CBs Jason McCourty and Ryan Mouton. Courtesy of

Tennessee Titans 2012 Position Grades: Cornerbacks

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.

  1. The ability of Tommie Campbell to start on the outside.
  2. 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.


You can follow me on Twitter    @gunnelsj

Next Titans Game View full schedule »
Thursday, Aug 2828 Aug7:00Minnesota VikingsBuy Tickets

Tags: Alterraun Verner Cornerbacks Coty Sensabaugh Jason McCourty Tennessee Titans

  • Matt Ward

    Do you see them chasing any free agent CBs and/or getting one early in the draft, or do you think they are hoping the same crew works out better this year?

    • josh gunnels

      The free agent market for CBs is pretty thin this year. Coty Sensabaugh was playing better and better each game last year, but I’m not sure where he fits into their plans. Right now he would be good depth.

      They really need a good outside CB to play opposite McCourty and let Verner move back inside. Coty can come on in dime packages.

      If they make a good move on DE and Guard in FA, then yes I see them taking a corner in the first two rounds to solidify the secondary. The drop off when they play nickel is huge and an obvious weakness on this team.

      There really isn’t top caliber CB material in FA this year, just depth.

      • Matt Ward

        Thanks for the reply Josh. What free agent DEs would you be happy to see in a Titans jersey next season?

        • josh gunnels

          The only ones that are available right now that I really like are Michael Johnson out of Cincinnati and Paul Kruger out of Baltimore.

          Johnson will probably get tagged, resigned, or get a huge deal elsewhere.

          People argue with me about Kruger being a 3-4 guy, but if you actually sit down and watch the tape on him, you’ll see he gets all of his sacks out of a 4-3 set with his hand in the dirt. He’s a better End than OLB in my opinion which is why Baltimore will let him walk.

          Cliff Avril seems like a one trick pony and is just a speed guy that works playing in Schwartz’ system. His run stopping is somewhat shoddy. Check out my break down on him here:

          Osi and Freeney are just names at this point so I wouldn’t want them unless they came cheap for rotational depth.

        • josh gunnels

          My favorites would be Johnson out of Cincinatti or Kruger out of Baltimore. Johnson will probably get tagged or find a big payday somewhere else however.

          People argue with me on Kruger because they think he’s a 3-4 OLB. But if you watch the tape he got all of his sacks playing with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 set. That’s why Baltimore will probably let him go, because he’s actually a better DE than an OLB.

          Avril is a speed outside rusher, but may be a one trick pony. His rating is pretty low as an End because of his poor run stopping ability. He may just be a product of playing next to Suh and Bailey and playing for Schwartz. He always gets his sacks from the outside, you never see him stunting or bull rushing.

          Osi and Freeney are just names at this point. I wouldn’t mind having one of them if they came on the super cheap for rotational depth, but definitely not someone you can depend on for consistent production.

          • Matt Ward

            Good point on Kruger. I had not even thought of him as an option. If they land a guy like him, what will Wimbley’s role become? He was pretty disappointing last year.

          • josh gunnels

            He didn’t make the splash they thought he would, but I would expect him to stay on for depth even if they signed a good FA.

      • Bennie Guardado

        What does the addition of D. Robinson and William Gay do to your opinion of the CB free agent pool this year, if anything?

        • josh gunnels

          Wouldn’t want Gay under any circumstances.. Better off with Sensabaugh and Campbell.

          I wouldn’t mind having Dunta Robinson at all for the right price. I think with him the Titans could still start Verner on the outside bu move him inside in Nickel packages and let Robinson take the outside. He could be a good stop gap and challenge Campbell and Coty. I wouldn’t pay too much though as he is getting up there in age. Around 31 I think.

          Honestly the best CB out there is probably Pac Man but I would fall over if the Titans actually brought him back!!!!!

          • Bennie Guardado

            So how about Michael Truner for that power back they have been wanting? I know he is getting there in age but he might be a good fit for now. Honestly, I am a huge fan of Turner but he is coming off a disappointing season. The only other powerback I can think of that will hit FA is Steven Jackson. Since I dont see him wanting to sign with a young team rebuilding, and there are too many higher priority needs going into the draft. I think if M. Turner is cheap enough, he could give Munchie the powerback he wants for a year or two. (Assuming Munchie doesn’t lose his head this year)

          • Justin Stewart

            Both those names make my stomach turn a little, if only because of their age.

          • josh gunnels

            Yeah but for a solid stop gap you could do worse. Those guys are going to have something to prove too.

          • josh gunnels

            I think Turner could be great. I would be totally happy with him as a north south short yardage change of pace for CJ. At least for the coming year.

            The Titans could draft someone late as well, but the success rate for RBs coming out of college is incredibly low
            I think Sjax has been great but worry more about him as far as whats left in the tank
            Would rather have Turner of those are my options

  • Justin Stewart

    I sure hope that Campbell ends up finding the field in 2013. Great story, would like to see him be able to produce. Thought he’d get the nod this last year. Maybe this year…

    • josh gunnels

      He’s just got to pay attention. The ability is there, but if you don’t know when you’re suppossed to release or not, you can screw everyone.

      • Justin Stewart

        Definitely. Not like we need any more gaping holes in our defense.