Tennessee Titans Preseason: Young Defense Looks Promising
What I want to talk about is the improvements Tennessee has already made on defense.
First of all, there's Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan had a slightly off year in 2010 and started 2011 with a brief holdout, but in Saturday's game against the Rams he looked like an All-Pro. This is good, since he's been one of the leaders on the Titans defense for years. He clearly seems to have left the baggage about his contract behind him.
Finnegan had one pass break up (Verner got the interception), one sack (which would've been two if Bradford was an eighth of a second slower) and three tackles.
The only bad part about his game was the first play, where his receiver scored a touchdown. This was not Finnegan's fault, however, it was Michael Griffin's. Finnegan dropped off expecting Griffin to pick up the coverage, which he failed to do.
While we're on the subject of Michael Griffin, he did not look good to say the least. He's been a top free safety in the past, but he continues to give up big plays. He'll need to step up his game if the Titans backfield is going to improve as much as it needs to. With Finnegan doing well, Verner and McCourty continuing to battle for playing time and Jordan Babineaux stepping in to replace Chris Hope, Griffin could be the weakest link in the backfield this season.
Then there were the young guys.
Jurrell Casey continued to impress with three solo tackles. He seemed to just be where the ball was whenever he was on the field.
Alterraun Verner picked off an interception from Finnegan's pass break up, returned it for 15 yards and had a tackle. I'm starting to think he has won the cornerback contest outright.
Zach Clayton may very well make the roster and see playing time this year if he keeps it up. Auburn's other defensive tackle had one solo tackle and was in the Rams' backfield the whole night.
Tommie Campbell, a guy just three slots away from Mr. Irrelevant, proved himself to be much more than irrelevant to the Titans special teams. He seems to have been a good pickup.
The surprise of the night was Pannel Egboh, an undrafted free agent from Stanford. He had two tackles and was a disruptive force the whole time he was on the field. I am officially rooting for this guy to make the roster.
Perhaps the most impressive rookie of the night was former Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy. He had two solo tackles, one assist and one sack. He was also impressive on special teams. He may be ready to replace Barrett Ruud next year.
With the performances of the young players Tennessee picked up this year (especially the late round pickups) and the great performance of Cortland Finnegan, the Titans loss to the Rams was a lot easier to deal with. The Titans defense looks improved from 2010 already. While I don't want to be overly optimistic, things look good for the present and even better for the future.
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