Before the 2007 season started Titans fans had plenty to worry about at cornerback. So did Titans management, which used their first-round draft pick on a safety who they hoped could play corner for them.
After the season started, however, a pair of corners were playing well enough for Michael Griffin to move back to safety, where it appears he’s found a permanent home.
Here’s the outlook on the corners currently on the roster.
Cortland Finnegan – I like Cortland Finnegan. I think all Titan fans like Finnegan. What’s not to like? He epitomizes the classic story of the underdog who overcame the odds to succeed. An unknown player from a small school, not drafted until the seventh round. Not only did he make the roster as a rookie, he became the starting nickleback. A year later, he moved outside and won a starting job at corner when some doubted if he’d be effective. I like him as a player, both for his ability to run stride for stride with the fastest receivers and his toughness in run support. I also like his feistiness. He’s not afraid to stick his nose in there, nor to mix it up with the big receivers he often covers. He’s the Titans’ best corner and we’re fortunate to have him.
Nick Harper – Playing in a Tampa-2 scheme in Indianapolis, Harper came to the Titans with an understandable reputation for being better in zone coverage than in man. He did nothing in 2007 to dispel that notion and also remained as the starter on the left side. If someone wrests a starting job from either Finnegan or Harper this year, the victim would have to be Harper. It doesn’t help him that he’ll be 34 in September, so age is becoming an issue as well. The thing I like best about him is his toughness against the run. He and Finnegan are a big upgrade in run support over the 2006 starting corners, Pacman and Hill.
Eric King – As the backup to Finnegan on the right side, we didn’t get to see much of King other than on special teams, where he excelled. He did get one start, in a nickel package against the Jets, and played reasonably well. The best compliment I’ve heard about King was an indirect one — the Titans were shocked when he was released by the Bills and thought there had to be some really good corners in Buffalo.
Reynaldo Hill – A former starter, Hill lost his job to Harper last summer and spent 2007 as his backup on the left side. Like Harper, Hill is better in zone than man coverage. Unlike Harper, he’s not that good against the run. Hill’s a restricted free agent who the Titans will tender as a serviceable backup and special teams player.
Kelly Herndon – A free agent acquisition from the Seahawks, Herndon competed for a starting job last summer. Known as better inside than outside, his best chance for playing time will continue to be at nickel. A six-year vet, age is also becoming an issue with him. Herndon will turn 32 this season.
Chidi Iwuoma – Signed as a free agent late in the year, he played on special teams in the final two games. The Titans are his fifth team in seven years and he hasn’t started since his rookie season. I don’t even know if he’ll be invited to OTAs this spring.
Pacman Jones – He’s the wildcard in the deck. I expect the Titans to trade him if they’re able to. If not, they may or may not release him and I’m betting if it gets to that point they probably will. Pac wants out of Tennessee and I’ll be surprised if he wears two-tone blue again.
Outlook: Finnegan is a virtual lock to start again while Harper’s hold on his job is more tenuous. The Titans may sign another corner in free agency, if he’s the right player at the right price, in Mike Reinfeldt’s estimation. Tennessee will definitely draft another corner or two, as they always do. The only question is if they see the need to select a potential starter on Day One of the draft.
Next in the series: the nickelbacks.