Tennessee Titans

Projecting Tennessee Titans' Most Heated Roster Battles This Offseason

Chad MintonCorrespondent IMay 20, 2014

Projecting Tennessee Titans' Most Heated Roster Battles This Offseason

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    With the Tennessee Titans roster finally taking shape, it's now time for the heated roster battles to begin. There will be plenty of them this offseason for the Titans, and most of them will be for key starting roles.

    Many of these roster battles will involve the Titans' six draft picks and free-agent additions they made this offseason.

    Virtually no player's starting role is safe with a new coaching staff taking over, led by Ken Whisenhunt. The status quo has changed for the Titans, and that means plenty of intriguing position battles to dive into in training camp.

    Here are the top five offseason position battles to keep tabs on to find out how this roster shapes up for 2014.

5. Wide Receiver

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The top three receivers are set on the Titans depth chart with Kendall Wright leading the charge. Both Nate Washington and Justin Hunter will see plenty of looks in the offense as well.

    However, the Titans are really in search for a couple of reliable contributors after that trio. Wide receivers wasn't addressed in the draft most likely due to the shortage of total draft picks the Titans had.

    The Titans did sign four undrafted wide receivers, but one of them has already been released, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

    Other players released from #Titans: CB George Baker, LB Jamal Merrell and WR Eric Ward (injured)

    — Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) May 19, 2014

    That leaves Jaz Reynolds, Josh Stewart and Derel Walker as the undrafted free agents who will compete with Michael Preston and Marc Mariani for roster spots.

    It will make for heated battle in training camp, and Ken Whisenhunt has made it known that the undrafted free agents will get solid opportunities, per John Glennon of The Tennessean.

    Preston's experience and flashes of big-play abilities give him a great chance at becoming that fourth receiver on the depth chart. He nearly made the 53-man roster last season.

4. Quarterback

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    It's completely Jake Locker's starting job to lose, but crazier quarterback switches have happened in the past. The fact is that Locker has to start all over with a new coaching staff, and that won't be an easy task.

    Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports sees Zach Mettenberger likely jumping ahead of Locker on the depth chart before the preseason even concludes.

    You can't discount the fact that Locker wasn't brought in by this current coaching staff, so there aren't any ties here. If Whisenhunt really likes what he sees out of Mettenberer, then he could easily choose to dive right in with Mettenberger.

    However, Locker's issues have mainly been health-related. He's shown glimpses of being that quarterback who can win games and be effective. If the same quarterback who played so well in the first four weeks of last season shows up in training camp, then he'll win the starting job for Week 1.

    Whisenhunt was displaying a lot of faith in Locker prior to the draft, and even Titans CEO Tommy Smith said that Locker was the starter, according to John Breech from CBSSports.com.

    Those feelings still have to mean something even with the drafting of Mettenberger. The Titans were going to draft a quarterback all along with this new staff. 

    Mettenberger will have to have a flawless training camp to win this job before the first regular-season game against the Kansas City Chiefs. No way the Titans throw a project quarterback into the fire at Arrowhead Stadium against a formidable Chiefs defense.

    The only way this could happen is if Locker just looks that bad in preseason. My educated guess is that Locker holds his own in training camp to silence the rumors pretty fast on his starting job being in jeopardy before Week 1.

    However, if Locker can retain his starter status for the entire season is a whole other issue. This will be a hard camp battle to ignore, but Locker is a good enough practice player to win this job pretty early.

3. Linebacker

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Shaun Phillips and Wesley Woodyard were major free-agent signings that should lead to big changes at linebacker for the Titans in 2014.

    With Phillips and Woodyard moving into starting roles, it could leave Akeem Ayers and Moise Fokou on the outside looking in.

    It was a down year for the Titans linebackers as a whole, with Zach Brown leading the way as the most productive of the group.

    This position battle will be a fun one to watch with the Titans changing to a 3-4 hybrid defense. We'll get an opportunity to see how Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley will occasionally transition from defensive end to edge-rushers at linebacker.

    You also have to wonder where Colin McCarthy fits into all of this. Will he be able to reclaim his starting role at inside linebacker along with Woodyard? His health will be vital if he's going to keep a roster spot now that there's so much competition at the position.

    There are a lot of different combinations that could play out at linebacker when the Titans take the field in Week 1 against the Chiefs.

2. Running Back

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    There is currently a lot of excitement surrounding the Titans backfield, and rightfully so after the drafting of Bishop Sankey.

    Sankey is the leading candidate to get the most touches, according to Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com. He'll join a committee of running backs that will also include Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster and maybe even a fourth guy on occasion.

    The battle here will be for who gets the most consistent touches from week to week, because all of these guys are going to see plenty of time on the field.

    Despite being a rookie, Sankey has the upper hand in this position battle over guys who aren't necessarily three-down players. Sankey's appeal lies within his ability to handle a heavy load, and the Titans liked him so much that they took him as the first running back in the draft.

    Don't be surprised if Sankey gets 20-plus carries per game right at the start of the season if the game flow dictates it.

    Greene's knee issues don't help his cause at becoming the No. 1 guy in this group of running backs, and McCluster is only going to be used in unique situations. However, McCluster will see more time at running back than he probably ever did with the Chiefs.

    You also have to factor in a fourth guy, and undrafted free agent Antonio Andrews has an outside shot at making this team over Jackie Battle.

    This crowded position will be difficult to predict, but Sankey is the most complete player out of the bunch to become the feature back. It's hard to not get excited about healthy competition at such a key offensive position like running back.

1. Cornerback

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Jason McCourty is secure in his starting role, but the competition to start on the other side will be among four players. All of them have their positives and negatives, making for what should be the biggest position battle to watch.

    This position is loaded with depth even after the departure of Alterraun Verner. The Titans wisely prepared for the possible loss of Verner, and it's paying off now.

    The Titans drafted Marqueston Huff in the fourth round of the recent NFL draft, but Huff is fighting an uphill battle to jump ahead of Coty Sensabaugh or Blidi Wreh-Wilson on the depth chart.

    With that said, Huff is a versatile player that Titans general manager Ruston Webster expects to have a big stamp on both defense and special teams, according to David Boclair of the Nashville Post.

    Both Sensabaugh and Wreh-Wilson have played well in the opportunities they've been given in their short NFL careers, so the primary battle will be between these two for a starting role in Week 1.

    Tommie Campbell might have a tough time remaining on this team. He's struggled to be anything more than an athletic special teams contributor since being drafted in 2011.

    This will be a very fun position battle to keep an eye on in training camp and in preseason. In the end, Sensabaugh's strong play from last season should have him as a favorite to win this battle. Huff and Wreh-Wilson will probably be primary backups.

    The Titans have to feel pretty confident with what they have at cornerback moving forward, even though there is a lot of inexperience.

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