We continue our positional analysis series with a look at the Titans’ safeties.
And, in what seems to be a recurring theme for the series, the Titans return both their starters at safety, and those returning starters are pretty good.
Chris Hope returns for his fourth year as the anticipated starter at strong safety. Except for missing the last five games of the 2007 season after sustaining a neck injury, he’s provided a very solid presence.
His partner at the free safety position is Michael Griffin, who’ll be entering his second year as the incumbent starter after leading the Titans with 7 interceptions in his first season as a starter.
Beyond Hope and Griffin, the top returner is probably Vinny Fuller. As Andrew wrote on his depth chart post and in the nickelbacks preview, Fuller’s role looks like primarily one in the slot when the Titans are in five defensive back sets. He’s currently nursing a groin injury that caused him to miss the Bucs game and will probably not play against the Cowboys. There’s no indication, though, that there’s any risk he misses the start of the regular season.
The other main returner at safety is special teams maven Donnie Nickey. If he’s seeing extensive action in the regular defense, that’s probably a bad sign for the Titans.
Tuff Harris is also back, and seeing him on the field may be an even worse sign than Donnie Nickey being on the field. A demonstration of the value of going to school with the head coach’s son is how I’ve always thought of Tuff’s Titans tenure. That’s probably a little unfair to him. As I wrote in previewing the 53-man, I don’t see a roster spot for Tuff this year.
7th round draftee Nick Schommer rounds out the Titans’ trio of pale backup safeties. Late round picks frequently have an uphill battle to make a team, and Schommer’s current hamstring injury has him out of practice, out of Friday’s game, and almost certainly out of an NFL job.
But, hey, those two starters are pretty danged good.
UPDATE: Changed the time on this post, so Andrew’s game preview post is at the top of the blog.