Breaking Down Tennessee Titans' Roster After 2014 NFL Draft
There will be plenty of heated position battles in training camp as a result of this draft.
The Titans threw everyone a curveball by drafting Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan in the first round and passing up on a few other positions that many considered bigger needs.
However, the Titans did do themselves a lot of good by adding depth on both sides of the ball. They got a handful of promising prospects who, if they are able to develop in the next season or two, could really make an impact on this team.
Here is an overview of the current state of what is suddenly a very deep roster for Ken Whisenhunt to work with in his first season.
Jake Locker suddenly has some young company joining him on the roster, but Zach Mettenberger won't provide stiff competition for the starting job right away.
Paul Kuharksy of ESPN.com touched on this following the drafting of Mettenberger in the sixth round.
Even if Locker is safe for now as the starter, the heat is definitely on for him to be successful in 2014. He not only has to put up respectable numbers, but he has to help this team make a run to postseason.
If he falls apart early, then the Titans' 2014 season probably falls apart with it.
Mettenberger isn't being brought in here to be a backup to a quarterback that struggled to stay healthy and can't win games on a consistent basis.
You also have Charlie Whitehurst, which was brought in to basically mentor Locker in Whisenhunt's offense. Whitehurst spent time with Whisenhunt last season with the Chargers.
Whitehurst is nothing but a career backup, but he would probably be the guy to go in over Mettenberger in the event of another Locker injury.
The Titans have to be patient with Mettenberger in his development. He needs time to really fine-tune his game, and possibly be ready to compete for a starting role at this time next year.
Arguably no other position on the Titans roster has gone through more change than running back this offseason.
The Titans lost longtime starter Chris Johnson in free agency, added free-agent RB/WR Dexter McCluster and drafted Bishop Sankey in the second round.
All three of these guys will see their fair share of touches in 2014. They'll be a formidable trio, with each player offering different skill sets to the Titans offense.
Recent news has come out, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, that Shonn Greene has had another knee surgery, which will force him to miss all of this offseason's organized team activities. He is expect to be back for training camp, but this is still a big blow considering that there's a new offense to learn under new head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Greene missed five games last season, and the Titans run game suffered a bit from his absence.
With Greene behind the eight ball, Sankey has a great chance to lead this team in touches out of the backfield.
McCluster fits in here as well. Though the Titans plan on using him as a running back, he may be get snaps as a slot receiver, which is where he mostly played last year while with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Titans also have options with Jackie Battle, Leon Washington and undrafted free agent Antonio Andrews.
Expect this Titans running game to be very unpredictable this upcoming season. It will be hard to know which one of these guys will be the main option from week to week.
You really have to like the direction the Titans receiver corps is heading right now, even with the loss of Kenny Britt to the St. Louis Rams.
Britt needed a change of scenery and could end up fulfilling his terrific potential with his new team. That doesn't mean it was ever going to work out with the Titans.
Kendall Wright is hands down this team's No.1 receiver, and he's entering a year when he could really burst onto the NFL scene. He caught some attention last season by posting more than 1,000 yards.
You would like to see his touchdown total go up, but that will come with more stability at quarterback.
Lining up opposite Wright will be another young receiver, Justin Hunter. Hunter had an impressive rookie season, and his yards-per-catch average really stands out at over 19 yards per catch.
These two guys will most likely line up on the outside, with veteran Nate Washington fitting into the equation as well. Washington is coming off a season where he came up just short of 1,000 yards receiving. Washington will bring a veteran influence and be the vocal leader of this young group.
The unit gets questionable after these three guys. The Titans lost Damian Williams in free agency. His departure hurts more than it may appear.
Who will be assume the role of that complementary number four receiver will be an interesting storyline as training camp approaches. It could be anyone from Marc Mariani to Michael Preston—possibly even one of the few undrafted free agents could emerge as the fourth member of this unit. You also can't forget about Dexter McCluster, who's expected to line up as a receiver from time to time.
As long as Wright and Hunter continue to progress, this unit will be a strong one.
Delanie Walker showed in his first season with the Titans how much of a leader he can be on the field. His numbers weren't too shabby, either.
However, the Titans saw virtually zero production from tight ends not named Delanie Walker. This position could've been addressed in the draft to give Jake Locker another weapon with which to work.
The Titans will move forward with Craig Stevens as the primary backup to Walker. He's a solid blocker and has shown glimpses of being a reliable receiver. But for the most part he was nonexistent in 2013.
Taylor Thompson hasn't been able to make the transition to tight end from defensive end, so there's really no reason to have faith in that changing this season.
The Titans got David Wright as an undrafted free agent, who's an athletic tight end out of Westminster College in Pennsylvania. Maybe he can impress coaches in training camp and claw his way onto the team.
The offensive line has been a focal point for the Titans for the last two season now, through both the draft and free agency.
The selection of Taylor Lewan in the first round of this year's draft may have been puzzling to some people, because the Titans appeared set at offensive tackle with Michael Roos and newly acquired Michael Oher. Instead, the Titans decided to stockpile talent at this position in case they can't retain Roos or Oher next offseason.
Offensive tackle is set for the future, and offensive guard looks pretty good as well with Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack.
These four guys will probably be the starter in Week 1 against a solid Kansas City Chiefs squad, with Taylor Lewan on the sideline, backing up at offensive tackle.
The center position also looks promising with the chippy Brian Schwenke entering the season as the favorite to start.
Offensive line is easily the strongest part of this entire roster, and it should be after all of the attention it has gotten. You have to build championship-caliber teams from the inside out.
The offensive line is where you start.
Jurrell Casey was the star of this unit in 2013, and he will enter the 2014 season as a guy to watch in new coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 defense. You have to wonder if Casey will be as effective as he was in last year's 4-3 alignment.
The defensive line for the Titans will be mainly the same as it was last season, with the exception of fourth-round draft pick DaQuan Jones.
Jones will certainly beef up the defensive line.
Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley should benefit from the new defensive system, and they will likely see some time lining up at outside linebacker.
This unit ranked just 21st in the NFL in sacks with a total of 36. The defensive end position is still a little thin, and it was somewhat of a surprise that one wasn't added in the draft.
The Titans were busy at this position in free agency with the additions of Shaun Phillips and Wesley Woodyard. Both will likely be starters in 2014. Both have experience working in the 3-4 defense and will be big leaders among a group of linebackers who don't have much experience.
Akeem Ayers is a player on this unit who really needs to step up his game from last season. It was overall a disappointing particularly for Ayers.
Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com had 2013 as an "awful year for the group."
However, there's hope ahead for this unit as the Titans are changing to a defense that favors aggressive linebackers like Ayers and Zach Brown. The Titans also drafted inside linebacker Avery Williamson, and it will be interesting to see if he can battle past Colin McCarthy or Moise Fokou to become the starter.
Bottom line is that this unit has to play better in 2014 for this defense to have a chance at becoming more than just an average unit.
There's some expected uncertainty at cornerback thanks to the loss of Alterraun Verner, but Jason McCourty can't be overlooked here.
McCourty has held his own since becoming a starter, and now we will see if a few other guys are ready to step up.
Look for Coty Sensabaugh to beat out Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Tommie Campbell for a starting role. He played well in the nickel and deserves a chance to prove himself.
The Titans have nice depth at this position even with the loss of Verner. They also chose to draft Marqueston Huff from Wyoming.
Huff is listed as a free safety, but will most likely start out at cornerback as well. He gives the Titans versatility in the secondary according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) May 11, 2014
You have to feel good about the depth the Titans have built at this position in recent years.
Retaining Bernard Pollard was huge for this secondary, and losing him would have left his unit with some serious issues. You just can't discount the passion and leadership Pollard brings to the defense.
Pollard will once again be lining up alongside Michael Griffin in 2014, with George Wilson also factoring into the mix.
The Titans don't have much after these three guys, and that made the drafting of Marqueston Huff pretty smart.
Daimion Stafford is a player who will need to prove himself in training camp if he wants a spot on the 53-man roster. Expect the 2013 seventh-round pick to be the primary backup at strong safety
Three proven veterans will make this unit a strong one for the Titans in 2014.
The obvious question about special teams is who will be the replacement longtime Titans kicker Rob Bironas? It will come down to Maikon Bonani or undrafted free agent Travis Coons.
Picking the right guy between Coons and Bonani will be an important decision. The Titans can't enter the season with an unreliable kicker.
Some of Tennessee's top special teams contributors to watch for will be Marc Mariani and Dexter McCluster, who parlayed his explosiveness as a returner into a Pro Bowl nod last year.
Brett Kern will hold down the punting duties once again, and he's been as reliable as they come. Hopefully the Titans won't have to use Kern nearly as much as they did last season (78 punts).
Some of the Titans draft picks will see extensive time on special teams, including Avery Williamson.
Special teams was mostly a train wreck in 2013, starting on the first play to open up the regular season on a kick return that ended in a safety. It will be very challenging for this unit to start off worse than that.