Plenty has changed with the Tennessee Titans in recent months, but there’s plenty to be sorted out between now and the start of the regular season.
The fight for starting spots and roster spots is about to heat up.
The Titans return to the field Tuesday for three straight days of organized team activities. The bulk of their work will come in June, when they’ll be on the field for seven OTAs, along with a three-day minicamp.
Training camp is scheduled to begin in late July.
Here’s a look at five players who need to rise to the occasion with some newcomers now in the mix:
Running Back Shonn Greene
His roster spot should be safe, right? The Titans already did away with one running back from a year ago in Chris Johnson, so would they really consider sending another one packing?
I haven’t heard any buzz suggesting it could happen, but let’s just say stranger things have occurred. This much is known: Greene was underwhelming in 2013, and he recently had a second knee surgery. He’s scheduled to earn $2.3 million in 2014, and that’s not chump change. The Titans drafted Bishop Sankey, and the team plans to use Dexter McCluster in the backfield. A big back is on board in Jackie Battle, and undrafted rookie Antonio Andrews of Western Kentucky is no slouch. Greene won’t take part in the OTAs, so he’ll need to prove his worth in camp.
Offensive Tackle Michael Oher
When the Titans signed Oher to a four-year, $20 million in March, everyone penciled him in as the starter at right tackle.
Is there an eraser handy?
Oher probably can’t help but wonder himself, and to some degree, veteran tackle Michael Roos probably has questions after the team drafted Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan in the first round of the NFL Draft. I fully expect all three tackles to be on the roster in week one, barring an injury. I also expect Lewan’s physicality to create a difficult decision for coaches as they decide on the best two of the threesome.
I can’t see a scenario where Roos isn’t a starter, whether it’s on the left or the right side. The Titans will need to be convinced Oher’s a better option than the rookie with big skills. Time will tell.
Quarterback Jake Locker
Yes, the starting quarterback is always on the spot. However, with the addition of sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger, Locker now has another guy aiming to eventually unseat him.
Let’s keep it real here: Mettenberger is not going to challenge Locker for the starting spot at the start of the 2014 season. The Titans want Locker to win the job going away in training camp, and he’ll be given every opportunity to do so. Still, Locker can’t give coaches any reason to doubt themselves.
Keep in mind, backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was brought to town because new coach Ken Whisenhunt is a big fan. Locker will still be slow-going during the upcoming OTAs as he continues to work his way back from Lisfranc surgery. When training camp begins, the Titans think he’ll be able to hit the ground running.
Defensive lineman Sammie Hill
The Titans banked on Hill’s potential when they signed the 328-pounder to a three-year, $11 million contract last March, but injuries slowed Hill down early and he never made a big impact in his first season with the team. Now he’s scheduled to make a hefty salary of $3.3 million, and he has some new big-bodied company around him in former Steeler Al Woods (307 pounds) and draft pick DaQuan Jones (322 pounds).
Let’s not forget the Titans have depth on the defensive line, especially in the interior, where Hill is best suited to play. The Titans plan to audition players at a number of spots to find the right fit. Hill needs to stand out, considering he’s scheduled to be the highest-paid defensive lineman on the team.
The inside linebackers
Yes, we’re cheating here since it’s technically supposed to be five “players” on the spot. But Colin McCarthy, Moise Fokou, Zach Brown and Zaviar Gooden are all in the same boat. They’re returners on a team changing things up on defense, and they’re adjusting on the fly. And now a newcomer in Avery Williamson is in the mix after being drafted in the fifth round out of Kentucky.
This is a given: Wesley Woodyard will start at one of the inside linebacker spots. But there’s nothing guaranteed for the rest of the inside linebackers on the roster, so they’ll need to make a case for themselves in the upcoming OTAs.