An offseason full of surprises is now in the rearview mirror for the Tennessee Titans, with plenty of new faces donning Titan blue this year.
With training camp looming closer, we take a look today at the new roster, and rank them by position.
1 Defensive Line
Tennessee’s d-line is the deepest and most talented position on the roster. The unit is anchored by a pair of quality defensive ends in DaQuan Jones and Jurrell Casey (2015 Pro Bowler). Karl Klug is a steady veteran backup, and rookie second round pick Kevin Dodd will also be counted on to be a heavy contributor once he returns from offseason surgery. A trio of 300 pound nose tackles (Al Woods, Angelo Blackson, rookie Austin Johnson) will rotate reps at clogging the middle.
The second layer of the Titans’ 3-4 defense is just as talented, albeit not quite as deep. Brian Orakpo, Avery Williamson, Derrick Morgan, and Wesley Woodyard serve as a formidable linebacker quartet. Second year reserve Deiontrez Mount should be recovered from his season ending injury last season, joining David Bass, Sean Spence, and Curtis Gant as the primary backups.
3 Tight End
Led by 2015 Pro Bowler Delanie Walker, Tennessee’s tight end position is the steadiest and most reliable unit on offense. Whether a one, two, or three tight end set, the Titans are in good hands with Walker, Anthony Fasano and Craig Stevens. All three are quality veteran receivers and willing blockers in the run game.
Marcus Mariota is the unquestioned starting qb, as well as the face of the franchise. The Titans are set there. But he was also beat up pretty bad last season, playing in only 12 games as a result. Veteran free agent Matt Cassel is a definite upgrade over Zach Mettenberger, but he also struggled last season in Dallas while playing for an injured Tony Romo. Third stringer Alex Tanney played well in last year’s season finale, but that was glorified garbage time for both teams. He is still an unproven commodity.
5 Running Back
Perhaps the biggest position upgrade this offseason was at running back, and the fact that the unit still checked in at five tells you all you need to know about their woes last season. DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry are now the face of the position, and will be the catalysts for the Titans’ new Exotic Smash Mouth era. Dexter McCluster figures to be the change of pace back, with several others fighting for the final spot on the depth chart.
Training camp will open with a pair of veteran free agents starting at safety, 2015 acquisition Da’Norris Searcy and this year’s addition Rashad Johnson. Depth, however, could be a problem. Rookie third round pick Kevin Byard is still unsigned, and Daimion Stafford is serviceable…but not solid.
The cornerbacks struggled last season, as injuries and inconsistencies plagued the position. Jason McCourty is set to return, giving the Titans back their top guy. Free agents Brice McCain and Antwon Blake were also added, which hopefully gives the unit more talent in the reserve roles. How the new faces gel together will go a long way in determining the defense’s overall success this season.
8 Offensive Line
Tennessee’s o-line also struggled last season, giving up the most sacks in the league. Adding a veteran free agent center in Ben Jones helps, but losing veteran right tackle Byron Bell hurts (lost for the year during mini camp). Rookie first round pick Jack Conklin will need to grow up fast, and veteran left tackle Taylor Lewan needs to grow up…period. There will be a ton of eyes, and pressure on this unit as the Titans look to run the ball and protect the qb more effectively this season.
9 Wide Receiver
The wide receiver position is the biggest question mark heading into training camp. Former first round pick Kendall Wright has yet to live up to his potential, as has former second round pick Justin Hunter. Last year’s second round pick, Dorial Green-Beckham, showed flashes last season, but is still a raw project. Free agent acquisition Rishard Matthews should help, and rookie 5th round pick Tajae Sharpe had an impressive rookie and mini camp. Even with a run-first mentality, the Titans will need this unit to make far more plays than they did last season.
We will re-evaluate this list again at the conclusion of the preseason.