Pro Football Focus has been running a solid series of articles spotlighting key training camp position battles for each NFL team, and yesterday their gaze finally settled on the AFC South. Most of their picks make sense (OLBs for the Texans, QBs for the Jags and a vomit-inducing duo of choices at strong safety for the Colts), but the idea that our defensive tackles are involved in a battle royale is a bit of a head scratcher for me.
Really, the DTs? Lets see which battles you have to gloss over before you get to the DT group:
- QBs: Seriously. It's not even announced for sure who will be our starting signal caller for week one. It's been declared an open competition since the season ended.
- WRs: Set aside that this was written before Kenny Britt had his third knee surgery in the past 9 or so months, we'd still be looking at a very realistic possibility that Marc Mariani (who went to a Pro Bowl two seasons ago) and/or Lavelle Hawkins (who snagged 47 passes last year) could spend a good chunk of the season inactive on game day. How many guys can they keep active on Sundays after Britt, Washington, Wright and Williams; especially if Thompson comes on like we hope he will?
- OG, C: We auditioned roughly 3,000 guys at the center spot, and everyone watching this franchise knows that this staff now has qualms about dumping Harris or Amano if someone out of the Velasco/Vlachos/Matthews/Kropog/Stingily mix can make a push in camp. Plus, whoever wins those spots will start every game unless they're injured, and that won't be the case for anyone on the D-line.
- LBs: Sure, McCarthy and Ayers are essentially locks, but who gets that third spot out of McRath, Witherspoon and Brown? And never mind accurately predicting how things shakeout if we really see more 3-4 looks right away. Hell, if they put Ayers' hand on the ground you could see one or two pass rushing looks where all 5 are on the field.
- DTs: Finally we get to the real competition! Which duo among Klug, Casey, Smith, Marks, Clayton, Martin will lockdown the DT spot and relegate the rest of this talented group to the dusty, lonely end of the bench...
That's why this pick by PFF didn't make much sense to me. And they pretty much acknowledge it in the first sentence:
The Titans are a team that like [sic] to rotate their defensive line, especially on the interior, so all of these players figure to see some significant playing time.
That's even more so the case as Gray implements multiple looks in the front seven. Every one of those players is going to get significant run, with Casey/Smith/Martin focusing more so on run-stopping and Marks/Klug/possibly Clayton focusing on rushing the passer.
That's not a battle, or even a skirmish; that's a mildly contentious timeshare.