Tennessee Titans Positional analysis: DE

As we continue the journey towards the start of training camp, it’s time to take a look at what should be a position of strength for the Tennessee Titans: defensive end.

Experience, youth and depth are three integral qualities that are well-represented within the ranks of the Titan DEs. You have veterans such as Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jevon Kearse, emerging youngsters Jacob Ford and William Hayes and last but not least, a guy such as David Ball who provides great depth.

In the next segment of our positional analyses, let’s answer the following questions: Are great things in store for Ford and/or Hayes? How will KVB and “The Freak” perform during contract years?

My answers to those inquiries and more…after the jump.

The revenge of KVB?

Last season was a disappointing experience for the energizer bunny a.k.a. Kyle Vanden Bosch. Injuries derailed what appeared to be a promising start for KVB in ’08. 

Healthy and poised to re-establish his dominance and earn a new contract in 2009, I’m expecting to see a ton of the KVB of old this year: the guy who is a thorn in the side to opposing quarterbacks by way of his relentless pursuit and hustle.

Will “The Freak” wreak havoc in ’09? 

It was great to see the familiar face of Jevon Kearse back where he belongs in a Titan uniform last year. Although his performance paled in comparison to the numbers put up by a younger Kearse during his first run as a Titan, his leadership played a key role in the team’s defensive success in ’09.

With youngsters Jacob Ford and William Hayes nipping at his heels, there is no guarantee that we’ll see Jevon in a Titan uniform beyond this year. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, it’s paramount that Jevon plays well or else we’ll be witnessing “The Freak” depart the confines of Nashville once again.

The apprentices

While veterans KVB and Kearse man the fort as the team’s starting defensive ends, waiting in their wings are two promising talents eager for bigger roles: Jacob Ford and William Hayes.

Filling in for an injured KVB in ’08, Ford’s ability to get after opposing signal-callers was on constant display, as he notched seven sacks last year.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see a ton of big plays from Hayes last season. However, he overcame a slow rookie start to become a part of the team’s DE rotation towards the end of the season as he showed flashes of becoming a pretty solid end in the not-so-distant future.

With Ford and Hayes, the Titans appear to be in good shape for the future at the DE position.

Mr. Unheralded

Journeyman David Ball finally found a home in 2008, as he took full advantage of KVB’s injury by emerging as a viable contributor on the Titans’ defensive line.

His awful celebratory dances aside, Ball should continue to be an important depth guy in the Titan DE rotation in ’09.

Last and probably least

Former undrafted free agent Larry Birdine rounds out the Titans’ batch of DEs. Needless to say, as a result of the aforementioned talent in front of him, he has little chance of making the team’s roster in ’09.

Your turn, guys. What are your expectations for the Titan defensive ends in 2009