What's New for the Tennessee Titans in 2013?
It's been a long offseason, but football is almost here again.
In case you haven't heard, the Tennessee Titans made a lot of changes over the offseason to personnel, players and scheme. They made more moves in free agency than they have in recent memory as well, so this is a very different team now than it was in 2012.
Just in case you missed it, here is an overview of what's new with the Titans going into the 2013 season.
New Coach Gregg Williams
Gregg Williams, the former defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints and the Titans, was one of the figures who got caught up in Bountygate, Now, after serving a one-year suspension from the league, he's a part of the Titans again, this time as senior assistant defensive coach.
While Jerry Gray is still the defensive coordinator, Williams has been the coach that the defensive players interact with on the sidelines so far, making him an important addition.
There's also the fact that he brings some aggressiveness to a defense that certainly lacked that (and a few other things) in 2012.
He's a controversial hire given his past and his suspension, but maybe that's just what the doctor ordered for the Titans defense.
New Veteran Players
The Titans added several big-name players this offseason.
George Wilson, S: Wilson is getting on in years, but he is still an upgrade at strong safety.
Bernard Pollard, S: A bit of a liability in pass coverage, Pollard usually plays very well against the run and is a vocal, aggressive player on the field.
Sammie Hill, DT: A huge defensive tackle, Hill will add to what's becoming a very talented interior defensive line.
Moise Fokou, MLB: A former Colts backup linebacker, Fokou has risen to the point of challenging Colin McCarthy for the starting middle linebacker spot.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB: Formerly the Bills' starting quarterback, Fitzpatrick will have the Titans in good hands if Jake Locker goes down with an injury.
Delanie Walker, TE: A former 49er, Walker will help fill the void left by Jared Cook's departure.
Shonn Greene, RB: The former starting running back for the Jets has already racked up 78 yards and a touchdown in the preseason.
Jackie Battle, RB: Brought in to compete for a third running back spot, Battle's preseason has made him impossible to ignore. He is a human battering ram.
Rob Turner, OC: A veteran center, Turner seems to have taken over the starting center spot, as he played with the starters in the Titans' last preseason game.
Andy Levitre, OG: The star of the free-agent class, Levitre has been one of the best guards in the NFL for a few years now, and he is still young. He ought to be an anchor on the line for years to come.
Of course, free agency isn't the only way to add players. There's also the draft, and this year's group already looks promising.
Chance Warmack, OG: The Titans' first overall pick, Warmack will start at right guard. He is one of the most hyped guard prospects to come along in a while and has already shown that he's a powerful run-blocker.
Justin Hunter, WR: The former Tennessee player brings speed, athleticism and explosive potential, but his injury history and tendency to drop passes allowed him to fall to the Titans in the second round. I expect him to be more of a backup in his first season.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB: A steal in the third round, Wreh-Wilson is the kind of speedy, tall corner that has become popular in the NFL recently. He won't start this year, but I do expect him to compete for a starting spot pretty soon.
Zaviar Gooden, OLB: Gooden has missed the entire preseason due to injury. He won't be starting over Akeem Ayers or Zach Brown, but when he's healthy again, you can expect him to be subbed in occasionally.
Brian Schwenke, OC: A big, powerful center, he's probably the long-term answer at the position.
Lavar Edwards, DE: Edwards has been impressive this preseason and could be a valuable rotational player.
Khalid Wooten, CB: The Nevada product's speed might give him a spot on special teams, but he's likely to end up on the practice squad.
Daimion Stafford, S: Stafford could end up on the practice squad as well, but a strong showing against the Vikings could nab him a roster spot.
Some of the older players seem to be filling new roles this season. The most noteworthy of those changes is Akeem Ayers shifting to some defensive end.
Ayers is one of the best pass-rushers on the team, and the coaching staff has made a lot of promises to use him more as a pass-rusher in 2013, per Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.
On the other end, Scott Solomon has been learning the strong-side linebacker position, even playing at that position in the Vikings game. Since Solomon was a defensive end, I expect the Titans will want to use him in much the same manner as they plan on using Ayers.
Another player trying out another position is Craig Stevens, who got some snaps at fullback this offseason. Stevens as fullback makes a lot of sense. The fullback position is disappearing, and his best ability is already his blocking, so having him fill in as both a blocking tight end and fullback essentially saves a roster spot that can be put to use elsewhere.
The big two position battles over the offseason and preseason were the battles for the starting center spot and the starting corner spot opposite Jason McCourty.
The starting center spot seems to have become Rob Turner's, per John Glennon of The Tennessean. Brian Schwenke was in the running before his offseason injury and Fernando Velasco started at center in 2012.
While things could still change, Turner has been getting the first-team reps most recently, and he played fairly well in the preseason. Schwenke could challenge him later in the season, but he has yet to see playing time with the No. 1s.
At corner, things aren't as settled. What started as an anything-goes race between Alterraun Verner, Tommie Campbell, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Coty Sensabaugh has essentially come down to Verner or Campbell, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.
In my mind, Verner has to be in the lead after Campbell played poorly against the Vikings, but it wouldn't shock me to see Campbell starting in some packages and Verner in others.
Wreh-Wilson or Sensabaugh could reenter the discussion if neither Campbell nor Verner seems to be a permanent solution.
In a lesser positional battle, Moise Fokou has pretty much taken starting duties over for the oft-injured Colin McCarthy. If McCarthy is healthy, he's likely to start, so that battle is less about actual playing ability and more about keeping a player on the field.
Players Lost or Cut
As much as it may not want to, a team can't add players without losing some as well.
Among the veteran players that the Titans lost were quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, tight end Jared Cook, defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, guards Leroy Harris and Steve Hutchinson and running back Javon Ringer.
The Titans have also started to make the final cuts to the 75-man roster to get down to 53. So far, 10 players have been let go, per Kuharsky. Those players are:
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