Breaking Down All the New Faces on the 2014 Tennessee Titans
This year's Tennessee Titans feature a lot of new faces, including head coach Ken Whisenhunt and the majority of his coaching staff.
It will be hard to recognize this team at first with all of the new additions on offense and defense.
The roster changes will make for an important offseason, as the first four weeks of the regular season will be challenging. The players will have little time to get adjusted to one another.
Here is a full analysis of all the new bodies in a Titans uniform for the 2014 season.
Dexter McCluster was picked up as a free agent in early March on a three-year contract worth up to $12 million. That's not chump change for a guy who doesn't have a clear identity on offense.
This is essentially the replacement of Chris Johnson, although McCluster isn't being brought in to just rush the football.
McCluster is going to bring so much versatility to this offense, but he will see more time at running back than he did with the Kansas City Chiefs. He'll fit into a committee of backs. He'll also see plenty of time as a slot receiver, utilizing his speed to create yards after the catch.
It's still unclear how he will exactly fit into the offense, but his role will probably change from week to week. There could even be some weeks when he will barely show up in the box score.
This addition will make more sense once we finally see the Titans in action during the preseason. Until then, it's anyone's guess on the kind of impact he will make and from what position.
Bishop Sankey has largely been the most popular pick of this year's Titans draft class. He will also most likely be the most involved rookie on the roster and rightfully so.
Expect him to be No. 1 guy in the running back committee early in the season, per David Climer of The Tennessean.
Sankey is having to make up for lost time, as he had to finish out his school year at the University of Washington before returning to offseason workouts, but he has a leg up over the other running backs on the roster due to his balanced game.
Out with Ryan Fitzpatrick and in with Charlie Whitehurst. That's the basic trade-off here, and there's a good chance that he could become the starter based on Jake Locker's injury history.
Whitehurst is serving as a player and coach right now. He knows Ken Whisenhunt's offense from playing under him in 2013. He can hopefully mentor Locker into becoming a solid quarterback in a much more aggressive offense than fans have been accustomed to seeing over the years.
His scant starting experience makes this a shaky addition, but he would be the better choice than a rookie to replace an injured Locker, per Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com.
It's a little unsettling that Whitehurst hasn't been able to break through as an NFL starter and instead has been a career backup. Hopefully for the Titans' sake, he'll remain a backup in 2014 and use the clipboard as his best tool to help this team.
We all figured that the Titans would draft a quarterback in May, but it was a little surprising to see them wait until the sixth round to do it. It was maybe even more surprising that Zach Mettenberger was still on the board. He could end up being one of the great bargains of the draft.
The Titans have to be cautious about how they handle him. He needs time to develop in his rookie season and can't be rushed into the mix too soon.
If the Titans fall apart in 2014, then Mettenberger will be in line to become the starter next offseason. He shouldn't be considered for starting at any point in 2014 unless he's showing incredible progress to replace an injured Jake Locker.
The Titans threw many people for a loop by drafting Taylor Lewan when they had already seemed set at offensive tackle.
He is extremely talented and will eventually be a huge anchor on the offensive line. It just may not come in his rookie season with Michael Roos and Michael Oher lining up ahead of him on the depth chart.
It's a little troubling that Lewan's current court case involving an alleged assault has been delayed until July, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. I expect the two veterans to start ahead of Lewan in Week 1, but performance could easily change that as the regular season progresses.
There might be some patience required before anyone sees how Lewan will benefit this offense, but at least the Titans know they are prepared for the future at left tackle if 2014 is Roos' last year.
The drafting of Taylor Lewan would have made a ton of sense if the Titans hadn't signed Michael Oher to line up alongside Michael Roos.
Oher will be in a battle of his own with Lewan to hold down the starting job at right tackle, via the team's official website. That's just how deep the Titans are at offensive tackle.
They got a durable and consistent performer in Oher, who was signed as the replacement of David Stewart. Oher got a four-year deal, and I can't see the veteran losing his starting job to an unproven rookie.
The addition of Shaun Phillips was arguably the Titans' most productive offseason move this year. He will add veteran experience to a defense that is shifting to a 3-4.
He brings nearly 80 career sacks to a defense that has struggled to get consistent pressure on the quarterback from the linebacker position.
There will be plenty of competition in training camp to determine the other starting linebacker on the outside, but Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers are all in the conversation.
The Titans added another free-agent linebacker from the AFC champion Denver Broncos when they signed Wesley Woodyard.
He is one of the front-runners to start at inside linebacker, per Will Lomas of Music City Miracles.
The addition of Woodyard is not good news for Colin McCarthy's chances of making the team, much less retaining his starting role.
The Titans suddenly have a logjam at inside linebacker. They still have Moise Fokou in the mix, who played decently at times last year. He would be a serviceable backup.
There is also rookie Avery Williamson, who was drafted in the fifth round.
As for Woodyard, he brings more veteran leadership to a group of linebackers that has been predominantly young for a few seasons now. He will fit in nicely in the 3-4 defense as a coverage linebacker. This was another productive free-agent signing for a defense that will look nothing like the 2013 version.
I wasn't a big fan of this fifth-round draft pick initially, but it's grown on me. With the injury concerns of Colin McCarthy, Avery Williamson makes more sense to me.
This could mean the end of McCarthy's time with the Titans as they go with a fresh face to lock down the position behind a couple of veterans.
Williamson has great intangibles and is a very solid open-field tackler. He will push for a starting job, but I expect him to come up just short behind Wesley Woodyard and Zach Brown.
If Brown and Woodyard struggle, then I could see Williamson starting at some point in 2014.
Special teams is where he will probably make his biggest impact as a rookie, per David Climer of The Tennessean. Special teams can't be discounted, and he should be a great upgrade to an area that was subpar in 2013.
The Titans paid a lot of attention to linebacker this offseason, and Williamson adds quality depth. There will be plenty of healthy competition at this position in training camp. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out when Week 1 rolls around.
The Titans acquired a big body to clog up the middle of the defensive line when they signed Al Woods from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He could even end up dropping back into coverage in zone-blitz situations, according to John Glennon of The Tennessean. That's something that's virtually never done in a 4-3 defense.
It will be some sort of a timeshare for Woods at defensive tackle/nose tackle. He will get regular snaps along with Sammie Lee Hill and the mammoth DaQuan Jones, who was drafted out of Penn State in the fourth round.
Expect Jurrell Casey to see more time at defensive end to maximize his pass-rushing abilities, which makes the addition of Woods a smart one.
He is just another piece to what is going to be a very aggressive and unpredictable defense.
The massive DaQuan Jones was taken in the fourth round of the draft and will add a ton of size to the defensive line.
The Titans drafted a guy who will likely be their main nose tackle, according to Tyler McMullen of Rant Sports.
Since the Titans are so deep on the defensive line, I don't expect Jones to see a ton of snaps right out of the gate. It will take some time for him to prove himself as a dominant nose tackle at the next level.
However, he definitely looks the part. His 6'4", 300-plus pound frame is ideal for the position. Chalk this up as a productive draft pick in the early going.
The undrafted free agent who is making the most news for the Titans is Antonio Andrews, the all-purpose machine out of Western Kentucky. He led the nation in all-purpose yardage for 2012 and 2013.
He has a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster as a fourth running back.
It was a little surprising that he wasn't drafted late in the draft, and it was a great signing for the Titans. He will get his chance to prove himself in training camp, and I wouldn't sleep on him making some noise.
There are always diamonds in the rough when it comes to running backs. The Titans may decide to give Andrews a shot if they part ways with Shonn Greene.