Titans 53 prediction, linebackers, May
The Titans spring signing period was loaded with special teamers. They added free agents almost exclusively for special teams. This is where they’re going to start to feel the crunch of those signings. Some of these special teamers may not make it.
Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are very good if not elite on the outside.
Avery Williamson is an excellent inside linebacker that started to struggle some in 2016. In a 3-4, he is paired with another inside linebacker. At times, this was a weak link. It’s unclear what was “on him” and what was Williamson trying to compensate or overcome due to the lesser player nearby.
The Titans re-signed Wesley Woodyard. Woodyard is fine for a veteran backup. As a starter, he lacks the punch of …a younger Woodyard. He’s not shedding blocks and attacking the ball as well as he used to.
The Titans failed to address their hole at inside linebacker and this was a major oversight by Jon Robinson. Or was it?
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Here’s a mouthful- Aaron Wallace was a rookie last season that played every linebacker spot, as he did in college, for his linebacker coach, who was his defensive coordinator in college. Titans linebacker coach Lou Spanos loved Wallace in college and recommended him to the Titans. He barely played until late in the season, and then he was intriguing. He made some plays, he got pushed around, he fought back, and then made some more plays. His ability to learn on the fly is outstanding. I don’t know if he is a starter though. He may just be a super useful backup that can fill in all over.
Spanos must have been in Robinson’s ear again during this draft because they did it again in 2017, when they drafted Jayon Brown, yet another of his former college linebackers. Brown is not as smooth in switching from one linebacker spot to another. He is better suited to play outside. The Titans don’t need help outside and he’s quite undersized when compared to the other Titans outside linebackers. Brown is wonderful in coverage. I’m expecting a scenario (in camp and preseason)where he subs in for Woodyard on 3rd down and/or is involved in the nickel defense. He doesn’t shed blockers well enough to play inside all the time and seems a bit miscast here, however…his college coach surely knows what he’s getting in Brown. I’m a bit curious here, but not projecting Brown to make the roster as of now.
Nate Palmer once started for the Green Bay Packers. He was re-signed by the Titans this offseason- that shows a clear interest in him. He is a useful special teams player and a quality backup. I don’t think he makes it over Wallace though.
The three inside linebackers will be Wallace, Williamson, and Woodyard.
College defensive end Kevin Dodd is joined by college defensive end Josh Carraway as the primary backups to Orakpo and Morgan. If Wallace or Brown bounce outside, Carraway and Dodd could be in for an intriguing camp battle. As of May, I’m expecting each to be the primary backup.
Justin Staples has rarely played in games at linebacker, but he has been a useful special teams player the last few years. He followed the former defensive coordinator Ray Horton to the Titans. The Titans signed Darren Bates from Oakland. He is a much better special teams player and should replace Staples in this specific special teams role. Hopefully Bates is a surprisingly impressive inside linebacker that can help beef up that unit. As of now, I’m just expecting him to play special teams.
That’s seven linebackers. That’s it.Reshard Cliett
Reshard Cliett is a backup the Titans picked up. He is very fast. In a “speed kills” vein, he has a chance to make an impact. The odds are strongly against it though. I’m not pencilling Cliett or Kourtnei Brown as making the team.