The Tennessee Titans have addressed a number of spots on defense already this off-season for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
But many of those moves were for players who can compete for backup or specialized roles, while only Rashad Johnson, brought over from the Arizona Cardinals, would seem to have the clear inside track toward starting at free safety.
Other players acquired this off-season – linebackers Sean Spence and cornerback Antwon Blake – might compete to start, while players like defensive back Brice McCain and linebacker Nate Palmer may slide into roles in certain sub-packages as well as help out on special teams.
That still leave plenty of areas to be addressed in the draft, as the Titans have nine picks to use either to further bolster the roster or use as trade bait to move up or down in the draft.
Let’s examine where the Titans still need help heading into this week’s draft.
Defensive line: This group is led by standout defensive end Jurrell Casey, who was actually used as a wild-card in certain packages by the Titans last year. In addition to Casey, the Titans have young, emerging players like DaQuan Jones and Angelo Blackson they are excited about. Beyond that, blue collar pass rushing end Karl Klug has been effective as a role player, while the Titans re-signed nose tackle Al Woods earlier in the off-season. Still, this group could use another body or two, especially an additional nose tackle and perhaps a young end to groom as well. The good news is the defensive line talent is very deep in the 2016 draft.
Probability the Titans draft a defensive lineman: Very high
Linebacker: Since the Titans went to the 3-4 scheme in 2014, the linebackers, even more so have to be split between edge rushers and inside players who not only have to stop the run, but drop into coverage. On the outside, the Titans have a pair of veterans in Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo to lead the charge. But behind them, the Titans could use a young prospect. Deiontrez Mount, a 2015 pick, might have become that guy, but was lost to a knee injury. The Titans still have David Bass, who ended last year as a starter once Morgan got hurt. Beyond that, it is pretty thin. Inside linebacker in the off-season seemed to be an area that needed addressing depth-wise, but GM Jon Robinson made two moves, signing Spence away from the Steelers and claiming Palmer from the Packers, to help fortify the depth there. Still, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the Titans add some help here, even if it is just to add to special teams initially.
Probability the Titans draft a linebacker: High
Cornerback: The Titans have set about stockpiling defensive backs in free agency, adding free agents McCain and Blake and signing former CFL player Steven Clarke for a look as well. Coty Sensabaugh exited as a free agent, and the Titans didn’t appear interested in re-signing him anyway. The best news coming from the corner position is that Jason McCourty is healthy again. Right now, it appears McCourty and Perrish Cox are penciled in as the starters, though some believe Cox is better suited for the slot. The Titans still have Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who has had his share of struggles, and Cody Riggs, who performed OK when called upon, despite his slight size. B.W. Webb was up-and-down after being promoted from the practice squad. Despite the high numbers here, the Titans could very well spend a second or third-round pick on a cornerback, one who might compete to play right away.
Probability the Titans draft a cornerback: High
Safety: In the middle of the secondary, the Titans seem to be doing some retooling. Da’Norris Searcy may be more comfortable in his second season after coming over from Buffalo. The Titans jettisoned long-time free safety Michael Griffin and replaced him with Rashad Johnson, who was signed to a one-year deal. Behind them, Daimion Stafford, Marqueston Huff and Josh Aubrey provide depth. Of that trio, Stafford has probably made the most significant contributions the past couple of seasons. Before they traded the No.1 pick, the Titans were interested in Jalen Ramsey, who could play cornerback and safety. Now that they are in the middle of the round, they could turn their attention to any number of safeties who could be had after round one.
Probability the Titans draft a safety: High