Tennessee Titans: Concern level by position
By P. L. Colter
The Tennessee Titans will conclude their preseason Thursday night, at home against the Minnesota Vikings. It’s unlikely that the notable players from either team will take the field…so basically we’ve seen all there is to see from the Titans’ starters and prominent backups.
Now that we have a full body of offseason work to draw a conclusion from, how concerned are you about this year’s new-look Tennessee Titans?
We will assess today…by position.
There is no way that the qb position falls into this category four months ago, but rookie Marcus Mariota has been everything the Titans hoped and needed him to be so far, both on and off the field. He has established himself as the unquestioned starter with his solid preseason play. Backup Zach Mettenberger was equally impressive this preseason, to the point of drawing praise from national pundits. Charlie Whitehurst is a pro and a veteran that knows coach Ken Whisenhunt‘s system, giving Tennessee it’s best trio at qb in quite some time.
The receivers are no concern. Mariota has already developed a good chemistry with Kendall Wright, Tennessee’s number one receiver. Free agent acquisitions Harry Douglas and Hakeem Nicks have made plays this preseason when called upon. Rookie Dorial Green-Beckham is progressing nicely, looking more and more comfortable each week. And Justin Hunter, while tailing off a bit toward the end, had one of his best camps as a pro.
One of, if not the strongest unit on the team. Led by Delanie Walker, Tennessee’s leading receiver last year, the tight ends look to play an even bigger role this season…both in the run and passing game. Free agent acquisition Anthony Fasano gives Mariota an additional safety net, the offensive line some much needed run support, and Delanie Walker a much needed colleague to ease the heavy load placed on him last year. The Titans could open the season with four quality tight ends on their roster.
If the tight end position is not the strongest unit on the team, then the defensive line is. Tennessee currently has eight capable players on the defensive front, led by 2013 Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey. Rookie fourth round pick Angelo Blackson has played well this preseason.
The signing of free agent strong safety Da’Norris Searcy allows Michael Griffin, last year’s leading tackler, to return to his natural free safety position. Searcy has played well this summer, as has primary reserve Marqueston Huff.
While the Titans solidified their starting outside linebackers by signing free agent Brian Orakpo and re-signing Derrick Morgan, they are extremely thin at that position. Morgan has proven to be durable over his career, but Orakpo has a recent history of getting injured. And I’m not talking about flu bugs or sprained ankles…when he misses games…he misses them in bunches. Look for Tennessee to add an OLB should one become available during the last wave of roster cuts.
The Titans had to do some last minute shuffling on the offensive line, and the results have been a mixed bag so far. The new unit has free agent right tackle Byron Bell now playing left guard, and 21 year old rookie third round pick Jeremiah Poutasi starting at right tackle. That unit looked good two weeks ago against the Rams’ front, but struggled against the Chiefs’ starting front last Friday. It’s unlikely that they see much action Thursday night, so yes, I’m very concerned.
Jason McCourty, Tennessee’s best cornerback, is out for the foreseeable future while he recovers from a groin injury. Blidi Wreh-Wilson never got a chance to compete this summer because of his various injuries. He’s set to return Thursday night, but will likely see just a few snaps. Last week in Kansas City, the Titans’ secondary made Jeremy Maclin look like Jerry Rice. A few weeks earlier, Atlanta’s Julio Jones shredded them with an alarming ease as well. Luckily for Tennessee, free agent acquisition Perrish Cox has been a beast, picking off passes each of his last two preseason games. I expect this unit to struggle early on, until a healthy McCourty returns.
With the exception of the Rams game, starting rb Bishop Sankey looks just like he did last season, and that alone is cause for concern. Like BWW, Tennessee’s rookie fifth round pick David Cobb has been unable to compete because of various offseason injuries. With Sankey unlikely to see many snaps Thursday night, and Cobb saddled with an injury, we literally have no idea what to expect from this unit on opening day. Very concerned.
Next: Marcus Mariota 2015 ROY per John Gruden