With the draft and free agency in the rear-view mirror and the Titans wrapping up OTA's, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look ahead to the 2014 pre-season. The Titans have match-ups against the Packers, Saints, Falcons, and Vikings to negotiate, but more importantly, it will give coaches and fans alike time to survey the team's talent, especially on the second tier and rookie levels. So while there are many names I will be watching closely come August 9th, who should garner the closest attention?
Coty Sensabaugh/Blidi Wreh-Wilson
The two young corners will continue their position battle into training camp and the pre-season, to fill in for the spot vacated by the departed Alterraun Verner. Both guys have plenty of physical tools, and have shown flashes of their talent, though Wreh-Wilson has had considerably less time to prove himself. While many prefer Coty to remain in the slot as he has shown signs of real growth there, I wouldn't discount him as a candidate for the second CB role. He has more experience than Wreh-Wilson, and if he proves a better option, he deserves to be on the field in two CB sets. The Titans could always bump him inside in the nickel and dime, and let Wreh-Wilson work outside, much in the way they used Cortland Finnegan once upon a time. Whoever wins this battle will be seeing a lot of the field in 2014, but I think both guys will get plenty of playing time regardless.
We've already talked about Hunter, and he was recently mentioned as a "Making The Leap" candidate for the 2014 season, in the same way Kendall Wright was last season. Hunter has rare physical tools to work with, and was impressive in less than 350 snaps last season. While he's not yet a complete wideout, and has some drop-issues, most stemming from allowing the ball into his body, he will be given every opportunity to shine next season. Whether he turns into the reliable X wide receiver for the Titans remains to be seen, but we should get a better idea of his progress come August. Learning his second system in two years is certainly a challenge, but Hunter should be ready to turn heads in 2014.
Less expectations accompany our next name. Taylor Thompson, much like Hunter, has some impressive measurables and physical tools, but his lack of experience coming into the league was plain to see. A converted DE, Thompson had a lot to learn at the NFL level, and received plenty of camp buzz last year. Mind you, he was a highly successful TE at the High School level. Thompson didn't see much time last season, alike any Tight End not named Delanie Walker, but he did continue his impressive acumen as a solid blocker and special teams player. All eyes are on his development as an offensive player in the coming pre-season, which will likely make or break his future with the team.
It really goes without saying, but coaches and fans alike are excited to see the new crop of rookies and they will dominate much of the attention in camp and the pre-season games. The Titans have some guys who should see a lot of playing time, and all will certainly get their chance to flash their talent come August. It will be worth watching if guys like OT Taylor Lewan, RB Bishop Sankey, DT Daquan Jones, and LB Avery Williamson can hit the ground running.