Tennessee Titans news: Might changes come on special teams?

Brett Kern, Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
Brett Kern, Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports) /

Whenever you talk about football and you discuss the three phases of the game (offense, defense, and special teams), it’s easy, at times, to get wrapped up in what the offense and defense are doing. Tennessee Titans‘ training camp nears, and among the topics are roster battles, particularly what happens at linebacker, along the defensive line, and at right tackle.

Be honest. How many hours have you spent thinking about the competition at kicker or which of the two punters on the roster will be on the 53-man roster when the clock strikes and it’s time to identify who made the team? Maybe we should.

Recently, CBS Sports’ Patrik Walker had a nice idea. He dropped a list of veterans from each team that should probably have the chopping block in the back of their minds as we near August. Who are we kidding? With the way this year has flown by, it will be here before you know it.

Might changes come for the Tennessee Titans on special teams?

Add Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern‘s name to a list that includes fellow AFC South veterans Tim Tebow (Jacksonville Jaguars), Jack Doyle (Indianapolis Colts), and Bradley Roby (Houston Texans). In his opinion, he’s the Titans veteran with the highest likelihood of winding up on the chopping block prior to the coming season.

Here’s some of his defense for the statement:

"Punters get cut too, you know, including those who’ve been with their respective team for quite a while. This might be the situation soon for Kern, who’s been with the Titans since joining them in 2009. He didn’t have his best season in 2020, with his numbers beginning to show decline and having also missed several games for the first time in his otherwise durable career. The Titans shouldn’t be hard-pressed to make a decision on a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro who’s racked up 43,623 punt yards in his stellar NFL career, but it also wouldn’t hurt to at least begin having the conversation about who’ll succeed him in the near future, especially considering the Titans can save millions toward their cap if they can answer that question sooner than later."

Kern is a 13-year veteran that spent his last 12 seasons in Tennessee with the Titans. Over that time, he’s averaged 56.3 yards per kickoff and 45.9 yards per punt. The only three games that he’s missed since joining the team in 2009 all came last season.

Punters don’t get a ton of talk time during the broadcasts of games unless they do something wrong, and unfortunately, Trevor Daniel got his name called for the wrong reasons during a primetime game in Week 10 versus the rival Colts, one where he was forced into action as Kern recovered from injury.

Let’s just say things didn’t go well. Daniel booted one from Tennessee’s end zone that covered a grand total of 17 yards before seeing his night go from bad to worse. For an encore, he had one blocked. That one was returned for a touchdown, one that helped extend Indy’s lead to ten points with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

It’s moments like that where the importance of all three phases of the game seem more important. It was in that moment where Tennessee Titans fans learned, if they didn’t know already, how important having a good punter is.

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Heading into camp, Tennessee’s most intriguing special teams battle involves the veteran (Kern) and a rookie from Cincinnati (James Smith). Let’s make this one easy. Unless money is a concern (according to Over The Cap, the Tennessee Titans save $5.6 million over the 2021 and 2022 seasons if Kern is cut. That includes $2.4 million immediately and $3.2 million next season, but sometimes, it’s just better to pay for quality.

We all know how good Kern is. Injuries have never been a problem. The Titans have an easy decision to make here. Kern needs to be Tennessee’s punter when it’s time to kick things off versus the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1.