Tennessee Titans: Special Teams 2015 Preview


The Tennessee Titans made wholesale changes on both sides of the football during the off season, but for the most part, will take the core of their 2014 special teams into training camp which begins in just 10 days.

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The only question special teams coach, Nate Kaczor will need to answer is, who will be toting the rock on kick offs. Leon Washington filled this hole last year, but is expected to be handling kick offs somewhere else this season.

There are several candidates, but don’t expect to see the Titans come out of training camp and the pre-season with all of the answers. They will need to continue testing different options into colder weather, and real-time playing conditions.

Dexter McCluster handled most of the punt return duties last year, and is expected to resume those duties this year and will more than likely get a look at kickoff returns as well.

Other Top Candidates:

Jacoby Ford

After four seasons in the NFL, Jacoby Ford hasn’t really lit it up as a wide receiver. He has a career 57 receptions for 848 yards and three touchdowns, and that was not good enough to keep him employed by the Oakland Raiders, or New York Jets.

"The Titans signed Jacoby Ford to a future contract on Januray 15, 2015.  The Clemson product is a talented return specialist that brought back four kickoff returns for touchdowns during his first two NFL campaigns.  The 5-foot-9-inch, 190-pounder was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft and spent his first four seasons with the club.  Prior to his arrival in Tennessee, Ford spent the 2014 offseason and training camp with the N.Y. Jets."

Ford looks to be the top prospect at returning kickoffs this year. He appears to have the best pedigree.

Tre McBride

The Tennessee Titans final pick in the 2015 NFL Draft was questionable to make this team as a wide receiver out of training camp, but his chances improved this week with news that Justin Hunter was arrested in Virginia Beach.

With all the wide receivers in camp, his chances are slim, but he should get a look at returning some kickoffs.

"2015 East-West Shrine Game participant … All-America honoree who was a three-time All-CAA selection at wide receiver … Also a former CAA Special Teams Player of the Year who earned all-conference accolades as a kick returner … Finished his career ranked second in career receptions at W&M (196) … Also ranks fifth in receiving yards (2,653), fifth in all-purpose yards (4,281), tied for sixth in touchdown catches (19), fifth in kickoff return yards (1,294) and third in 100-yard receiving games (eight)."

I also expect running backs Bishop Sankey and Antonio Andrews to get some looks during preseason, but running backs make better punt returners than kickoff reurners.

The three core members of the special teams, long snapper Beau Brinkley, punter Brett Kern and kicker, Ryan Succop were all opted up for free agency this year, but all three were quickly re-signed.

This unit turned out to be the one bright spot during the 2-14 season last year. I’m convinced that without the Kern’s strong leg, and and penchant for pinning the opposition inside the twenty yard line time after time, 2014 may well have been worse.

With changes to the PAT rules this year, moving the ball to the 33 yard line, it’s nice to have a veteran kicker like Ryan Succop at the helm.

Succop was 19 of 27 last year, scoring 84 points. For a career that began in Kansas City, the South Carolina grad was 138 for 187 and 601 points. He averaged 81.7% during that time.

Kicking coach, Steve Hoffman didn’t get Ryan Succop until the first week of the season last year but now has had and entire off-season to work with his kicker. I expect him to turn in another solid season in 2014.

Little fanfare is put on the special teams unit, but this group can make up for a lot of mistakes made by the more popular teams. And mistakes will be made, especially with a rookie quarterback, and a new-look defense.

Look for Brett Kern, Ryan Succop to bail them out when called on in 2015!

Data Source: Titansonline.com

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