Which Titans Defensive Linemen Will Be the Odd Men Out?

Harry How

The Titans are stocked on the defensive line this year which obviously means some players won't make the cut. Who is on the roster bubble and why?

The Titans currently list 16 defensive linemen on their roster. It is unlikely they carry more than 10 and they could choose to carry 9 since there are some guys who can and/or should play multiple positions. So which defensive linemen could end up being the odd men out? Let's take a look.

Defensive End

At left defensive end, the Titans currently list Derrick Morgan, Scott Solomon, Lavar Edwards, Thaddeous Gibson, and Nigel Nicholas. At right defensive end, the Titans have listed Kamerion Wimbley, Ropati Pitoitua, and Keyunta Dawson. The roster locks I see are Morgan, Wimbley, Edwards and probably Ropati Pitoitua.

Edwards of course is the Titans 5th round pick this year and is a versatile defender. He can play both end positions plus he can also slide inside and play tackle. Barring something unforeseen, I think he will play a lot out of the gate and be a productive contributor his rookie season.

Pitoitua is 28 years old and signed a one year one million dollar deal on 03/25/2013. He was an undrafted free agent signed by the Jets in 2008 but did not play his first year in the league. In 2009, Pitoitua played in the Jets 4-3 defense where he played both end positions, splitting time pretty much equally on passing and run downs. He didn't play in 2010 but did play in the Jets 3-4 defense in 2011 where he played both LE and RE and a bit more on run downs than passing downs. In 2012, he played for the Chiefs in their 3-4 in 2012, again playing both LE and RE with his playing time weighted more toward run downs than passing downs. He has 73 career tackles, 3 sacks and 1 pass defended.

Despite being in his 2nd year, Solomon could already be a roster casualty. However, the Titans have indicated they are going to try him at linebacker too, a position where he is listed behind Akeem Ayers and Tim Shaw. Solomon struggled at defensive end last year and only ended up playing 169 defensive snaps (18.3%). He played in 13 games and logged 4 tackles.

Linebacker may be a better spot for him as he is listed at 6' 3" and 263 pounds and really strikes me as having the body and frame for a linebacker more so than a defensive end. Besides, the Titans are moving toward more girth on the line and Solomon doesn't fit the mold. Having said that, I think it is certainly possible Solomon can make the roster as a swing player if he ends up being able to play both linebacker as well as defensive end. Can he make the roster if he struggles at linebacker? I doubt it.

Dawson is 27 years old and has always played in a 4-3 defense. He can play both inside and outside too but hasn't played significantly since 2010 and his play has been very much a mixed bag. He has only 1 career sack and it's unlikely he sticks in my opinion. Even with a good training camp there are just too many numbers and too few spots.

Thadeous Gibson has been in the league for 3 years with no impact and is appears unlikely to make the team. Nigel Nicholas is a UDFA who could make the team on the practice squad. It is certainly possible if the Titans are satisfied with their current crop of defensive ends that they look into the second round of free agency that will begin following training camp cuts.

Defensive Tackle

At left defensive tackle, the Titans have listed Sammie Lee Hill, Karl Klug and Antonio Johnson. At right defensive tackle is Jurrell Casey, Mike Martin, DaJohn Harris, Zach Clayton, Stefan Charles. The locks I see are Hill, Casey, Martin.

Titans fans might remember Antonio "Mookie' Johnson from 2007 when the Titans drafted him in the 5th round. He tore his ACL his rookie season and went on IR. In 2008, the Titans tried to stash him on the practice squad but the Colts signed him on November 8, 2008 and he spent the last 5 seasons with them. Johnson's stat lines from the Colts are modest, but he certainly brings some bulk to the Titans defensive line with his 6' 3" and 310 pound frame. He has 121 career tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 passes defended.

Karl Klug is an interesting guy to discuss since he seems to have fallen out of favor with the Titans. A 5th round draft pick by the Titans in 2011, Klug led all rookie defensive tackles with sacks his rookie year with 7. His production, and playing time, dropped dramatically in 2012 where he only registered 3.5 sacks. Still, that was more than both Casey (3 sacks) and Sen'Derrick Marks (1.5 sacks). He has 27 career tackles, 5 passes defended and 2 forced fumbles.

The Titans are going to try Klug at defensive end and while they haven't specified I have speculated he will play the strongside defensive end position where they can take advantage of his pass rushing ability and strength. The question mark in my mind will be how well he contains on run plays.

DaJohn Harris signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent out of USC. He is another guy who adds some girth to the line with his 6' 3" and 306 pound frame but in 7 games last year he only managed to produce 3 tackles. In all fairness he did only play 81 snaps. Harris is on the depth chart at right defensive tackle right in front of Zach Clayton and Stefan Charles.

Zach Clayton is another guy fighting for a job. He was a 7th round draft pick in 2011 who was on the roster in 2011 and played 3 games registering 3 tackles. He spent 2012 on the Titans practice squad. At 6' 2" and 299, Clayton is a undersized compared to the other DTs on the roster. It is doubtful he makes the active roster but he could land on the practice squad again since it appears he has remaining practice squad eligibility.

Finally, Stefan Charles might be a dark horse candidate to make the squad. In my opinion, he has as much of a shot as the other back end candidates. At 6' 5" and 320 pounds, Charles was excellent playing football in Canada and really excelled at the CFL combine. Several NFL teams showed interest in him but after failing to get drafted he opted to sign with the Titans. Charles' teammate during the 2011 season was Akiem Hicks who was drafted by the Saints Round 3 (pick #89) of the 2012 draft and had a very solid season with the Saints. If you haven't seen it before, here is his highlight reel. I for one am really anxious to watch him on the field in training camp.

My roster right now on the defensive line would be Morgan, Wimbley, Edwards, Casey, Hill, Martin, Pitoitua, Klug and Mookie Johnson. I hate to give a roster spot to an undrafted free agent I haven't seen on the field but Charles is definitively intriguing and if I had to choose a 10th spot it would be between him and DaJohn Harris.

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