Glad to see that me and VERY few others aren't the only ones that think are DE's are Capable. This is there year to step up and I think one if not both will.
Tennessee's 2005 and 2006 draft classes have produced as many as 13 players who will start or at least play key roles for the '07 Titans. That list of 13 does not included suspended cornerback Pacman Jones or starting fullback Ahmard Hall, who was an undrafted signee last year.
Even without Jones, the two draft classes combined are very good. They will be the heart and soul of the Tennessee resurgence over the next few seasons.
And if some increased help can step forward from the 2004 draft class, that resurgence could come even faster.
The Titans drafted 13 players in 2004. Five players are already gone, which is no surprise. You would figure to have 30%-50% attrition from a class headed into its fourth season.
Left guard Jacob Bell has started two of his three seasons with the team and might have started all three if not for a serious knee injury in late 2004. Bell has arguably been the best of the '04 group, especially since he was a fifth-round pick.
Linebacker Robert Reynolds was taken 27 spots below Bell in the fifth round and has improved throughout his time with the Titans. Reynolds' versatility and special teams' ability will give him a solid shot to make the '07 roster, in spite of the increased depth at linebacker.
Seventh-round pick Eugene Amano has been a very solid backup in the offensive line that could end up a starter in the future. Amano figures to be the in NFL for several years.
Michael Waddell was taken in the fourth round in 2004, largely to be a punt and kick returner. Waddell could not break through in either return area, but he did appear in all 32 games in '04-'05 as a cornerback and special teams performer. In a freak, non-football injury, Waddell suffered a torn patellar tendon in early 2006 and missed the entire season. He is back now and has looked capable in mini-camps. If Waddell's speed is back and he can be a backup cornerback and cover kicks as he did in 2005, he can help this football team.
The other four remaining members of the 2004 draft class are the most important when it comes to possible progress for Tennessee.
After catching 55 passes in 2005, Ben Troupe looked like a million dollars in '06 training camp. Once the season started, however, Troupe caught just 13 passes in the first ten games and then suffered a foot injury that ended his season.
Travis LaBoy has played in 41 games in his three years with the Titans, starting 20 at defensive end. While never having faced a serious injury, LaBoy has been banged up quite a bit, which has limited his number of plays. LaBoy has 155 career tackles and 13.5 sacks.
Fellow defensive end Antwan Odom played in 32 games in 2004-05, starting 16. He totaled 93 tackles and four sacks in those two seasons. 2006 was a lost year for Odom due to knee problems. He played in just four games.
Defensive tackle Randy Starks became a starter late in his rookie year of 2004. Down the '04 stretch, Starks was explosive, totaling 53 hits and 4.5 sacks. In the last two seasons, Starks has notched six total sacks, but lost his starting job last November.
It is hard to completely judge the 2004 class due to some serious injuries. But one cannot argue that this group has also been beset by inconsistency. That's why the "ifs" come out when you look to 2007.
If Troupe can regain his 2005 form, he can be a huge asset to Vince Young in the passing game. Troupe's re-emergence could take some pressure off of the Titans' receiving corps.
If LaBoy and Odom can combine for double-digits sacks at one defensive end spot, many would guess that the other defensive end, Kyle Vanden Bosch, might be freed up to garner double-digits sacks himself.
If Starks can become a constant disruptive force, the Titans' defensive line could be vastly improve.
A lot of times, people focus on what new players (rookies or free agents) add to a team. They also focus on what players that you still need to get to fill holes. Sometimes, it's forgotten that you may well have players on the roster that can get healthy or simply blossom and make the difference.
For the 2007 Titans, those players may well be in the '04 draft class. For Tennessee and for themselves, the time for them to step up is now.