Competition breeds excellence? Tennessee Titans enthusiasts hope that’s the case. Many Week 1 jobs haven’t yet been determined. At least five starting jobs are up for grabs. A productive training camp could mean the difference between a starting gig or unemployment once September rolls around.
Let’s take a quick peak at some of the headliner training camp battles that await the Titans.
Shonn Greene started May as the de-facto No. 1 running back. A few weeks changed that outlook. A second surgical knee produce since the 2013 season and the Titans drafting their No. 1 choice at running back (Bishop Sankey) has analysts discussing whether Greene will/should even make the 53-man roster.
The almost 29-year-old running back finds himself in a backfield that also consists of Sankey, Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle, return specialist Leon Washington and undrafted free agent Antonio Andrews. According to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Andrews claims that all 32 teams expressed interest in him as an undrafted free agent:
"“It seemed like most every team, all 32, got in touch with my agent, but I knew off the bat I wanted to come to Tennessee.”"
Sankey and McCluster are 53-man roster locks. Cutting Greene could save the team approximately $1.7 million. Would the Titans retain a pricy 29-year-old ball-carrier as anything more than a short-yardage specialist when they could keep Battle or a younger Andrews?
Rookie running backs often aren’t thrust into significant roles until about midway into their rookie seasons (e.g. Ryan Grant, Giovani Bernard). If Sankey and McCluster can carry the load and offer enough pass-protection, it could change the entire depth chart, opening up a position for someone like Battle or Andrews.
Byron Stingily is about the only certainty coming from this group…he’s a reserve right tackle. Michael Roos, free-agent acquisition and former first-round pick Michael Oher, and 2014 first-rounder Taylor Lewan are competing for two starting tackle jobs. Barring an awful training camp or injury, Roos will likely remain at left tackle for the remainder of the final year of his contract. This leaves Oher and Lewan for the starting right tackle spot.
Who sits on the bench: someone with a guaranteed $9.5 million or a No. 11 pick? At least there’s sufficient depth to protect a quarterback stable that includes the oft-injured Jake Locker and Zach Mettenberger.
Possibly the most interesting group involves Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Shaun Phillips and Akeem Ayers. Where do these defensive end, outside linebacker, DE-OLB hybrids figure with first-year defensive coordinator Ray Horton‘s scheme? Analysts expect Morgan to play with his hand up as an outside linebacker. After a down season and a disappointing nine sacks in his first three seasons, can 2011 second-rounder Akeem Ayers make enough of an impact to play himself into the starting lineup ahead of either Morgan or Phillips?
No. 2 Cornerback
Many experts criticized Tennessee for neglecting cornerback with the No. 11 pick. Although 2014 fourth-rounder Marqueston Huff probably won’t make much of a difference during his rookie season, the Titans still have at least two cornerbacks who are prepared to replace the recently departed 2013 Pro Bowler Alterraun Verner. Expect Coty Sensabaugh and 2013 third-rounder Blidi Wreh-Wilson to headline that competition. Khalid Wooten or even Tommie Campbell could play themselves into that equation with strong camps.
Of course, for Wooten or Campbell, an unimpressive camp could mean the end of the road. A new coaching staff may not have the same patience to wait on Campbell’s development with his combination of size, speed and overall athleticism.
Are Maikon Bonani or undrafted free agent Travis Coons accurate enough to produce at the professional level? Each kicker will have the first opportunity to replace Rob Bironas. From 2005-13, Bironas converted on 85.7 percent of his 279 field-goal attempts. His 2013 resume included 25-0f-29 (86.2 percent).
High standards are expected from whoever wins the job. If neither player proves capable, the team will have to consider veteran options before the regular season begins.
Other Notable Battles
Inside Linebacker: Expect Zach Brown to move inside after spending his first two seasons on the outside. Wesley Woodyard, Moise Fokou and Colin McCarthy will all compete for significant playing time. Can 2013 third-rounder Zaviar Gooden avoid a Rennie Curran-like situation and earn a 53-man roster spot with a possible switch to inside linebacker? Will 2014 fifth-rounder Avery Williamson earn any meaningful playing time in 2014 or is this just a developmental season where he’s lucky to get on the game-day active roster?
Quarterback: A healthy Jake Locker is all-but-guaranteed to win the starting job. What if he doesn’t stay healthy? And what about the depth chart behind him? Who among Charlie Whitehurst, Zach Mettenberger and Tyler Wilson will win the No. 2 and No. 3 job?
No. 4-5 Wide Receiver: The No. 4 wide receiver gig appears to belong to Michael Preston. Who else stays behind him or could possibly snatch that No. 4 role? The Titans brought in a slew of undrafted free agents along with veteran Brian Robiskie. Any chance Marc Mariani plays himself into that mix?