We already took a look at the camp battles on offense for the Titans, and likewise there should be some tough battles on the defensive side as well. The competition on the defensive side of the ball should be fierce as well so let’s dive right in and take a look, starting in the trenches where magic happens.
The Titans currently list Derrick Morgan, Scott Solomon, Lavar Edwards, and Thaddeous Gibson/Nigel Nicholas at left defensive end. We know that is likely inaccurate as the Titans have already stated they are going to experiment with Solomon at linebacker. Frankly, I see Lavar Edwards as a rotational end behind both Morgan and Wimbley. My prediction is that Edwards is going to see significant playing time as a rookie and you can expect he will slide inside and play some tackle as well. The Titans have listed Sammie Lee Hill, Karl Klug, and Antonio “Mookie” Johnson at left defensive tackle but they are also going to try Klug at defensive end. At right defensive tackle the Titans list Jurrell Casey, Mike Martin, DaJohn Harris, Zach Clayton and Stefan Charles. Kam Wimbley, Ropati Pitoitua, and Keyunta Dawson round out the position at right defensive end. Clearly not everyone is going to make the roster.
Like offensive line, the Titans could opt to go heavy here. I previously predicted the Titans would carry 9 defensive linemen. If they carry more than 9 they take away from other positions and I just don’t see that happening. So who are the odd men out? Wimbley, Morgan, Casey, Martin, Hill, and Edwards I think are locks. I think if Klug can transition to a swing man and play both inside and outside he will make the roster. That leaves 2 other spots and you have to believe the competition is pretty even, unless Solomon can make it as a swing guy playing both end and linebacker, which of course means we are headed there now.
The Titans have 7 outside linebackers on the roster including Scott Solomon who is listed both end and backer. Akeem Ayers, Zach Brown, Zaviar Gooden are locks to make the roster again barring unforeseen circumstances. That leaves Tim Shaw, Patrick Bailey, and Johnathan Williard (in addition to Solomon) to duke it out over the back end at OLB. At inside linebacker there are Colin McCarthy (lock), Moise Fokou, and Greg Jones. I predicted the Titans would carry 7 linebackers which means there are 3 spots left and a possible 4th if they elect to go heavy at the position. That’s not out of the question given the injury situation there last year. There has been a lot of noise about Fokou, who I really like, and he seems to be a favorite to make the roster but Greg Jones when healthy is quite good too. Shaw and Bailey have been stalwarts on special teams though Shaw was somewhat of a mixed bag starting at middle linebacker last year. I’m really anxious to see Solomon play linebacker and see what he can do. Another fun position to watch in camp this year.
I predicted the Titans would carry 10 defensive backs and they would split at 5 at each spot. They carried 4 safeties until November of 2012 last season and that lack of depth was readily apparent in their 3 safety packages. I think they carry 5 safeties this year but they are experimenting with Verner at both cornerback and free safety so they could elect to go with 4 safeties, 1 swing guy in Verner, and 5 cornerbacks.
At safety, obviously Bernard Pollard, George Wilson and Mike Griffin should be locks unless someone shows out and out plays them. I seriously doubt it happens but strange things can happen in the NFL. I’m interested to see if Robert Johnson learned from his struggles in 2012. Al Afalava played well in limited action last season. Tracy Wilson was pretty good on special teams. We should finally get to see what Markelle Martin brings and I’m anxious to see him on the field. Finally, rookie Daimion Stafford has an opportunity to shine and I hope he makes the most of it. This is a good year to be trying to make the back end at safety for the Titans given the struggles at the position in 2012.
At cornerback, the battle is going to very interesting indeed. Jason McCourty should be a lock at left cornerback but right cornerback, nickel and dime back should be an open competition. Ryan Mouton is gone and Coty Sensabaugh manned nickel beginning in the middle of the season last year. Tommie Campbell spelled Verner in the final game of the year. The Titans want to play more press coverage which seems to give an edge to Sensabaugh, Campbell and rookie Blidi Wreh-Wilson. I find it interesting the Titans list Sensabaugh behind McCourty. Surely he is in the mix to man the right side. Khalid Wooten and George Baker are going to get their opportunities as well. Like safety, this is a good year to try and make the back end of the roster at cornerback as competition would seem to be open. I expect the Titans to play more man this year and challenge the receiver more. The ability to excel there will likely determine who gets a job and who doesn’t.
Regardless, the Titans are looking for more toughness and aggression out of their defense this year. Put me down as someone who likes it.