Tennessee Titans 2013 Training Camp Preview
Tennessee Titans 2013 Training Camp Preview
The Tennessee Titans burned through their ample cap space, attemping to make the most of year three under head coach Mike Munchak. It's likely now or never for this regime as owners rarely let three postseason-less years just go by. I doubt Bud Adams will.
Tennessee's free agent splurge and 2013 draft investments hit areas of need with piles of cash. When this type of attack pans out, the parity of this league has shown time and again that it can mean an immediate turnaround.
“That’s why the NFL is the number one sport,” Munchak said at the end of his team’s minicamp, via The Tennessean. “Because if your team makes the right decisions and does the right things, you can turn it around. We feel like we’re going to turn it around.”
Some massive question marks have been addressed, but the biggest one remains unsolved as ever at quarterback. When this is the case, optimism amongst the fan base during training camp can yield way to nervousness and that's exactly what third-year man Jake Locker has inspired with his play on the field.
How Locker shows improvement in Titans training camp and position battles unfold around him will lay the groundwork for this crossroads campaign in the Munchak tenure.
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Last year's play exposed Locker as the worst quarterback under pressure according to Pro Football Focus, delivering accurately on just 43.5 percent of pressured passes in 2012. Even in a clean pocket his accuracy is worrisome, as evidenced in a late-season game at Indy where multiple wide-open touchdowns were left on the board. Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely begin the season as back-up, which is good because we already know what he offers. Locker at least has the arm-strength, athleticism and youth to hope for a big leap in 2013.
Chris Johnson has only looked like "CJ2K" in spurts since signing his big contract, but did break a few runs last year that showed he's still got it. Perhaps he's just the back who underwhelms behind a poor interior line and explodes through a good one, and that could be the case thanks to the massive overhaul up front. Shonn Greene has shown to be mediocre regardless of offensive line, while Jalen Parmele and Darius Reynaud are decent depth guys.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Kenny Britt has all the talent in the world but seems to either can't stay healthy, can't stay out of trouble or can't seem to concentrate on the ball coming in (see Pittsburgh game last year). A truly elite talent that will get another chance to put it together. 2012 first-rounder Kendall Wright should start on the opposite side while Nate Washington will have a battle for time in the slot. Tennessee actually has really nice receiver depth, and it will be interesting to see how reps shake out by the end of training camp with rookie second-rounder Justin Hunter, Damian Williams, free agent vet Kevin Walter and others in the fold. Jared Cook departed to be replaced with the type of athletic, blocking-savvy tight end that seems a better fit for Munchak's offense in free agent Delanie Walker.
I feel confident saying that the starting five coming out of camp will be LT Michael Roos, LG Andy Levitre, C Fernando Velasco, RG Chance Warmack and RT David Stewart. Tennessee has gotten very good blocking off the edge over the years with Roos and Stewart but the inside was in 2012, leading to Johnson doing a lot of dancing. And that's rarely good. In comes high-priced free agent Levitre, the pass-blocking ying to No. 10 pick Warmack's run-mauling yang.
Second-year man Zach Brown and young vet Akeem Ayers seem set at weakside and strongside backer, respectively. Colin McCarthy must prove in camp that his strong 2011 rookie season was no fluke, as 2012 was an injury-marred year to forget. He'll be challenged by free agent Moise Fokou for starting MLB.
The secondary feels wide open almost across the board, as defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and assistant Gregg Williams will have some decisions to make. George Wilson and Bernard Pollard were both starters from other teams hauled in this offseason as free agents, yet both have played at strong safety in the past. Meanwhile, incumbent free safety Michael Griffin struggled mightily last year. It's certainly possible that we could see some three-safety sub-packages. Jason McCourty ascended to the "very good" tier of cornerbacks last year, but the snaps behind him could come down to camp battles. Alterraun Verner had a tough campaign as starter in 2012, and could see his snaps claimed by veteran Tommie Campbell and rookie Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
Tennessee led the league in special teams return touchdowns last year, ironically without former Pro Bowler Marc Mariani, who returns from a season on IR. Mariani's the frontrunner for return duties though Darius Reynaud impressed in 2012. I would peg incumbents Rob Bironas and Brett Kirn in for starting kicker and punter.
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