Welcome to the Team, Rook: Tennessee Titans Edition
5. What will be your team’s biggest positional battles (veterans vs. emerging youngsters, rookies battling it out to make an impact on the roster) of summer camp?
The best part of the NFL is the constant turnover in rosters from year to year. It is a test to the coaching staff and the front office of each team to keep a team competitive from year to year.
In this article, we will look at some of the key position battles for the 2009-2010 Tennessee Titans.
The unquestioned No. 1 back is electrifying rookie Chris Johnson. However, the intrigue sets in with the third down/spell back position. Last season, that position was filled by LenDale White, who racked up 773 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Titans.
However, questions on LenDale's work ethic and weight have led many to question LenDale's future with the team.
A second round draft pick in 2006, LenDale is entering a contract year, and has shown up to camp this season in the best shape of his career.
However, the three fumbles in the divisional round against Baltimore last season could be White's ticket out of Tennessee.
The Titans brought in Javon Ringer in the fifth round, who could look to push White. Also still on the roster are Quintan Ganther and Chris Henry, one of which is expected to get cut.
A position of weakness last year has turned into an intriguing position battle for the Titans in 2009. The signing of Nate Washington and the drafting of Kenny Britt have brought some interesting depth to the position.
Also the return of Justin Gage as well as second-year receiver Levelle Hawkins could turn this into a strength position for the Titans.
Never seen as a spread-out offense, the Titans are more than content to pound the ball and rely on the short passing or tight ends to move the ball down the field.
Gage seems to be solidified into the No. 1 spot going into camp. Jeff Fisher has never been one to throw rookie wide receivers into starting positions, however in the OTAs thus far, Kenny Britt has looked impressive.
It seems as though he could emerge as the number two target, providing a big receiver for Kerry Collins' big arm in the red zone, something sorely missed last season.
There have also been recent grumblings that the Titans might bring back Drew Bennett, who left for a big contract two seasons ago with the Rams, yet was cut just after last season.
If signed, the Titans look to be in good shape with receiver, with Bennett, Britt and Washington battling for the No. 2 spot.
In a surprising development, the Titans traded up into the third round to take tight end Jared Cook, seemingly to pressure Bo Scaife to sign his franchise tender.
Also, last off season, the Titans signed free agent tight end Alge Crumpler, and still have large target Craig Stevens on the roster. This position seems very deep for the Titans.
The Titans value the tight end position, so it is likely that they will carry four tight ends. Scaife seems to be the starter, and the designated franchise player, but many have noticed that Cook has looked more than impressive in minicamp thus far.
Look for the Titans to try to develop Cook, and watch for him to possibly become the starter before the end of the season.
Questions also of Crumpler's ability to come back from injury could lead to him being the odd man out of this group. Stevens is mainly a red zone threat, and brought in as a situational tight end.
The interesting battle here is between Scaife and Cook, however if Crumpler is able to come to his 2004-2006 form, then he could emerge as a black horse candidate to win the starting job.
Look for Tennessee to use a lot of two- and three-tight end packages this season.
The loss of Albert Haynesworth seemingly opened up a huge hole in the center of a defensive line which was so dominant last season.
However, second year player Jason Jones stepped in last year for an injured Haynesworth and caused all sorts of problems for Ben Roethlisberger, sacking him three times.
He played in 13 games, started three and ended the season with 31 tackles and 5 sacks.
Signed in the off-season was Jovan Haye who started 14 games for Tampa Bay last season, racking up 33 tackles but no sacks.
Tony Brown returns as the incumbent starter, and the Titans also drafted Sen'Derrick Marks out of Auburn in the second round.
Brown will keep his starting job, so the battle is between Marks, Haye and Jones for the number two DT spot. The Titans defensive line coach Washburn loves to use a rotation of guys, so all will see field time.
I see Jones, if he can prove to be consistent throughout camp and the preseason taking the starting job, however Marks and Haye will see plenty of time on the field and I believe the Titans will not miss Haynesworth as much as is advertised.
The Titans also brought in some young corner-backs through the draft in Ryan Mouton (3rd round, Hawaii) and Jason McCourty (6th round, Rutgers), however neither seem to pose a challenge to incumbent starters Nick Harper or pro bowler Courtland Finnegan.
This battle seems to be who will be the successor to Harper, who is 34 years old, and seemingly the weak part of the secondary late last season due to injury.
Chris Carr is now a Baltimore Raven, which seemingly turns a position of strength for the Titans (kickoff returns) into a position of weakness.
Former Raven Mark Jones, as well as the aforementioned Mouton, will likely battle out for this position.
It will be interesting to see in the preseason if either can fill the shoes of Carr, who bolstered a first-ranked return game with 25.4 yard return average, giving Collins, Johnson and company good field position.
Even though the Titans bring back most parts of an AFC best 13-3 team from last year, the draft and free agency have created some interesting positional battles.
It will be interesting to see come preseason how Fisher organizes his team, but one thing we do know is that the best players will play.
Fisher has always done more with less, so it will be interesting to see how they replace Carr, Haynesworth and bolster that passing game.
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