Parsing Ruston Webster: Insight from the Titans’ new GM

A couple years ago, I wrote a piece parsing some of what Mike Reinfeldt said about his football philosophy and ideas when he was a relatively young general manager. Now, it’s been Ruston Webster’s turn to make the rounds, speaking first at a lunch at Lipscomb University and then on a conference call to season ticket holders (audio link, no transcript). I don’t think Webster overall was quite as revealing as I remember Reinfeldt being, but here are the high points:

  • Improving the offensive line and the defensive front seven was a repeated theme in both talks.
  • Defensive front seven was mentioned in the conference call as an area where the draft would be strong at pick 20. I wouldn’t read too much into this, just as Mike Munchak’s comments don’t mean the right interior offensive lineman couldn’t be the guy there.
  • The Titans are happy with their quarterback situation. No means no on Peyton Manning. Peyton’s under contract, so he couldn’t be quite that explicit, but no. No. If I thought it was a real possibility, I’d have written a post on it already.
  • Chris Johnson’s flaws, assuming you believe there are such things, were not mentioned. The offensive line was. I didn’t hear anything that told me the offensive line would change other than a new right guard, which he didn’t explicitly promise either but we all know is coming.
  • He also cited defensive backs as a strength of the draft, and mentioned improving the pass rush as a way to improve the defensive backs. I’ll mention this more when I write the cornerbacks preview, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them go there in the middle rounds or possibly even earlier.
  • Personally, I see the Lavelle Hawkins signing as indicating the Titans are at least relatively happy with their top four receivers, plus Mariani as the fifth, and if James Kirkendoll and/or Michael Preston as a sixth guy with upside, that’s great, but Webster didn’t foreclose the possibility of taking a wide receiver if that’s the best player there.
  • There were polite comments about how they’d of course take a look at re-signing popular players, and bringing in local players for a look, and looking at Sun Belt players, but I heard nothing to indicate Webster would be letting local sports talk run the team. Some teams/owners seem to have been influenced by that at times, virtually always to mediocre at best results.
  • The one particularly revealing thing Webster let slip came in response to a question about getting a great power runner like LeGarrette Blount-he didn’t mention Jame Harper. As I noted, the Titans were actually effective running in short yardage last year, and they didn’t need Harper for that. I’m not sure where he fits into their plans, including whether at halfback or fullback (he’s officially the same height as and eight pounders small than Ahmard Hall), but that wasn’t particularly an encouraging sign. I guess I’ll have to wait and see what kind of puff piece, if any, he gets this offseason.

Honestly, a lot of what Webster said really was GM-speak. His actions, though they’ll be constrained by various realities, will speak louder than his words did, and basically no NFL GM would give up lots of specifics in any sort of public or semi-public forum like these. There’s absolutely a chance I’m over-reading the power back/no Harper bit, but it was the closest thing to new information I noticed.

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