The Tennessee Titans had one of the best young cornerback groups in 2011. Following the season, the biggest story of free agency (before the Peyton Manning chase) was whether or not the Titans would bring back Cortland Finnegan. Jason McCourty’s play had become solid with an upward trajectory and young Alterreun Verner was constantly making plays when on the field at nickel. Tommie Campbell was also playing hard and showing a spectacular size and speed combination. The Titans decided to let their ace cornerback walk for a big contract in St. Louis. In a somewhat surprising move, however, the Titans extended Jason McCourty for roughly the same numbers just weeks later.
The move backfired.
The coaching staff made two errors in their offseason evaluation.
- The ability of Tommie Campbell to start on the outside.
- The ability for Ryan Mouton to play nickel.
Alterraun Verner ended up staying on the outside as they played Ryan Mouton inside when they needed three on the field. Verner actually played well on the outside, but not as good as his stellar play at nickel position. The dropoff of play to Mouton proved to be enormous. The Titans reached for Mouton in the 3rd round of the draft 3 years ago, but he’s failed to develop the way McCourty has.
Tommie Campbell attributed his lack of playing time in 2012 to “off the field things”. This from Rotoworld:
“Campbell admitted being late to a meeting and failing to gain the coaching staff’s trust on the field as well. ‘If I have deep-third coverage in practice. then I need to be in the deep third,’ he said. ‘If I’m playing Cover 2, I need to get the jam and then sink — simple things like that before they could throw a guy like me out there.’ The Titans would be wise to get Campbell on the field more in 2013, kicking Alterraun Verner into a more natural slot role.
Those sound like more ON the field issues than OFF the field issues to me. Campbell has the abilities, but has yet to get his head right enough to be trusted on the field. If he doesn’t know what coverage he’s suppossed to be playing, then that seems like a pretty big deal to me. Nothing is worse than miss-communication in the secondary.
The Titans made a move in the 4th round of the draft and picked up Coty Sensabaugh, but he wasn’t game ready right off the bat. He finally took over Mouton in snap counts during the Miami game last year. He made rookie mistakes, but did progress as the year went on, and even with these mistakes he was an improvement over Mouton.
Overall, if the Titans can’t find an outside corner and move Verner back to nickel, then 2013 could be another stellar year for opposing quarterbacks.
The front office mismanagement on the personnel side is mainly to blame for the secondary’s rough year, but rough it was. I give the corner backs as whole a C-. McCourty and Verner were B+ players and there was no pass rush to aid them, but the unit as a whole failed to perform and helped the Titans post their worst defensive performances ever.
FINAL GRADE: C-