Tennessee Titans: Grading the Strength of Every Position Unit Heading into Camp
It's been a busy offseason for the Tennessee Titans. The team was more active in free agency than they've been in years and made some bold decisions in the draft as well.
So, now with training camp starting soon, how are the different positional units looking? Here's my assessment of every positional unit on the team.
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This unit is the toughest to grade. Without a doubt, Ryan Fitzpatrick is just about the best backup you could ask for, but Jake Locker is more of a question mark.
Locker looked very promising during his limited playing time in 2011, but he was less than stellar in 2012. He'll need to make a big leap if he wants the Titans to remain his team.
Fitzpatrick was one of the lesser starters with the Bills, but as second fiddle, he immediately becomes one of the best backups in the league.
With the Bills, he threw for 24 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Not great, but good enough to win some games if Locker goes down again.
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The Titans have a great group of running backs right now. Chris Johnson may not be the running back he was in 2009, but he's still one of the faster backs out there, and behind a great offensive line (more on that later), he'll be far more dangerous than he was in 2012.
Shonn Greene, on the other hand, is a powerful runner who ought to give the Titans someone to use in short yardage situations. That hasn't been Johnson's forte.
Behind those two, the Titans have Jalen Parmele, who hasn't seen a lot of playing time. The Titans clearly like him, though, as they cut Jamie Harper to make room for him.
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The offensive line is maybe the strongest group on the team. All-Pros Michael Roos and David Stewart hold down the two tackle spots, while top prospect Chance Warmack and proven veteran Andy Levitre fill in at guard.
Fernando Velasco will fight it out with rookie Brian Schwenke for center. Velasco has proven to be a pretty good center, so if Schwenke wins the starting spot, there'll be little doubt as to his abilities.
The depth in this group is also fantastic. Barry Richardson was a starting tackle in 2012 and will keep disaster at bay if one of Roos or Stewart goes down.
On the interior, the loser of the Velasco-Schwenke position battle will be a quality backup. Chris Spencer and Robert Turner are both veterans with starting experience, and either could step in as a second interior backup.
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Like the quarterback position, the name of the game here is potential.
Delanie Walker is a proven player, but he could excel or fall short in his first gig as a No. 1 tight end.
Craig Stevens is a solid blocker and can catch passes when he needs to, but he may be taking snaps at fullback this season as well.
Taylor Thompson and Jack Doyle have limitless potential, but who knows if either player will reach that potential. Thompson did well on special teams in 2012 and developed into a quality blocker, but how he catches passes remains to be seen.
Doyle is a promising undrafted free agent, but he may not look so good once he puts on pads for the Titans.
The unit is full of mostly unknowns, but Stevens and Walker will prevent the group from being too bad.
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While there isn't a superstar wideout on the roster right now, the depth at the position is killer.
Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, Nate Washington and Justin Hunter could all play as the team's No. 2 receiver, but if they want to separate themselves from the pack, one of them is going to need to play at a higher level.
Wright is coming off of a solid rookie season and is probably the team's best bet for a Pro Bowl-level player, but Hunter has the size and speed to be special as well if he can stay healthy.
Beyond those four, there's Damian Williams, Kevin Walter and Marc Mariani. Williams has flashed potential but has stayed inconsistent. Walter has been a solid depth player his entire career. Mariani will likely stick with special teams, but his quickness may get him some playing time.
Michael Preston is the only other player of note. The position is crowded, so he's unlikely to make the cut, but the Titans may hold on to him via the practice squad.
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Overall, the defensive line will be great, but the end position suffers from a lack of depth.
The interior is both talented and deep. Jurrell Casey has turned into one of the best young defensive tackles in the league, and Mike Martin is coming off of an impressive rookie season. The addition of run-stuffer Sammie Lee Hill gives them a great three-man rotation.
Karl Klug may get some time at both end and tackle. How he'd fare at end is unknown, but he's been a solid interior pass-rusher. Antonio Johnson should provide another big body to eat up space in the middle.
At end, the two starters, Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, are set. Both are good players, and Morgan is coming off of the best season of his career. Behind those two, though, there isn't much.
Fifth-round rookie Lavar Edwards, second-year player Scott Solomon and veteran Ropati Pitoitua are all in contention for the third spot. Edwards is the most likely of the three to see significant playing time.
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The Titans' linebackers could be one of the best groups in the NFL if Colin McCarthy can stay healthy.
Zach Brown made a big splash as a rookie, finishing with 5.5 sacks and three interceptions—two of which he returned for touchdowns. Meanwhile, Akeem Ayers has shown his ability as a pass-rusher while also leading the team in tackles.
Whenever McCarthy is on the field, he's one of the better players out there, but he has so rarely been on the field in playing shape that how good he is at his best hardly matters.
Moise Fokou may take McCarthy's spot if he impresses in training camp. If not, he'll be a good depth option.
Rookie Zaviar Gooden should make a very positive impact on the depth at outside linebacker, which has been a problem for the Titans recently.
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This is where the Titans had a lot of problems on defense in 2012.
At safety, those problems look a little better. Michael Griffin is still the likely starting free safety, but the Titans brought in both Bernard Pollard and George Wilson at strong safety.
Pollard is one of the best safeties in the league in run support, but he struggles in pass coverage, where the Titans were vulnerable in 2012. Wilson is a little better, but he's in the twilight of his career.
At corner, things look brighter. Jason McCourty is still there, while Alterraun Verner's position is in question to a degree. He may move to nickel, he may play outside or he may even move to safety.
Tommie Campbell, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Coty Sensabaugh are all competing for playing time. Sensabaugh looks to play in the nickel if Verner isn't there, while Campbell and Wreh-Wilson will be competing for the outside slot opposite McCourty.
The defensive backs as a group should be better with better depth at corner and an improvement at strong safety, but the group still lacks the kind of standout player that Cortland Finnegan was.