The Tennessee Titans are happy with some aspects of their linebacker corps and have concerns about others.
Namely, those concerns primarily deal with the injury situation with Kevin Dodd and how that affects the depth, as well as whether or not they can solve a long-standing problem of covering tight ends – primarily a sub-package issue with inside linebackers.
As for their base four linebackers who are atop the depth chart, the Titans hope to squeeze another productive go-around out of outside pass rushers Brian Orakpo (10.5 sacks) and Derrick Morgan (9 sacks). Behind them, however, depth is a question mark, especially if Dodd cannot shake off the lingering foot injury that cost him a good chunk of his rookie year and the off-season after undergoing a second surgery in January.
On the inside, the Titans are pleased with the play of Avery Williamson, who has shown improvements each season. Williamson is playing for a contract extension this season, as he is Titans’ most proven young linebacker. Beside him, veteran Wesley Woodyard still shows life in the base package as a run-stopper.
Depth again is an issue as the Titans have a mix of special teamers, journeymen and unproven rookies fighting for spots behind the starters. The one to watch here is Jayon Brown, whom has the speed to be a nickel inside linebacker, replacing Sean Spence, who was average in the role last year.
LBs currently on the roster: 14 _ OLB Brian Orakpo (9th season, Texas); OLB Derrick Morgan (8th season, Georgia Tech); ILB Avery Williamson (4th season, Kentucky); ILB Wesley Woodyard (10th season, Kentucky); OLB Kevin Dodd (2nd season, Clemson); OLB Aaron Wallace (2nd season, UCLA); ILB Jayon Brown (Rookie, UCLA); ILB Daren Bates (5th season, Auburn); ILB Nate Palmer (5th season, Illinois State); OLB Josh Carraway (Rookie, Texas Christian); ILB Justin Staples (4th season, Illinois); ILB Johnny Ragin (Rookie, Oregon); OLB Victor Ochi (1st season, Stony Brook); OLB Kourtnei Brown (2nd season, Clemson).
LBs projected on the 53-man roster: 9 to 10, plus 1 on practice squad.
Best storylines of camp/pre-season: What is Kevin Dodd’s status coming off a second foot surgery; Can Jayon Brown fill the role of inside linebacker in the nickel package.
Analysis: The Titans seem pretty set in the first seven or eight spots here. The four starters, Dodd (if healthy), Palmer, Wallace and Brown would seem to be ticketed for roster spots barring unforeseen circumstances arising. The Titans also brought in Bates to help shore up special teams, which could leave the rest fighting for one roster spot at best at the linebacker position. The intrigue here, of course, is Dodd, who if he is healthy could be a nice piece to spell Morgan and Orakpo on the outside. But if not, the Titans would then have either Wallace, who is more of an edge setter than a pass rusher, or a seventh-round rookie like Carraway as the third pass rusher. If Dodd isn’t healthy, or the Titans suffer a major injury from someone else, this is an area that could get a look on the waiver wire in early September.