing to do whatever it takes to see his franchise play in the Super Bowl.
Locker had moments of strong play early on in the season, but his struggles with decision-making and accuracy worsened as the campaign wore on.
Much of his woes seemed to arise from standing in the pocket behind an offensive line that broke down due to injuries—a situation that has since been remedied.
New offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains plans to install more zone-read concepts, which Wilson and Griffin ran in their rookie years. The new playbook will shift the pocket to suit Locker's abilities as a runner and thrower on the move.
In addition to the team's offensive line improvements, the Titans brought in more firepower in the form of second-round draft pick Justin Hunter and free-agent acquisition Delanie Walker at tight end.
With a healthy Kenny Britt set to start in a contract year, a refocused Nate Washington and Kendall Wright coming off an impressive rookie campaign, the Titans are set to boast perhaps the best receiving corps in franchise history.
With all the scheme alterations and personnel turnover, the player who may have the largest effect on the Titans 2013 season outcome is Jake Locker.
How he progresses throughout training camp and the preseason will weigh heavily on the Tennessee Titans season.
The Competition for Starting Corner
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On the defensive side of the ball, no other position group saw more turnover than the cornerbacks. Gone are Jordan Babineaux and Ryan Mouton, with Bernard Pollard, George Wilson, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Khalid Wooten inbound.
While the additions of Gregg Williams and Bernard Pollard drew headlines, the Titans' more aggressive approach has forced a change in coverage for the corners.
When Williams was brought on as senior assistant defensive coach, teams around the NFL immediately knew they'd be facing a pressure-heavy attacking style defense when facing the Titans. Williams' more blitz-happy defense puts added pressure on the team's cornerbacks to be left alone when covering opposing receivers.
Playing man coverage isn't particularly a strong suit for the diminutive Alterraun Verner, who, despite playing well in the past, finds himself in a battle for playing time.
Verner's skill set would help him as a nickel corner, but second-year player Coty Sensabaugh has impressed through organized team activities.
The Titans drafted Blidi-Wreh Wilson in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft to help solve the team's need for a bigger, more physical second corner. He will compete with Verner and the superbly athletic Tommie Campbell.
Campbell has elite measurables for someone of his size, but he hasn't been able to convert that potential into any kind of significant role on the defense.
The decision here will have a major impact on the team's scheme and sub-packages for the upcoming season. It is perhaps the team's most intriguing camp battle.
The Jelling of the Offensive Line
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Two of the Tennessee Titans' biggest offseason storylines rely on the team's improvement on the offensive line.
After using 11 different lineups last season due to ineffectiveness and injury, the Titans made a splash by signing Andy Levitre to a $46.8 million contract to be the new starting left guard.
Then the team spent its 10th overall selection in the 2013 NFL draft on right guard Chance Warmack. They weren't done yet, as they drafted Brian Schwenke in the fourth round to compete with incumbent starter Fernando Velasco for the starting center role.
The team's depth across the unit has been significantly improved by numerous signings.
The additions should provide for an improved run game, giving Chris Johnson bigger lanes to run through and on a more frequent basis.
Jake Locker should also have more time in the pocket and be better able to focus on going through his progressions down field in the passing game.
The Titans must stay on the field longer on offense after finishing in the bottom five in the category each of the last three seasons. They will need the unit to jell quickly to accomplish all of the things they have planned for the upcoming season. It will all begin in training camp, after many starters missed time during organized team activities.
Gregg Williams, Bernard Pollard and the Defensive Attitude Adjustment
The Titans defense was pushed around and embarrassed on a week-to-week basis in 2012. The team finished with a franchise-worst 471 points allowed and was 27th in total yards allowed.
While the defense is still young, it has potential that simply needs direction. The Titans defense performed at its best toward the end of the season, when defensive coordinator Jerry Gray finally realized the defense was too submissive.
Gray stopped having his team play cautiously to prevent big plays from happening—a task which the defense failed to accomplish—and allowing opponents to dictate the game. Instead, he started to dial up blitzes.
It couldn't have gotten any worse, and the change in philosophy paid dividends, with the team's sack totals making major leaps during the final weeks of the season.
Williams' more aggressive approach is only half of the process, however. The addition of Bernard Pollard has given the defense a vocal leader and a swagger.
Watching Pollard throughout his career, teams know to expect an emotional talent who can land game-changing hits on opponents who trespass into his territory.
How well this fusion of attitude and schematic changes will work depends on the rest of the team's willingness to follow the lead of the two newcomers.
All Things Chris Johnson
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Although new defensive addition Bernard Pollard is giving him a run for his money, Chris Johnson is still the most polarizing member of the 2013 Tennessee Titans.
There's no more excuses for the finger-pointing back after the front office completed wholesale changes on the interior of the offensive line.
Not to be forgotten, the team also let go of running back coach Jim Skipper and replaced him with Sylvester Croom. Gone is Chris Palmer as the team's offensive coordinator after being supplanted before the end of last season by Dowell Loggains.
Loggains showed he has no fear of making Johnson the focal point of the offense. He used the speedy running back on 87 percent of offensive snaps during his time as coordinator last season.
The likelihood of Johnson being used at that rate during the upcoming season appears unlikely given the team's monetarily questionable signing of Shonn Greene. The Titans brought Greene in to provide a better back in short yardage and goal-line situations.
Despite Greene's presence, the transformation of the team's offense should leave fans feeling optimistic after witnessing CJ still has the wheels that brought him to the forefront of the NFL in 2009.