When looking at the overall skill of a roster, many will only look at the offensive and defensive units. This leaves the third phase of football widely under appreciated. Special teams can often be the difference between winning and losing in the NFL. Games come down to last second field goals, pinning a team deep in their own territory, or a big return. The Titans boast some of the better special teams players in the league at these key positions and it is time they got their recognition.
Kicker: Ryan Succop
Mr. Irrelevant in the 2009 NFL Draft has been from from that in his nine seasons in the league. The place kicker out of South Carolina played five seasons in Kansas City before landing in Nashville before the 2014 season. Since becoming a Titan, he has made over 80% of his kicks in all four of his seasons. Between the 2016 and 2017 seasons he also broke the record for most consecutive field goals made inside of fifty yards at 56 in a row. This included possibly the biggest moment of the 2016 season, the game winning field goal against the Chiefs in Week 15. Succop has been the rock the Titans needed at kicker and recently signed a five year extension. This will keep him in Nashville for years to come as he looks to continue his consistency in two-tone blue.
Punter: Brett Kern
The 32 year old punter out of Toledo is coming off his best season yet. He ended the 2017 season in the Pro Bowl and averaged close to 50 yards a punt, the highest in his career. He has punted for the Titans for parts of nine seasons and is under contract through the 2019 season. Kern has been the cornerstone of the Titans’ special teams for years and will continue to be this season. Hopefully, the Titans won’t need to use him as much this year despite his skill.
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Returners: Adoree Jackson and Michael Campanaro
Last year, the Titans used Jackson as their primary returner. However, after signing Campanaro away from the Ravens on a one year deal, he may take away some of those reps. He attended Wake Forest and was a very productive receiver for the Demon Deacons. Campanaro finished sixth in ACC history for career receptions and totaled over 2,500 yards. His punt return for a touchdown in Week 6 was his big moment last year and showed his explosiveness.
With Jackson most likely taking more snaps on defense, and possibly some on offense, it would be smarter to let Campanaro handle returns. Jackson showed flashes last year on special teams and obviously was fantastic at USC on returns. However, with Campanaro only taking reps as the fifth receiver, limiting Jackson’s reps would make more sense. Both have the ability to change the game on returns and should both get their opportunities during the season.
Long Snapper: Beau Brinkley
Speaking of undervalued positions, Brinkley has been solid at long snapper for half a decade for the Titans. A good long snapper will often go unnoticed, but a bad one will be obvious. Brinkley and Kern have developed a good relationship and the punter even brought his snapper to the Pro Bowl. Brinkley is under contract through 2019 and will bring consistency to an important position.
Other Key Specialists: Daren Bates and Brynden Trawick
Both of these players were signed away from the Raiders before the 2017 season. The Titans struggled in 2016 with kick and punt coverage and needed help badly. Trawick and Bates brought that combining for 20 tackles on special teams. Trawick was named to his first Pro Bowl as a specialist in 2017. Both of them are under contract once again in 2018 and will be key in limiting opposing returners.
Although special teams only accounts for a small number of snaps per game, this can be the difference. The Titans’ strong group deserves more recognition and will definitely help the team come September.