When Tennessee Titans fans think about the 2014 season, they think of one thing…
And rightfully so, considering the fact that they had to endure a ten game losing streak to end the season. But amid all of the losing, ineptitude, and despair, one thing was overlooked.
The maturation of last year’s rookies.
A perfect storm unfolded, and now the entire 2014 draft class has an opportunity to make a huge impact this season.
Tennessee selected left tackle Taylor Lewan 11th overall last year as a stash pick. A “best player on the board” project for 2015. The offensive line was decimated by injuries last season, throwing Lewan right into the fire…before succumbing to his own season ending injury late in the year.
Nothing in his on field performance last season gave any cause for concern going forward, and he gained valuable in-game experience. Lewan will be counted on this year to be the anchor of the line.
Second round pick Bishop Sankey underwhelmed last year, even by his own account. But in fairness, we just discussed a decimated line….and it’s not like the other running backs excelled either.
Veteran running back, and penciled in starter Shonn Greene started the season injured and slow, and never seemed to recover. Because of that, Sankey played in all 16 games. He also took the vast majority of the first team reps in mini-camp this offseason, with rookie rb David Cobb nursing a hamstring and Greene going MIA for OTA’s.
Dec 18, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Bishop Sankey (20) runs with the ball as he stiff arms Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker J.T. Thomas (52) during the second quarter at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, Sankey will be in a fierce battle with Cobb for the starting job, and if he loses out, then the Titans have a backup with plenty of starting experience.
Fourth round pick Da’Quan Jones really came on strong late in the year, wowing the coaching staff in the season finale. This year Jones enters training camp as the Titans’ starting defensive end, supplanting starter Ropati Pitoitua in May.
Safety Marqueston Huff, Tennessee’s second 4th round pick, saw valuable playing time when Bernard Pollard went down for the year early last season. He even returned his lone interception for a touchdown. The addition of free agent Da’Norris Searcy is an upgrade, but Huff will provide experienced depth heading into year two.
Fifth round pick Avery Williams may have been the steal of the class, filling in admirably for injured linebacker Zach Brown last season. Williamson will now be paired with a healthy Brown at middle linebacker, the two are slated to start the season.
And we all know the story of Tennessee’s sixth round pick, quarterback Zach Mettenberger. We also know how valuable the backup qb position is in pro football.
Marcus Mariota’s contract will eventually get done, and Mettenberger will be the backup. But he knows the system, he’s gained valuable in-game experience, and he would do everything in his power to keep the job should an opening present itself. It’s how he got his chance last year.
It’s how all of the rookies got their chance last year.
They all contributed, and they all will play a role this year. Not bad if you think about it.
Now…just think if the Titans hit on every one of this year’s picks…