Early predictions for Tennessee Titans training camp battles

The start of the NFL regular season is officially less than 100 days away, and the Tennessee Titans are already preparing for a new campaign under Ken Whisenhunt.

Virtually no one’s starting job is safe on this roster, including Jake Locker’s at quarterback. It’s a clear indication that this roster has a lot of depth across the board, and that’s never a bad thing.

There will be a handful of must-watch training camp battles that are beginnig to take shape in early action of OTAs. You can expect the friendly competition to play out in the preseason as well.

It’s never too early to start predicting the victors of these training camp battles who will end up making or breaking the Titans’ 2014 season.

Quarterback

This is really a two-horse race between Jake Locker and Zach Mettenberger, with Locker getting a huge head start over a rookie who figures to be somewhat of a project.

Charlie Whitehurst was brought in to basically be a mentor to Locker as he’s had experience playing quarterback under Whisenhunt as recently as last season. A few unfortunate injuries are the only way Whitehurst wins the starting job, and it would be by default.

Early looks at Locker’s progress have been positive as he looks to make up for lost time.

Locker has always been a pretty decent practice quarterback, and that will show throughout these early practices to set him apart from the other quarterbacks on the roster. He will look sharp enough to afford himself another opportunity to live up to his selection at eighth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.

The only way I could foresee Mettenberger leaping ahead of Locker on the depth chart is if there is some sort of injury setback on the part of Locker. That would have to be coupled with amazing progress from Mettenberger.

We all know Mettenberger has a cannon for an arm, which will translate well to the NFL. However, he has to prove that he can read NFL defenses before the TItans can risk throwing him out to the wolves against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1.

It won’t be an easy task for any of the Titans’ quarterbacks against a tough Chiefs defense on the road, but Locker is still the safest bet to be that guy.

Winner: Jake Locker

Running Back

The Titans will use a host of running backs in 2014, but the one who gets the most consistent touches will be won in training camp and preseason.

Shonn Greene is another player on this offense who has a lot to prove after suffering some tough luck with injuries in 2013.

Greene haveing another knee scope recently doesn’t help his cause in the early going of this position battles. He was signed to a hefty three-year, $10 million contract before last season. The jury is still out on if that was a smart move.

There will be much healthy competition at running back that will include second-round draft pick Bishop Sankey and free agency acquisition Dexter McCluster.

I love what McCluster will bring in terms of big-play ability, but he’s not a player who’s going to regularly get carries throughout the game. However, there may be some games when the flow dictates a steady dose of McCluster.

Sankey is the all-around player who can do it all. He offers the most value to this offense, even as a rookie. He still has to obviously prove it in training camp, but he’s the early front-runner in a race with other players who are more specialty backs.

Winner: Bishop Sankey

Cornerback

This will be one of the closer training camp battles between Coty Sensabaugh, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Tommie Campbell, Khalid Wooten and fourth-round draft pick Marqueston Huff.

Jason McCourty is locked in as one of the starters at cornerback, and his effectiveness has been widely overlooked. He will get a great chance to show that he is just as valuable as Alterraun Verner was last season.

In the end, it’s going to come down to a tough decision between Sensabaugh and Wreh-Wilson. Both have high hopes to become eventual starters, but Sensabaugh has more experience of the two.

It will be interesting to see if Campbell’s raw athelticism is enough to even earn him a roster spot, much less consideration for a starting role.

Wreh-Wilson was a third-round pick from 2013, so expectations for him have to still remain high from the organization.

I could see Wreh-Wilson getting a considerable amount of playing time in 2014, but Sensabaugh wins the starting role in Week 1 thanks to his previous success as a nickelback.

Winner: Coty Sensabaugh

Offensive Tackle

It didn’t take long at all for Taylor Lewan to start impressing people at offseason workouts. His selection at 11th overall was a bit of a shocker from a Titans team that already had two veteran starters in place at offensive tackle.

Lewan has already gotten some high praise from his teammates, including Jake Locker.

Don’t discount Lewan making a push for a starting position over Michael Roos, who is at age 31 and past the peak of his career.

Michael Oher was obtained in free agency, so I can’t see him getting overtaken by a rookie. He will effectively be the replacement for David Stewart.

This offensive line has gradually evolved into a very formidable one. Maybe even the strongest area of the entire team. Lewan will continue to impress in training camp, but Roos’ nine years of success and NFL experience has to count for something.

The Titans will choose to go with two veterans at offensive tackle in week one, with Lewan not being too far off from starting if either one struggles.

Winners: Michael Roos and Michael Oher

Kicker

The position battle at kicker might take the longest to settle before the regular season begins. It’s between two inexperienced kickers: Maikon Bonani and Travis Coons.

Bonani was on the team last season, and Coons was recently signed as an undrafted free agent.

If Bonani can improve on his accuracy, then it’s his job to win. He already has the prototypical strong leg that you want out of your kicker.

Coons saw time at both kicker and punter while at the University of Washington. His versatility adds a little more value to him, but he saw minimal action in his collegiate career with only 30 attempts. He did convert 24 of those attempts.

This will be a pretty sraightforward competition to judge. The one who makes the kicks in clutch situations in the preseason will most likely win the tough job of filling Rob Bironas’ shoes.

If neither of these guys have strong training camps, then the Titans might have to go find a veteran kicker at the last minute. Having one of the young kickers would be more ideal so that the Titans can being grooming their kicker of years to come.

However, you can’t overlook the risk of heading into the regular season with an inexperienced kicker, and both of these guys are just that. It seems that the Titans are willing to roll the dice after an ugly special teams showing in 2013. They will end up doing so with Bonani and his strong leg.

[Early projections for the Tennessee Titans final 53-man roster]

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