Projecting Tennessee Titans' Two-Deep Depth Chart Pre-2014 NFL Draft
The 2014 NFL draft is finally on the horizon.
A week from today, the first round will commence and we will have our first glimpse of the Tennessee Titans' draft plans. There are very few areas that imperatively need reinforcements brought in other than running back, but the team should be able to fill that area of need in the middle rounds of the draft.
For the most part, the Titans starting lineup appears to be pretty set for the upcoming season. The draft will be used to add depth and provide talent that will be essential during future seasons.
With that said, let's take one last look at the starting lineup one last time before the draft takes place.
- Jake Locker
- Charlie Whitehurst
There's a bit of intrigue at quarterback this offseason, as the future of the position is very fluid despite the team's proclamations that Locker is the starter.
The Titans declined to exercise Jake Locker's fifth-year option, per Jim Wyatt of USA Today, making the upcoming season possibly his last in Tennessee. There has been a lot of focus on some of the Titans' top prospects at the position as well.
According to Gayle Saunders of Rotoworld, the Titans have either visited with or had private workouts with Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger.
The Titans are expected to draft a quarterback at some point, but until the draft comes and goes, the situation remains unsettled.
- Shonn Greene
- Dexter McCluster
Running back is another position group that remains unsettled after longtime-face-of-the-franchise Chris Johnson was cut this offseason. Johnson's departure officially signals a complete changing of the guard for the Titans, along with the beginning of Ken Whisenhunt's tenure as head coach.
As of now, Greene sits atop the team's depth chart, but Whisenhunt intends to platoon his running backs and will almost definitely have another back added to the mix via the draft.
McCluster was added via free agency as more of a receiving threat to combine with the more plodding style of Greene. A back that can combine the talents of Greene and McCluster is expected to be targeted.
The top backs who fit that description are Tre Mason, Charles Sims, Jeremy Hill, Terrance West and James White.
- Kendall Wright, Nate Washington
- Justin Hunter, Michael Preston
While the Titans like what they have at receiver, the unit still lacks a true red-zone option. Wright, Washington and Hunter combined for a total of nine touchdown receptions all season last year.
Fifteen receivers or tight ends either tied or had more touchdowns than the trio's combined total. There doesn't appear to be any intention of adding a starting caliber talent to the corp, but there is a need for depth on the roster as Preston is not quite a known commodity.
Look for Hunter to surpass Washington on the depth chart as the season wears on.
- Delanie Walker
- Craig Stevens
Walker came on strong over the last half of the season and is primed to improve his play with a more tight end-friendly offense.
Stevens appears to be locked in as the team's blocking tight end and No. 2 on the depth chart, barring a surprising selection of Eric Ebron with the team's first-round draft pick.
The team could bring in someone to compete with Taylor Thompson for the team's third tight end spot, but it appears as though this position group is set.
- Michael Roos, Andy Levitre, Brian Schwenke, Chance Warmack, Michael Oher
- Byron Stingily, Eric Olsen, Chris Spencer, Tyler Horn, Jeff Adams
The retooling of the offensive line continued into this off-season, as the team bid farewell to David Stewart at right tackle and made the questionable signing of Michael Oher as his replacement.
The Titans brought in some new blood on the interior of the unit last year, to mixed reviews, but Levitre, Schwenke and Warmack should all make leaps in their second seasons with the franchise.
I don't expect anything to change with the team' starting unit by the time the season starts, but an eventual replacement for the aging Michael Roos could be brought in via the draft.
Stingily is a solid swing tackle, while Olsen and Spencer provide quality depth for the interior players. Adams and Horn are unlikely to make it past roster cuts.
- Ropati Pitoitua, Shaun Hill, Jurrell Casey
- Derrick Morgan/Kamerion Wimbley, Al Woods, Mike Martin
With defensive coordinator Ray Horton set to bring in a hybrid "30" defense, the Titans' defensive alignment can fluctuate from play-to-play or week-to-week.
Morgan and Wimbley—both defensive ends last season—have been given the dual designation of playing both linebacker and defensive end on the Titans team website.
Pitoitua is a natural fit as a 3-4 defensive end, while Hill and Casey will both be making their first forays into the defensive scheme.
Hill has the size to play nose tackle, and he will need to build his strength to better withstand the increased amount of double teams he will see this season. Casey should still excel as a penetrating end, but will also have a tougher time getting to the quarterback.
He has the size to hold up at the line and clog running lanes, while Martin (or Karl Klug) rotate in through a game.
Al Woods brings insurance at nose tackle, should Hill not be up for full-time duty as a starting "30" 0/1-technique. How Morgan and Wimbley will be used is yet to be seen, but it will most likely be in more 4-3 fronts.
- Kamerion Wimbley, Zach Brown, Wesley Woodyard, Akeem Ayers
- Derrick Morgan, Zaviar Gooden, Colin McCarthy, Shaun Phillips
There's a lot of questions to be answered about the linebacker corps this offseason, like who will start at either outside linebacker position.
Wimbley, Ayers and Phillips all appear versatile enough to play either side of the position group, while Morgan seems like a lock to play on the weak "Leo" side position.
The position is a bit of a 'tweener of linebacker and defensive end that can both contain and rush the passer.
On the strong "Sam" side, the ability to stop the run and perform well in coverage become more important. Ayers already has experience doing both and seems to be a good fit to start there.
On the inside the duties are very similar, however, the team seems to be loaded with linebackers who are mostly suited for weak "Will" side rather than "Mike" linebacker.
Woodyard, Brown and Gooden are all prototypical "Will" linebackers. Despite appearances, the team seems to believe Woodyard can play "Mike" with Brown playing the other side.
Shaun Phillips should be able to rotate in if he does not win a starting job over the offseason and more competition is likely to be brought in via the draft.
- Jason McCourty, Bernard Pollard, Michael Griffin, Blidi Wreh-Wilson
- Coty Sensabaugh, Damion Stafford, George Wilson, Tommie Campbell
The big story this offseason was the departure of Alterraun Verner to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and who his replacement would be.
McCourty is entrenched as one of the team's starting corners, while Griffin and Pollard are locked into their starting roles as well.
Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson are set to duke it out it for the Titans' No. 2 cornerback role and a major boost in playing time. Sensabaugh performed well as the team's nickel corner last season, while Wreh-Wilson was used sparingly in his rookie season.
Some competition could be brought in with a early- to mid-round draft pick, and I wouldn't rule Campbell out of the competition either.
Wilson is an excellent option as a third safety and will likely see increased playing time in certain packages Horton will design for him.
Stafford was hurt throughout his rookie season, but he was known as an enforcer when he was drafted. He will need to make his progress known throughout the offseason if he wants to see the field this year.
The only position with any depth right now punt/kick returner, where McCluster is likely in the lead for punts and Leon Washington is likely in the lead for kicks. Receiver Marc Mariani is also a very capable returner on the roster who will compete for that role in addition to some receiving duties.
Maikon Bonani takes over tas the team's kicker with Rob Bironas being released early in the offseason. The team is very likely to bring in a variety of competition after the draft.
At punter, Brett Kern looks to be locked in for another season in the role.