Titans fans should temper immediate expectations for rookie LB Cedric Gray

Tennessee Titans rookie linebacker Cedric Gray should be offered an opportunity to grow into a role
North Carolina v Clemson
North Carolina v Clemson / Isaiah Vazquez/GettyImages

As Tennessee Titans fans count the days until football season is back, now is a great time for reflection and for setting expectations for the team. That process often begins with figuring out who the starters are going to be on each side of the ball.

Training camp battles, injuries, sub packages, special teams usage, and other factors will shuffle the depth chart as the season progresses forward. In a perfect scenario, Tennessee's preferred 11 players on each side of the ball will stay healthy while giving them the best chance to compete weekly.

After back-to-back losing seasons, the Titans spent the offseason adding talented players to fill some major holes on their roster. Even if you don't agree with all of the moves that general manager Ran Carthon made, it is easy to be impressed with the moves as a whole and where the roster is now compared to where it was this time last year.

Some offseason additions were starters as soon as they signed their contracts. Guys like Calvin Ridley, L'Jarius Sneed, Lloyd Cushenberry, Tyler Boyd, and Chidobe Awuzie instant starters. There's virtually zero chance they're sitting on the bench when Week 1 arrives.

The same thing goes for J.C. Latham and T'Vondre Sweat. Whether they are good, bad or in between after training camp, those guys were drafted highly because Carthon believes they are talented enough to step into an immediate roles for the Titans.

The same shouldn't be expected of rookie linebacker Cedric Gray.

Titans fans were thrilled when they landed Gray with the 106th pick in the draft. On paper, he was a great value and he filled a need at linebacker that the Titans really hadn't attempted to fill during free agency.

Nashville radio stations had been obsessed with finding someone who could "wear the green dot" for the defense, meaning who will be the "quarterback" for new defensive coordinator Dennard Wilson. Even though he lasted until Day 3, Gray seemed like the answer to that question.

However, after OTAs and minicamp, it seems less and less likely that Gray will be an immediate starter to begin the season.

Jim Wyatt was asked about the linebacker position in his latest mailbag, and he was quick to point out that Gray was firmly behind two other veteran linebackers at this point,

"You're talking about inside backer by mentioning Gray and Murray, and I have to tell you you're forgetting about Jack Gibbens. In fact, the question at ILB for me is: Who is going to step up as the third man behind Gibbens and Murray?"

Wyatt later went on to say that Gray could win the starting job, but that he was behind Gibbens after two months of action. Which is to be expected given Gibbens' experience.

At this point, it is safe to say that fans slightly got ahead of themselves after Gray was drafted. He should be offered an opportunity to develop. Gibbens is a quality linebacker. If Gray was the top-100 snub everyone thinks he is, then he'll eventually push for a starting role. Time will tell.

Gray still has time to surprise us, but right now he looks like someone who will need to develop for a year or more before he becomes an impact player. Only time will tell how much that delay sets the Titans' defense back.