With the offseason underway, many questions are being asked. One of those has to do with the future of the Tennessee Titans’ defensive backfield. Assumptions have been made, and with good reason. Odds are that half of our starting four in the secondary will not be back. That half consisting of enigmatic safety Michael Griffin and captain Cortland Finnegan.
It’s debatable as to whether losing Finny would hurt more than losing Griff. Cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty have shown that they can definitely step up to the plate. While they won’t be able to follow receivers inside, shadow number one wideouts, and blitz with such success, they are both more than capable of covering their side of the field and their assigned men.
As to replacing Griffin, things might come a bit harder, although Griffin was very inconsistent in the past few years after a stellar 2008 season. Too many times he bit too hard on a play fake or missed an easy wrap up tackle. The question is: how will the Titans address the holes at safety? Along with Griffin, Chris Hope (who really was used as a backup player this last season) is likely also on the way out. That’s two safety positions that must be filled. How will it be done?
One option would be to draft a surefire safety in the first round. Mark Barron seems to fit that mold, and in my opinion would be a very solid replacement, if not upgrade, on Griffin. But maybe the Titans brass believes a game changing defensive end is needed, so the safety position would need to be solved through the later rounds or through free agency.
Could they look to draft a safety in the second or third round? There are safeties from the likes of Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith to Boise State’s George Iloka that should be available in those rounds. Iloka is an intriguing prospect. He goes 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. He lays out punishing hits. He isn’t as fast as you’d like a safety to be (ran a 4.66 40-yard dash), but at times speed must be sacrificed. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has openly stated that he wants his defense to be nasty, and Iloka could surely come in and do that.
Free agency wouldn’t be as friendly for the Titans if they were to look there for safety replacements. One name that does stick out though is Thomas Decoud. He’s improved ever since he entered the league and is very capable of playing both free and strong safety. The Atlanta Falcons might choose to resign him though.
My money would be on the Titans drafting a safety, whether it be in the first or fourth round. They need one who can play from day one. This defense has the potential to offset the losses of both Griffin and Finnegan. In fact, they might even be better off without Griffin’s confusing inconsistency. So why not get younger in the process. Choose wisely, Webster and Reinfeldt.