There is one more big area in question as the Tennessee Titans get ready to begin training camp.
Players report Thursday and the first full-squad practice is Friday, but rookies are set to report earlier than that.
The Titans defense, with coordinator Dean Pees electing to return for another season, was solid for the most part last season, though a bit unspectacular. With the now retired Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan both slowing down last year (two sacks combined), it was up to Pees to be creative and manufacture pressure on the quarterback with more blitzes, stunts and delayed blitzes.
Many of the Titans sacks came from inside pressure. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey led the team with seven sacks, and inside linebackers Jayon Brown and Wesley Woodyard combined for 10.5 sacks. In all, 13 different players notched at least a half a sack with the Titans in 2018, and while that is a solid all-around contribution, the Titans would probably be better served if they had one game-changer on the edge who could have double digits sacks all on his own.
The Titans didn’t make a big splash in free agency or the draft on the edge. Their only signing was 37-year-old Cameron Wake, who should help, but is likely to be more of a rotational type player rather than playing 50 snaps a game.
It means the Titans will be hoping that two (and possibly three) second-year pros can step up in a big way this season. At the top of the list is Harold Landry, who had 4.5 sacks as a rookie second-round pick a year ago. The other is Sharif Finch, who was impressive in limited duty as an undrafted rookie in 2018 and also earned his keep on special teams. The Titans are hopeful that Finch has progressed to the point of earning more time in the defensive line rotation, perhaps spelling Wake.
The other second-year option the Titans have is Rashaan Evans, who was their first-round pick last year, but was drafted as an inside linebacker. Evans played some outside linebacker at Alabama, and Pees and head coach Mike Vrabel could devise a few packages to allow Evans to see some time on the edge in certain situations.
Beyond that, the Titans have Kamalei Correa, who had 3.5 sacks last year as a backup, and rookie fifth-round choice D’Andre Walker, who figures to have a role on special teams and vie for time as a backup.
What the Titans are banking on is that Landry makes a big jump, that Wake still has gas in the tank, and that someone else takes a step forward. If those things happen, the edge rusher situation will be resolved. Otherwise, it will be back to having Pees devise elaborate schemes to rush the passer again in 2019.