The Tennessee Titans have now completed three weeks of training camp and it’s been another typical camp. Hot, over 90° every day the past month. In this recap, I’ll focus on the practices of last week and offer some thoughts on how the roster is shaping up from the observations I’ve made.
QBs: It was a pretty good week for Vince although he continues to be inconsistent. It’s frustrating to see him look great and then make an absolutely terrible throw right to a defender. Kerry Collins was more consistent but threw a lot more checkdowns and safe passes. I know some people are down on Chris Simms after his performance in the first preseason game but he has actually been the best QB on some days in camp. Rusty Smith got a lot of work Friday running two-minute and red zone offfenses. My depth chart: Young, Collins, Simms, Smith.
RBs: Craig Johnson seems totally comfortable coaching the RBs. Chris Johnson has been able to outrun the defense at least once a day and showed off his receiving ability with a high leaping catch the other day. Javon Ringer has been getting a lot of work in the 7 on 7 and 11 on 11s. The more I see of him, the more I like. Alvin Pearman continues to be used too much both as a RB and as a returner. Time wasted, in my opinion. Samkon Gado didn’t do much his first three days in camp and I’m looking forward to seeing him against the Cardinals, both Monday night and in the Wednesday joint practice. My depth chart: Johnson, Ringer, Blount, Gado, Pearman.
WRs: Justin Gage and Nate Washington had good weeks and continue to have solid camps. Lavelle Hawkins and Marc Mariani each dropped a ball or two and don’t look as good as they did earlier in camp. It was good to see Damian Williams start to practice this week. He shows a lot of promise. Paul Williams caught a bomb Friday. He’ll need a bunch of those to make the team this year. My depth chart: Gage, Washington, Britt, Hawkins, D. Williams, Mariani, Edison, P. Williams.
TEs: The tight ends were thrown to a lot Thursday and Friday and the top four TEs all improved their stock, with Jared Cook making the biggest move. Cook caught two TD bombs and Bo Scaife caught another this week. Scaife and Cook were both frequently running deep routes Thursday and Friday. It will be good to see them go deep on occasion this year. Craig Stevens continued to catch a lot of ten-yard passes and even Sean Ryan showed he could catch the ball. He’s making a strong case for the Titans to keep him as a fourth TE. My depth chart: Stevens, Scaife, Cook, Ryan.
O-line: While the starters look as good as usual, I’m concerned about the reserves. I don’t see anyone who’s not a significant dropoff from the first-team o-line. Kevin Matthews has worked his way up to second-string guard, as we saw vs the Seahawks last week and remained with the twos last week. I continue to be unimpressed by the second o-line. My depth chart for the backups: Otto, Kropog, Velasco, Durand.
D-line: Tony Brown remains out but Sen’Derrick Marks and Jovan Haye are still looking good. Jason Jones has started having some good days in the last week. His improvement in the last week has been noticeable and promising. First-round draft pick Derrick Morgan remained a spectator. His jersey #96 has been given to Raheem Brock. Jason Babin is making himself noticed. He’ll make the 53-man roster if he continues. William Hayes and Jacob Ford have been taking it easy. I’m not excited about David Ball or Eric Bakhtieri. Chris Harrington hasn’t shown much at all yet. My depth chart: DE – Hayes, Ford, Morgan, Babin, Ball, Bakhtieri, Brock. DT – Brown, Marks, Haye, Jones.
LBs: Colin Allred looks like he’ll be the starting strongside LB the first four games while Gerald McRath is out. Jamie Winborn has taken a back seat this week. Will Witherspoon and Stephen Tulloch are comfortable at Will and Mike. Stanford Keglar returned to practice the other day and looked healthy. He’s been an invisible man for much of camp, nursing some kind of injury – I think it’s been a Schifino. Mike Rivera has continued to display terrible hands. David Thornton has sometimes been running on a side field. My depth chart: Strong side – McRath, Allred, Winborn. Middle – Tulloch, Rivera. Weak side – Witherspoon, Keglar, Curran.
CBs: Cortland Finnegan has watched from the sidelines or been in the clubhouse all week. Ryan Mouton missed several days of practice so Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner got all the work with the first-team defense. Verner has continued to improve and impress. When Mouton returned to practice Friday, he was with the second team and it seems to me he ought to stay behind Verner in the pecking order. Tye Hill also returned to the practice field. I’d like to see him hit some people (read Cardinals.) My depth chart: Finnegan, McCourty, Verner, Mouton, Hill.
NBs: Vince Fuller returned to practice at the end of the week and seems healthy. Besides looking better than Mouton at corner, Verner also looks better than him at nickel. My depth chart: Fuller, Verner, Mouton.
Safeties: Michael Griffin had another physical week on the days the team was padded. At least his shoulder is better and he should be a better tackler this year. Nick Schommer has returned to action and has been the second-team FS with Donnie Nickey at SS. Secondary coach Marcus Robertson has continued to talk a lot on the field to Robert Johnson, more so than I ever remember him doing with another DB. All of the safeties continue to be beaten deep, both by WRs and now by TEs as well - it could be another long season. My depth chart: SS – Hope, Nickey, Rolle. FS – Griffin, Schommer, Johnson.
Returners: Mariani and Pearman were fielding almost all of the returns until Damian Williams returned to practice last week. Unless something unexpected happens, they will be the only three in the mix to return kicks and punts. My depth chart: D. Williams, Mariani, Pearman.
With the exception of Thornton, if I haven’t listed a player on my positional depth charts, I either think he has zero chance of making the roster or I accidentally omitted him. I’ve ranked injured players on my depth charts according to where I think they’ll be when healthy. I have no idea if/when Thornton will be healthy enough to play again.
Jersey numbers to watch tonight: Witherspoon has been wearing #4 in practice but wore #92 vs the Seahags last week. I imagine he might be #92 again tonight. There should be some numbers in the 50′s available for him after the final roster cutdown, possibly including #50 (Thornton), #52 (Winborn), #57 (Rivera) and #59 (Keglar). As noted above, Raheem Brock is now #96 and Derrick Morgan does not have a number. Newcomers Samkon Gado is #36 and Chris Harrington is #77.