Updating Tennessee Titans' Key Position Battles Halfway Through Training Camp
One game down, three to go. After a tough loss in the Tennessee Titans' first preseason action of the year, it's time to delve into the team's most prominent positional battles.
While the first preseason game is far too early to give any definitive answers as to the progress of the players at the most embattled positions, it is important to take note for the future.
Some interesting nuggets of information were let loose during last Thursday's action against the Washington Redskins.
Let's take a look at who has taken the early lead in some important starting and roster-bubble competitions.
Battle for No. 2 Is Far from Over
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For the second consecutive year, Tommie Campbell has garnered a lot of attention through the offseason. He's been given reps with the starting defense since organized team activities, but things seem to change when the real action starts.
Last year in the Titans' first preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, Campbell was burned for a big touchdown grab by Braylon Edwards that solidified him as player ill prepared to be a regular contributor.
After watching the Titans in action against the Washington Redskins, Campbell has once again failed to live up to assistant secondary coach Steve Brown's expectations, as reported by Paul Kuharsky of ESPN:
His strong suit is as a press corner, and we put him in situations. He was not aggressive at the line of scrimmage pressing guys—he was playing off.
Campbell often appeared too concerned with playing the team's tried-and-failed coverage scheme of yesteryear. Campbell's lack of consistency in the game is disconcerting, as Alterraun Verner looked like the much more reliable option when inserted into the lineup.
While one preseason game is too early to truly judge a position battle, it's very telling that the incumbent remains the better option despite all reports heaping praise on the challenger.
Injuries Continue to Derail McCarthy's Career
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Drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft, Colin McCarthy fought his way into the starting lineup by Week 9 of his rookie season and was named a defensive captain entering the 2012 season.
Injuries, however, thwarted what looked to be a promising sophomore campaign. McCarthy only appeared in seven games and was far from 100 percent in most of them, suffering from a concussion and ankle injury.
Going into this offseason, Titans brass knew it needed to improve the depth behind McCarthy after it cost the team dearly in 2012. Enter former Indianapolis Colt Moise Fokou into a sudden competition for starting middle linebacker.
The competition is fast becoming one sided, as injuries have held McCarthy out of most of the team's organized team activities and training camp. McCarthy was unavailable to play in the Titans' first preseason game and has already been ruled out of next week's matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Fokou has performed well in the absence of McCarthy, whose continued lack of durability has swung the door wide open for a new starter in the center of the Titans defense.
Starting Center Competition Is Wide Open
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When the Titans drafted the top center on their boards in Brian Schwenke, the assumption was that there would be an open competition for starting center and the participants would be the rookie and Fernando Velasco.
A hamstring injury has taken a bit of the bite out of that competition, with Schwenke unable to get on the field.
This is where the Titans' emphasis on improving the interior of the offensive line comes into play.
Former St. Louis Rams guard/center Rob Turner was signed during free agency as a possible starter at guard or quality depth. However, Turner was the only center Jake Locker took snaps from during last week's preseason action.
Velasco and Turner have been taking turns running with the starters in Schwenke's nonattendance. If Schwenke can return to the field soon, this positional battle could quickly become the team's most noteworthy.
Can Battle Win the Battle?
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The Titans put on a show offensively after refocusing on the ground game. Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene each took off for long touchdown runs.
Jackie Battle was able to distinguish himself from his competition through the air, pulling in two receptions for 23 yards to go along with eight yards on the ground.
Judging from the game, the Titans intend to utilize their running backs as check-down options on a regular basis, making Battle's hands a major value to his staying on the roster over Jalen Parmele and even Darius Reynaud.
Battle isn't a fleet-footed back, either, which makes his sounds hands unique—he stands at 6'2" and 250 pounds. If Battle is able to continue to showcase hard-nosed running and strong hands, he should make the final roster over Parmele as the team's third-string running back.
Receiving Corps Standing Pat
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It's possible the team will use a rotation at receiver, but, ultimately, none of the receivers should be expected to truly be standouts, with the focus being placed on wearing opposing defenses down with the running game.
The Titans didn't reveal much in the way of the passing game in the Redskins game, and that's probably wise.
We'll have to stay tuned to find out more about the 2013 Tennessee Titans' aerial assault.