The Tennessee Titans most important defensive training camp battle

Tennessee Titans v Los Angeles Chargers
Tennessee Titans v Los Angeles Chargers / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

The Tennessee Titans will kick off training camp today and that means that all of the time for speculation and debate is over, now all that matters is what happens on the field.

There has been so much focus on the offense this offseason and for good reason. Last season was painful for Tennessee Titans fans (or really anyone with eyes) because the Todd Downing offense was one of the worst in the NFL and it was hard to watch.

After a change at OC and a massive overhaul to the personnel, there is a lot of optimism that there will be a substantial improvement on that side of the ball this year.

The reason why the Tennessee Titans could afford to do that is that the defense has been built around very solid cornerstones. All-Pro/Pro-Bowl players like Kevin Byard, Jeffery Simmons, and Harold Landry are the rare players that are dominant themselves while also doing the little things that make everyone else better around them.

There aren't many spots up for grabs on defense, and you can really only make the argument for two different positions.

The first position is off-ball linebacker because no one really knows who will start in the spot next to Azeez Al-Shaair. The best guess is that Monty Rice will start at one linebacker position, but he has some injury concerns. Ben Niemann was a late addition who has started games in the past and he could be in the mix for the job along with second-year linebackers Jack Gibbens and Chance Campbell.

That might have been the battle to watch if off-ball linebacker was a more valuable position.

One of the most valuable position groups on either side of the ball is cornerback, and that is the other position where we are going to see a real battle. That is the position group that deserves the most focus as we head into training camp.

Tennessee Titans cornerback battle

If all of the corners are playing at their best, there is no question that the best cornerback on the Tennessee Titans roster is Kristian Fulton.

His career has had ups and downs due to injuries, but he has had some dominant performances and he was a crucial part of the 2021 defense that helped get the Tennessee Titans the 1-seed in the playoffs despite dealing with an emaciated and injured offense.

He is in a contract year, and most teams would be trying to figure out what his next contract would look like, but that probably isn't the case in Tennessee. He is in Mike Vrabel's dog house after being injured last season, and he might be on the way out no matter how well he plays this season.

While I still think he will be one of the starting boundary corners this season, a lot of that depends on how Roger McCreary does in his second season.

McCreary gets a lot of flak for some bad penalties last year, but he was a rookie that made some rookie mistakes. Remember, he was immediately thrown into the fire on a defense that was quickly decimated by injuries. By Week 4, the Titans were already missing Harold Landry, Zach Cunningham, Amani Hooker, Kristian Fulton, Elijah Molden, and Bud Dupree left the game after 9 plays.

There were plenty of positives to build off of, and he will be a starter for the Titans this season where I think he is best suited to be a corner on the outside.

The starter in the slot should be Elijah Molden who was one of the better slot cornerbacks in the league during his rookie season. Both in run support and in pass coverage, Molden was a great successor to Logan Ryan and he seemed to have a very similar skill set.

While those three should be the starters this season, the one player to keep an eye on is Sean Murphy-Bunting.

The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback was brought in this spring and his versatility seems very intriguing to this coaching staff. In his four years in the NFL, he has had more than 1,200 snaps as a boundary corner and in the slot, and he has been solid in both spots.

Just his presence will challenge Kristian Fulton and Elijah Molden to stay healthy because if either of them are injured SMB could be their replacement and never give the job back.

He will also challenge Roger McCreary because he is only 26 years old, but he is a savvy veteran who is going to be able to handle his assignment with consistency. If McCreary isn't completely locked in, it is going to make his mistakes stand out.

I believe the best option is going to be to stick with Fulton, McCreary, and Molden as the starters with SMB as the fourth cornerback.

The only change I might make is to let SMB start in the slot and to let Molden be the dime that can come in when the Tennessee Titans want to use six DBs. He has the versatility to play some safety or in the box as a linebacker/safety hybrid based on his style of play, and that could be valuable if they want to use that look more in 2023.