Stock Up, Stock Down for Tennessee Titans Training Camp
While we're barely into training camp, a few players have made those around them take notice, while others have taken a step back for various reasons.
It's optimism season again in the NFL, and for a team filled with so much change, the news throughout the offseason has been staggeringly positive.
The Titans have done a fine job creating competition at several positions on the team and created very specific roles for a number of the newcomers and returning talent.
Bernard Pollard is a newcomer who has had a lot of positive influence on the team due to his willingness to make himself heard—and the swagger and attitude he backs it up with.
On the other side of the spectrum, rookie center Brian Schwenke is quickly falling out of the battle for a starting role due to injury.
Luckily for the Titans, the team has many more players who appear to be stepping up the level of play due to competition rather than wilting under the pressure.
With preseason games now on the horizon, we will continue to see whose improved play will transfer over to real play, and who needs some more time to develop.
Until then, let's take a look at the players who've been noticed so far.
Stock Up: Colin McCarthy
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Up until Wednesday when he was finally back running with the first-team defense, Colin McCarthy had been playing second fiddle to newcomer Moise Fokou.
McCarthy had been limited through organized team activities and the beginning of training camp due to the lingering affects of an ankle injury and concussion suffered during the season, but, according to a report by John Glennon of The Tennessean, he has recovered.
He’s done well I think toward these last four or five days of OTAs and the mini-camp. He just looks physical. He looks bigger, stronger, confident again, just how he was last year at this time. - Head coach Mike Munchak
McCarthy showed plenty of promise in his rookie season, during training camp and preseason last year, but injuries derailed his sophomore campaign.
If McCarthy can remain healthy for the upcoming season, the Titans linebacker corp will have one of the most promising, young trios at the position in the league.
McCarthy was held out of practice on Thursday and is scheduled for an MRI due to leg soreness, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.
Stock Down: Delanie Walker
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When the Titans signed tight end Delanie Walker away from the San Francisco 49ers, many envisioned the team utilizing more two-tight end sets, with Walker serving as Jake Locker's Frank Wycheck.
However, Walker has had a bit of a difficult time staying on the field of late and is likely to miss the team's first two preseason games after having his knee scoped.
While it's very doubtful that Walker will be out of action by the time regular-season play starts, not having the opportunity to build a rapport with his quarterback in his first year with the team doesn't bode well for his season-long production.
Stock Up: Kendall Wright
Kendall Wright tied for the rookie lead in receptions last year with 64, but at the same time, he averaged a mere 9.8 yards per catch.
His inability to create after making the catch put a ceiling on his potential and left much to be desired at the end of his rookie campaign.
To help improve on his woeful after-the-catch production, Wright lost 15 pounds during the offseason and has appeared to be "faster and quicker," according to Tennessean reporter Jim Wyatt.
New offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is expected to make Wright a bigger part of the offense—in a similar fashion to Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb.
Wright already put his hands on display, but now, coming into camp in better shape should allow him to better separate from opposing defenders on a more consistent basis.
Stock Down: Alterraun Verner
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In a bit of an odd twist, cornerback Alterraun Verner is in jeopardy of losing regular playing time for the upcoming season based on a scheme change and his diminutive size.
Verner has still been receiving snaps with the starting defense, but he has been splitting them with third-year man Tommie Campbell. Second-year corner Coty Sensabaugh appears to have a stranglehold on the team's nickelback duties.
As a result, Verner has been moved around from corner to nickel to even free safety.
The Titans' switch to a more aggressive press and man-coverage defense has made Tommie Campbell the player with more upside as a starting corner, but Verner would still provide a solid option.
Verner's a versatility will keep him in the conversation for both nickel and starting corner duties, but the tie will go to the bigger, younger man in both situations.
Stock Up: Jake Locker
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Through the start of training camp, Locker has been receiving praise from all accounts. Locker has put together strong practices on back-to-back days.
Locker's improved play signals that he has improved on his decision-making and accuracy during the offseason. The team has also begun to employ the Pistol offense, which will make Locker's reads more simplified by cutting the field in half.
With so much of the Titans' success resting on his shoulders, it has to be encouraging to see a few strong practices in a row from the third-year man in his make-or-break season.
Stock Down: Kamerion Wimbley
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For a guy who was signed to help revive the team's lackluster pass rush last year, there really hasn't been a whole lot of news about Kamerion Wimbley making any strides.
Both Wimbley and Derrick Morgan played more than 900 snaps last season, but the team has made it a point to bring in some improved depth to remedy the situation in the form of free-agent signee Ropati Pitoitua and fifth-round pick Lavar Edwards.
However, Pitoitua has taken over snaps with the starting defense on early downs, while Wimbley subs in on passing downs—making him much more of a sub-package rusher than a complete end.
Wimbley appears to be upbeat about the situation, according to The Tennessean, but he will be on the field for much fewer snaps in 2013:
To be able to go out there more in passing situations, I think it creates the chances to get more sacks. I’m aware that’s what I was brought in here for. So with that being said, going out there and having more opportunities to get after the quarterback is a good thing.
Stock Up: Coty Sensabaugh
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After the Titans drafted Blidi Wreh-Wilson in the third round to compete with Tommie Campbell for starting corner, it was assumed that Alterraun Verner would promptly take over his more natural position at nickel.
Coty Sensabaugh isn't going to just give away his spot though. He's played well all through the organized team activities and has stepped up even more at the start of training camp.
Last week, Sensabaugh picked off passes from Fitzpatrick and Locker on consecutive days. He's made it difficult for the coaching staff to move him out of the position, according to The Tennessean:
We were happy how the season went for him last year. He just keeps getting better. They trust each other with him in there. This gives him a chance not just at nickel but a chance to compete at corner with the rest of them. He’s done well, he does great things.
- Head coach Mike Munchak
The growing number of three-receiver sets in the NFL has made the nickel-corner spot nearly as important as a starting player. Sensabaugh seems to be fitting into the more aggressive defense well and will allow the defense to send more rushers when necessary.