Now, that's a very broad statement, but in a vacuum do you honestly disagree with me? Let's assume that Tony Brown and Jason Jones get healthy. Idealized, but also not too far outside the realm of possibility. Now, not only do you have two guys with extremely generic names up front, you also have a couple of proven pass rushers up the middle. Brown brings his size and experience, Jones brings youthful energy and immense ceiling. So ideally, you're working with two starters right off the bat that have been proven effective in the past.
Their backups this year will likely be a pair of recent early-round selections, Sen'Derrick Marks and Jurrell Casey. Casey is a lot of fun to watch and seems to be a realistic replacement to Tony Brown who may be on the way out sooner rather than later. I believe the term used to describe Casey's style of play was "nasty explosiveness", so that's always good. Wait...
Marks has been a disappointment thus far, but I see potential in him. While I have concerns about his durability, he showed great potential as a pass rusher in college. He's a freakish athlete for his size and is a terrific leader on the field, so I really think that it would be in the Titans' best interest to get this guy on the field a lot more in 2011. If he can live up to those Jonathan Babineaux comparisons, I will be a very happy man. In order to be more effective against the run, I'd like to see him put on some muscle mass, but I love him as a rotational player already.
Also hailing from Auburn is Tracy Rocker's pet project, Zach Clayton whom many consider to be a massive sleeper. He didn't put up any eye-popping numbers in college, but if you lined up next to Nick Fairley every single play, I'd imagine you'd feel a bit overshadowed too.
On the ends, you're probably looking at a couple of players that could both reach double-digit sacks next year. Dave Ball quietly had a great year in his injury shortened season tallying seven sacks. Now that the attacking philosophy of Jim Washburn have gone to Philly, who knows how he'll respond in 2011, but I'm fairly certain that he won't just "forget" how to rush the passer. On the other end is a player that excites me to no end; Derrick Morgan. I think we all know the story, Morgan was off to a solid start in 2010 but was forced to cut his season short after a knee injury. He was hyped up as a player with terrific stamina, strength, and initial quickness off the ball coming out of Georgia Tech last year and I fully expect to see all of those traits on display this year.
Finally, you have perhaps the best, if not least secure member of the group, Jason Babin. Say what you want about his personality, actually, don't, I'm kind of sick of hearing about it, he's a damn good football player that the Titans would be lucky to have line up at end next year. Recently voted into the top 100 players of 2011, Babin finally showed the talent that made him a first round pick for the Texans all those years ago last year and looks to pick up right where he left off.
Then you have the fringe contributors in Hall Davis, Jacob Ford, and Jovan Haye. None of these three figure to be big impact players in 2011, but having warm bodies that know how to play the position well enough is valuable when you have some notoriously fragile players starting. Lastly, Malcolm Sheppard and Marques Douglas will likely be fighting with Clayton for a roster spot. The more I read about Clayton the more I think he'll make the team, so let's just say that those two will battle it out for the last spot.
Now, you and I both know that injuries happen and that Babin is just as likely to walk as he is to come back, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a good foundation upon which a defense can be forged.
Overall, not a bad group of guys. In fact, they probably get my vote for the top unit in the division. Thoughts?