The Titans have been the definition of just above average over the past three seasons. They’ve gone 9-7 in their last three campaigns, making the playoffs in just one. This year, Tennessee’s mantra is to go from “Good to Great.” The Titans have added pieces this offseason in order to achieve this goal, but also have spots in the lineup where there is not a clear starter. The key for this team to take the next step is for players to step up in these positions. These competitions will be the most important thing to watch when training camp rolls around next week.
3rd Wide Receiver
Corey Davis will almost definitely be the top option outside for Tennessee this year, lining up as the X receiver for most snaps. The addition of Adam Humphries solidifies the slot, but the receiver opposite Davis is an unknown. The three candidates are speedster Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe in a contract year, and second round rookie A.J. Brown. Odds are, all of these guys will get snaps for Tennessee this season, but one is sure to stand out from the rest.
Taylor was a third round pick back in 2017, but hasn’t produced as much as he did back at Western Kentucky. He has shown flashes, but never emerged as the deep threat that the team hoped he would be when they drafted him. Sharpe was a solid option back in his rookie season in 2016 in an offense that lacked any weapons outside. He contributed much more than was expected of a fifth round pick. However, he missed all of the 2017 season with a foot injury. When he returned, he had been overshadowed by Davis and Taylor. Although, reports out of Titans’ OTAs say that he has been standing out in practice so far this offseason.
The two returning players have somewhat fallen into the background though with the addition of Brown. At Ole Miss, he had an extremely productive career and some experts had him listed as their top receiver on the board this year. He somehow slipped to Tennessee in the second round. He will be given every opportunity to earn this job and is probably the favorite. Out of all of the position battles this year, this will be the most important to the success of the Titans’ offense.
After the signing of Rodger Saffold from the Rams in mid-March, the Titans’ offensive line looked to be set for the season. However, after guard Josh Kline refused to take a pay cut, General Manager Jon Robinson made the decision to move on. This left a hole on the right side of the line. There are really only two options to win the job for Week 1, veteran Kevin Pamphile and rookie Nate Davis.
Pamphile missed most of last season after starting 29 games in two years for the Buccaneers. He has received praise from coaches about his ability and work ethic over the last few months leading up to training camp. He is probably the favorite over the young rookie Davis who has had to completely re-work his stance this offseason. The former Charlotte 49er played very low on the line, almost sitting down in college. There are concerns about his experience, but he has the mauler mentality that Robinson likes on the line. Even if Pamphile wins the job this year, Davis will be starting on the line at some point soon.
The Titans’ defense is pretty much set for this year. The secondary is set in stone with one of the top safety duos in the league and three solid cornerbacks. The inside linebackers are stacked with Wesley Woodyard, Rashaan Evans, and Jayon Brown rotating. Finally, the line has DaQuan Jones and Jurrell Casey at the ends and most likely a rotation of free agent addition Brent Urban and former second round pick Austin Johnson. However, outside of Harold Landry, the pass-rushing group is up in the air.
Cameron Wake was added in free agency, but is now 37 years old and, most likely, won’t be used as an every down player. So, who will get a majority of snaps opposite Landry? That will be decided throughout August.
The top options include former undrafted free agent Sharif Finch, who showed glimpses during his rookie season before getting injured. Another possibility is former Baltimore Raven Kamalei Correa. Tennessee traded for him last season, but he wasn’t a very productive pass rusher in his first season in Nashville. An unlikely scenario is rookie D’Andre Walker starting, but he was more talented than his fifth round selection would have you believe. Many experts had him going on the second day of the draft, but the Titans snagged him on day three. It will be interesting to see how the snaps are divided between all of these players. However, whoever plays needs to produce pressure this season.
All of these battles will have a large impact on the success of the team this year. Training camp is under two weeks away and things are about to get good.