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.
In our final installment of the Titans roster evaluation, we take a look at the team’s specialists. The Titans special teams unit struggled mightily in the early going, and it cost Bobby April his job. Steve Hoffman replaced him as special teams coach the rest of the way. The units improved well enough for Hoffman to keep the position in 2017, thanks largely to the clutch efforts of kicker Ryan Succop and punter Brett Kern. Craig Aukerman comes in to assist Hoffman in 2017.
Succop was money all season long, missing just two field goal attempts in 2016 and highlighting his season with a game-winning 53-yard field goal in the single digit temperatures in Kansas City. In all, Succop was 22 of 24 this past season with his only two misses coming from beyond 50 yards.
Succop has not missed a field goal attempt inside 40 yards since joining the Titans three years ago, and has not missed inside 50 yards the past two seasons.
Kern continues to do solid work, averaging 44 yards per punt this past season. Since joining the Titans as a waiver claim midway through the 2009 season, Kern has been a mainstay as the second longest tenured player with the club behind only Jason McCourty.
Long snapper Beau Brinkley is the third part of the kicking equation for the Titans, also turning in another reliable season. Long snappers are sort of like baseball umpires in that they are not noticed if they are doing a good job, but are quite visible when they mess up. Brinkley has been pretty invisible in that regard, meaning has done his job well.
At the return position the Titans were scrambling at the end of preseason, having released Dexter McCluster, but were not yet ready to put their trust in any of the rookies on the roster to handle the chore. So they brought back veteran Marc Mariani, who had been a Pro Bowl returner for them in 2010, but was let go in 2014 after two years of injury issues. Mariani hooked on with the Chicago Bears for two seasons, and came back to the Titans just before the start of this season.
Mariani did what the Titans asked him to do – the caught the football and did not make critical errors in judgment on returns. He averaged 8.1 yards per punt return and 21.5 yards per kickoff return. He is a free agent, and there appears every indication that the Titans might go in a different direction for 2017 in order to get more speed and game-breaking ability at the position.
Starters: Kicker – Ryan Succop; punter – Brett Kern; KR Marc Mariani (free agent); long snapper – Beau Brinkley.
Likelihood position is addressed in free agency: Probably not likely unless the Titans sign a receiver or defensive back to handle the return chores. Of course, on the coverage/return units, there could be some new faces acquired along the way.
Likelihood position is addressed in the draft: It wouldn’t be a bad idea to find a speedy return man among the skill position players drafted – either a receiver, running back or defensive back who could handle the return chores and bring some big-play capability.