Setting Realistic Training Camp Expectations for Each Tennessee Titans Rookie
Several rookies on the Tennessee Titans' roster will have to make big impacts in 2014 to get this franchise back on the right track toward the playoffs.
The Titans had six draft picks back in May, and all of them have moderate chances at eventually becoming starters within the next two seasons.
Training camp will be one of the most interesting that we've seen in the past few years with so many new faces looking to prove themselves in front of a predominantly new coaching staff.
It's time to set some realistic training camp expectations for these six Titans rookies.
The Titans got an absolute steal by nabbing Zach Mettenberger all the way back in the sixth round to conclude their 2014 draft.
Mettenberger carries a low risk because he was taken so late, but he also carries a high reward with his cannon for an arm. The Titans now have an insurance plan in place if Jake Locker doesn't deliver in 2014.
As for right now, Mettenberger will need to continue to make considerable progress in training camp to ensure that he'll be ready for 2015 to battle for the starting position. Expecting Mettenberger to be ready for Week 1 and overtake Locker would be far-fetched.
Mettenberger does not lack confidence or a competitive nature as he prepares to battle for the starting job this offseason, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com.
You love to see the confidence that Mettenberger is showing, but seeing a solid training camp and efficiency in preseason are more realistic expectations at this early stage in his NFL career.
No other Titans rookie will see more opportunities to make immediate contributions than Bishop Sankey, who is looking to replace Chris Johnson right out of the gate.
Sankey is a balanced runner that adds an element the Titans were missing in their running back corps, which is a big reason why the Titans made him the first running back off the board in the draft.
Sankey missed some offseason workouts to finish his school year out at the University of Washington, but this is no cause for alarm. This is a bright young man who will have no problem making up for lost time in training camp.
Sankey did other things to help him keep up while finishing out his school year, according to Teresa M. Walker of the Titans' official website.
Expect to see Sankey on the field more than any other Titans running back due to his versatility. He even has a decent chance to push for an Offensive Rookie Player of the Year award.
For the Titans to feel good about Sankey in Week 1 in a hostile environment against the Kansas City Chiefs, he'll have to really perform well in training camp. A lackluster showing might mean a tough season-opener against a respectable Chiefs defense.
It's hard to put an assessment on what to expect from Taylor Lewan in the early going of his NFL career. He has two proven veterans currently in front of him on the depth chart, and he's also still dealing with legal matters.
Don't count out Lewan to overtake Michael Roos or Michael Oher in training camp with a strong showing. He was drafting 11th overall for a reason, and the Titans won't be shy to put a rookie ahead of a veteran.
Lewan is currently being prepared to play either left tackle or right tackle, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com.
This means that Lewan will have two different battles on his hands to try to win a starting role in Week 1. He'll probably have to wait until 2015 to really make his impact.
Lewan will definitely be one of the leaders of this offensive line in the near future, but Week 1 might be pushing it. The Titans have no need to rush him into a starting role unless their two veteran starters begin to underperform.
I absolutely loved this fourth-round draft pick by the Titans. DaQuan Jones is a huge body that will work well as a nose tackle for this 3-4 defense, but he will also offer value as a defensive tackle.
Tyler McMullen of RantSports sees Jones being moving in slowly to this defense under Ray Horton, but he could eventually become a starter in 2014.
Jurrell Casey is locked in as one of the starters, but Jones will be in a battle with the likes of Mike Martin and Antonio Johnson to see more snaps as well.
We need to see improvement in Jones' conditioning in training camp, as well as a boost in consistency.
There's no denying his large NFL frame that will allow him to blow plays up in the backfield, so fans should be excited about what they might end up seeing from this 6'4" giant.
Avery Williamson is an interesting rookie for the Titans who should end up being an instant contributor on special teams. He has great intangibles that will translate well to the NFL.
There will be opportunities for Williamson to crack the starting lineup at inside linebacker if he can overtake players like Moise Fokou, Colin McCarthy, Zaviar Gooden and Zach Brown.
Wesley Woodyard was picked up through free agency and is a lock to be one of the starting inside linebackers.
Williamson will be in the middle of the one of the bigger training camp battles on the Titans roster. It will be one to keep an eye on throughout the duration of training camp and preseason.
As a rookie, he should not be expected to contribute much more than strong special teams play. This is fine with the Titans, as they desperately needed special teams help last season.
Marqueston Huff has the fun role of taking over the No. 28 jersey, held by Chris Johnson since 2008.
Perhaps the biggest position battle this training camp will be at cornerback to see who lines up opposite Jason McCourty. The winner will be tagged as the replacement for Alterraun Verner, whose shoes will not be easy to fill.
Huff's ceiling in his rookie season is chipping in on special teams and being ready to go if an injury occurs ahead of him on the depth chart. I can't see Huff jumping ahead of Blidi Wreh-Wilson or Coty Sensabaugh.
We'll get to see Huff a lot in the preseason to see if he can become a serviceable backup in his rookie season. The main concern with Huff is that he's undersized at 5'11".
The Titans made sure they had plenty of depth at cornerback after losing Verner in free agency, so Huff has plenty of time to learn this season.