2014 Tennessee Titans Virtual Program: Depth-Chart Analysis and X-Factors
It's extremely challenging to put your finger on where the Tennessee Titans stand right now. They have a new head coach in Ken Whisenhunt to go along with a lot of changes to the roster.
There are also dramatic changes to both the offense and the defense.
The questions surrounding Jake Locker and his health make this team even more of a mystery in one of the weaker divisions in the NFL.
The Titans will face three playoff teams from 2013 over their first four games. The possibility for a slow start is likely.
Here's your complete Titans virtual program for 2014.
1. Jake Locker: There was never any serious competition for Locker's starting job in training camp. He has one more opportunity to live up to his eighth overall pick from 2011.
2. Charlie Whitehurst: Whitehurst fought off rookie Zach Mettenberger to be the primary backup to Locker. The likelihood is high that we see Whitehurst at some point in 2014 thanks to Locker's injury history.
3. Zach Mettenberger: It was a promising preseason effort for Mettenberger, who led the NFL in passing yards over the exhibition games. He still has a lot of developing to do.
1. Shonn Greene: I put Greene as the lead running back of this committee due to his veteran experience. He needs a much stronger showing than what he brought in 2013.
2. Bishop Sankey: Sankey saw a lot of work in the preseason, and he generally looked pretty good as an all-purpose-yardage player. I like him to ultimately see the most touches out of the Titans backfield by season's end.
3. Dexter McCluster: The preseason didn't show us how the Titans will exactly use McCluster. He's a big X-factor in how far this Titans offense can go.
4. Jackie Battle (also a fullback)
5. Leon Washington
1. Justin Hunter: It's easy to get excited about where Hunter could be heading in 2014. He's had a great offseason and looks to be primed for a breakout year. He could take this Titans offense to new heights since the team came to Tennessee.
2. Kendall Wright: Wright will continue to be a big part of the offense, lining up in the slot but also on the outside. In other words, he'll be all over the place. His touchdown total needs to increase.
3. Nate Washington: Washington's veteran leadership will outweigh his production in 2014.
4. Derek Hagan: Hagan managed to beat out both Marc Mariani and Michael Preston for a roster spot. He was somewhat of a long shot coming in, but the Titans got some much-needed veteran experience for the receiving corps.
5. T.J. Graham: The Titans made a waiver claim of the speedy Graham after he was released by the Buffalo Bills. He adds even more speed to an already fast roster.
6. Kris Durham: Durham is another waiver claim that the Titans made after the conclusion of the preseason. He brings the wide receiver total to six, but I can't see the Titans keeping six for the long term. Durham's biggest quality is his 6'6", 215-pound size, per Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com.
Starters: Brian Schwenke (C), Chance Warmack (G), Andy Levitre (G), Michael Roos (T), Michael Oher (T)
Backups: Taylor Lewan, Chris Spencer, Byron Stingily
This unit has the capability of becoming one of the best in the NFL. The line is solid all the way across, with 11th overall pick Taylor Lewan being a versatile guy who can play both guard and tackle.
We've definitely seen how chippy Lewan can get during the course of a game.
Chris Spencer and Byron Stingily are formidable reserves if injuries plague the unit. All of the work this organization has put into the offensive line over the past few years should pay off in 2014.
Starters: Jurrell Casey (DE), Ropati Pitoitua (DE), Sammie Hill (NT)
Backups: DaQuan Jones (NT), Al Woods (NT), Karl Klug (DE), Mike Martin (DE/T)
Questions have started to arise about whether the Titans have the athletes to make the switch to a 3-4 defense a successful one. They looked very shaky in the preseason, per John Glennon of The Tennessean.
The defense faces a stiff test right out of the gate with Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs in Week 1. Charles will shred this defense and control the entire game if the Titans can't show improvement from the preseason.
Jurrell Casey is fresh off his contract extension and should be the cornerstone of this defensive line. The nose tackle position is where I have my doubts, but Sammie Hill looks like the starter for Week 1.
Starters: Derrick Morgan (OLB), Kamerion Wimbley (OLB), Wesley Woodyard (ILB), Zach Brown (ILB)
Backups: Akeem Ayers (OLB), Avery Williamson (ILB), Shaun Phillips (OLB), Zaviar Gooden (ILB), Quentin Groves (OLB)
A lot has changed at linebacker since this time last year. With the new 3-4 defense, both Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan have moved from defensive end to outside linebacker. We know they can rush the passer, but can they drop back into coverage? That will be critical for this transition to be successful.
Wesley Woodyard is the new leader of this unit on the inside, and Shaun Phillips is another newcomer who will add to the Titans' pass rush.
Avery Williamson was a fifth-round draft pick who will have the opportunity to make an impact early on as a reserve.
This position obviously has a lot of depth, and it should be much improved from a poor showing in 2013.
Starters: Jason McCourty (CB), Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB), Michael Griffin (S), Bernard Pollard (S)
Reserves: Coty Sensabaugh (CB), George Wilson (S), Daimion Stafford (S), Marqueston Huff (CB/S), Brandon Harris (CB)
Cornerback is very much of a wild card with the departure of Alterraun Verner. I'm cautious to proclaim Blidi Wreh-Wilson as ready to be a starter in the NFL, and Coty Sensabaugh didn't look very good on the outside during the preseason. He'll move to the slot where he's more effective.
Depth is a concern for me at cornerback. If McCourty goes down, then this unit could really fall apart. The Titans did add Brandon Harris off waivers from the Texans, per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk.
Harris is a former second-round draft pick from 2011. He adds some much-needed depth.
The safety position looks much better with Bernard Pollard and Michael Griffin. The Titans need to hope that Griffin decides to have one of his occasional Pro Bowl seasons instead of being a drastically overpaid safety.
Keep an eye on Daimion Stafford making a leap this season. He's a hard hitter who had a productive preseason.
Kicker: Ryan Succop
Punter: Brett Kern
The Titans claimed veteran Ryan Succop from the Chiefs, who are ironically their Week 1 opponent. Succop brings a lot more stability than Travis Coons and Maikon Bonani.
Brett Kern will anchor down the punting duties once again.
The special teams unit can't get much worse than it was in 2013, and hopefully the Titans won't give the opponent a free two points to start off like they did against the Steelers last season.
1. Justin Hunter
The Titans might finally have a Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver in Justin Hunter. We should probably pump the brakes on Hunter just a little bit, but he has the physical tools to become a great player.
If Hunter decides to break out and become a red-zone threat, then this offense could put up a ton of points and help out the shaky defense.
2. Jake Locker
You can't make a list of X-factors without throwing out the quarterback who can't seem to stay healthy. Locker was rounding into form last season before getting hurt in Week 4, which ended with the Titans being 3-1.
If Locker gets through 16 games, then this team's chances of ending its playoff drought would multiply dramatically. It's that simple.
3. Bishop Sankey
I can see the running game being so much better than it was with Chris Johnson if Bishop Sankey can catch fire early. He's a solid all-around running back who will do wonders for the Titans offense if he can shake some of the rookie growing pains.
An offensive-rookie-of-the-year type of performance will add even more firepower to an already strong Titans offense.
4. Derrick Morgan
Morgan has to make his transition to outside linebacker a seamless one for this defense to play well. I'm not confident that he will be effective dropping into coverage. If he makes big improvements in that area, then this defense will be much better than it showed in the preseason.
5. Blidi Wreh-Wilson
Wreh-Wilson won the training camp battle to see who would be Alterraun Verner's replacement. Now it's time to see if he's ready to be an NFL starter. The Titans' chances of making the playoffs get much better if Wreh-Wilson can be relied upon as a shutdown corner on his side of the field.
I feel that the big reason why many analysts hesitate to put much faith in the Titans is due to the big question mark at the position that Wreh-Wilson is taking over.