It is that time of year again, braving the heat to get down to Saint Thomas Sports Park to get your first glimpse at football for the season, hoping somehow you will get that autograph of your favorite player before time runs out. Training Camp, at least early on, is more about getting to know everyone than nuts-and-bolts football. Whether it is the fans getting to know the players, or the players getting to know each other, the public viewing portion of Training Camp is very much an orientation.
So comes more orientation, as we look over just what to watch as our NFL team begins its 15th season in the Volunteer State. The Titans roster stands at 90 including three who cannot yet participate. Only 53 will make the final roster and it is safe to assume that not all 53 who head to Pittsburgh on Opening Weekend will have been in the original 90. So competition is fierce, especially when you are coming off a 6-10 season, you look for improvement anywhere you can get it.
It is year three for Head Coach Mike Munchak, some thought he would be shown the door after last season but owner Bud Adams rewards loyalty, and seems more resistant to change as years go by. One thing is for sure though, Munchak needs to win. There will be time later on to get into just how the Titans can do that this year, but the pressure is most definitely on.
This is a team whose starters are pretty firm, barring the unexpected. Health is key, so is depth and Tennessee added a lot of that in the offseason. Several positions need the preseason to sort that depth out, most notably on the defensive line. Expectations must be realized, and I am specifically speaking of 4th-year end Derrick Morgan. This is the year we find out if Morgan is ever going to be the pass rusher Titans brass believed he would be.
The Titans are full of question marks on the defensive front. Kamerion Wimbley, Jurrell Casey, and Sammie Hill are expected to start along with Morgan. The tackle position will be the most contentious with Karl Klug and Mike Martin pushing for time.
Safety will see a great battle between expected starters Bernard Pollard and Michael Griffin, and George Wilson and Robert Johnson. Pollard was brought in from Baltimore and Wilson from Buffalo, both are strong safeties but each has different styles and mentalities. Griffin is the free safety but how these four interact will be interesting to watch.
Offensively, the entire focus is on QB Jake Locker. More on that as we go along. With the acquisition of TE Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens has been moved to fullback. Quinn Johnson and Colin Mooney will compete at a position with more emphasis than for a couple years. Walker will start late due to a knee injury, so Taylor Thompson and Brandon Barden will have a chance to show what they can do at a position very important to Locker’s success. Will Thompson emerge as more than just a project?
The Titans open preseason play on August 8th against the Redskins. Robert Griffin III, still rehabbing his ACL injury from the playoffs, will not play in that game or any preseason game according to Coach Mike Shanahan, nor should he. Tennessee visits Cincinnati on August 17th before returning to LP Field to face Atlanta on August 24th in the all-important third preseason game, the dress rehearsal. A trip to Minnesota five days later ends it.