Titan's Cornerback Concerns Heading Into The Offseason

Mitch DespotContributor IFebruary 8, 2010

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 23:  Wide receiver Andre Johnson #80 scores in the second quarter as he beats cornerback Nick Harper #20 of the Tennessee Titans at Reliant Stadium on November 23, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images
The time for off-season speculation has already begun for thirty teams not named the Peytonapolis Colts or the New Orleans Saints, and come tomorrow will include all thirty-two NFL teams. The Tennessee Titans will hold either the 16th or 17th pick in this years NFL Draft, which will be decided by a coin flip between the Titans and San Francisco 49ers
The past two NFL drafts have seen the Titan’s select an offensive player in the first round with Chris Johnson in 2008 and Kenny Britt in 2009. Both players played exceptionally well for the Titans this past season with Chris Johnson becoming the sixth member of the elite 2,000 yard rushing club, and Kenny Britt grabbing 42 passes for 701 yards and three touchdowns. Both of these players should be staples of the Titans offense for the near future, along with 2009 third round pick Jared Cook who struggled with an ankle injury in his rookie season but has great potential. Overall, the Titans look pretty solid on offense, but will probably add a mid round offensive linemen as well as a mid round running back to potentially replace Lendale White. Of course this will depend on free agency, as Lendale is a restricted free agent as he has accrued less than six years of NFL service. This means that Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and GM Mike Reinfeldt will probably spend their first round pick on a defensive player.
The two most glaring needs on the Titan’s defense heading into the offseason are defensive end and cornerback. Let me begin by saying that I am a huge fan of the Titans, and it literally ruins my weekend when they lose. That is why the Titan’s secondary, by which I mean Nick Harper caused me more physical and emotional pain in 2009, than any other player on the Titan’s roster. If you even happened to catch a glimpse of a Titan’s game this season, you would be hard pressed to have not seen Nick Harper in some way blowing his coverage. Despite routinely playing 5-10 yards off his receiver, Harper was constantly beat deep. Against Andre Johnson alone, the Titans allowed 14 catches for 227 yards and three touchdowns. Those stats equate to an average of 16.2 yards per catch. Harper was not the only player on the defense, but he was usually the player following Johnson into the end zone after every touchdown. 
Nick Harper, God bless him, is a free agent this off-season, and at the age of thirty-five seemingly has lost the speed to keep up with NFL wide receivers, and probably will not be retained. Second year players Jason McCourty and Ryan Mouton could be options, but after the 345 first half passing yards we saw Tom Brady complete with this cornerback tandem at the helm, I believe they could use a little more seasoning before stepping back into the starting lineup. I really do believe that McCourty could be a solid player for the Titans in the future, but I believe he along with Mouton could use another season in Chuck Cecil’s system. On the other hand, Cornerback Cortland Finnegan will continue to anchor the Titan’s secondary, but finding a cornerback to start opposite of him should be a major priority of the Titan’s going into the off-season, either through the draft or free agency. In the great mess that is this situation, Rod Hood is a wild card for the Titans secondary. After signing him off the street, Hood came in a made game changing interceptions in three straight games (Jacksonville, San Francisco, Buffalo). These were also ironically the first three wins which the Titans enjoyed, they were also the first three games in which Harper sat out. Hood I believe deserves another chance to start, and hopefully the Titans will give him that chance via a team/player friendly deal for 1-2 seasons. If the Titans can find a solid starter to go along with Cortland Finnegan, the Titans defense will be in much better shape heading into next season.