Titans off-season evaluation: Linebacker

Titans off-season evaluation: Linebacker

With the 2016 season in the books for the Tennessee Titans, it is time to begin analyzing the roster for the coming season. TitanInsider.com will go through each position group to look at where the team is sound and where there are likely to be roster moves.

Linebacker

The Titans pass rush was much improved in 2016, and so was their work against the run, as they finished second in the league overall in that category. Some of the credit goes to the defensive line, but the linebackers also played a big part in those improvements.

On the outside, Brian Orakpo turned in a Pro Bowl season with 10.5 sacks, and Derrick Morgan wasn’t far behind with a career-high nine sacks. Though both players are seasoned veterans, they showed no sign of slowing down last season, which should lead the Titans to believe they could have a couple more productive seasons left as pass rushers.

Behind them, second-round pick Kevin Dodd’s rookie season was a dud, as he had surgery to have a screw inserted into his foot in May, missing nearly all the off-season work. When he returned, he was not only behind, but adjusting to the surgery seemed to be an issue as well. The Titans still have high hopes that the former Clemson star will blossom into top-notch pass rusher himself, one who could step in in 2017 to spell the starters, with sights eventually set on replacing them down the road. The Titans other rookie linebacker, Aaron Wallace, played better than his seventh-round selection and impressed coaches enough with his quick learning that by year’s end he had supplanted free-agent-to-be David Bass in the rotation.

On the inside, the Titans continue to get decent mileage out of veteran Wesley Woodyard, especially against the run. Avery Williamson continues to be solid against the run as well on the other side. Both o them could use a bit of improvement in their pass coverage skills in the nickel package, and Sean Spence usually spelled Woodyard in sub-packages. Spence is a free agent, as is Nate Palmer, another inside linebacker, whose main contributions were on special teams. Staples, called up from the practice squad late in the year, was also a special teams performer.

The Titans have some nice pieces at linebacker, but that is also a position where you can almost never have enough depth. Look for minor roster tweaks going into 2017, despite the solid presences in this group.

Starters: Outside linebacker – Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan; Inside linebacker – Wesley Woodyard, Avery Williamson.

Backups: Inside linebacker Sean Spence (free agent), inside linebacker Nate Palmer, outside linebacker David Bass (free agent), outside linebacker Kevin Dodd, outside linebacker Aaron Wallace, inside linebacker Justin Staples.

Likelihood position is addressed in free agency: Quite possible, even if it just means re-signing Spence and/or Palmer to help as depth on the inside and on special teams.

Likelihood position is addressed in the draft: Definitely will be a position Jon Robinson will address in the draft. Most likely it would be to help bolster the inside depth. Also, with Morgan and Orakpo starting to get some age, and with Dodd a question mark, adding one more pass rusher isn’t out of the question either.

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