Die hard Titans fans are really digging into the back end of the roster for the team this year. While it's always interesting to debate the bubble players on the team and who will make the final 53 man roster, the debate feels more heated than normal. This is year is just different.
The Marc Mariani V. Darius Reynaud debate sparked a conversation of epic proportions here on MCM. Granted they are more than simply the last receiver or running back on the bench by being the returner, but the debate isn't just about them. A good part of the conversation is a result about the supposed domino effect of keeping one over the other. The influence the decision may have over the likes of perennial third string quarterback Rusty Smith, camp favorite Michael Preston, or this years camp battering ram Jackie Battle, has the Titan fan base talking to say the least.
A lot of this can be attributed to the annual swell of excitement this time of year that comes from a long off season. Every fan base is hopeful and everyone's record is 0-0. Mostly though, it's due to the Titans aggressive off season and free agent acquisitions, which leaves less room on the back end of the roster for unknowns. The coaching staff and front office have done everything they can to create competition on a previously depleted roster.
Either way, how nice will it be for the team to finally have depth at key positions? Every team goes through injuries during the year, and the depth of the team can go a long way towards wins and losses. Just look at the Green bay Packers of 2010 when they won the Superbowl, while littered with key injuries. For the first time in years Titans fans may not feel like throwing in the towel immediately as soon as a starter goes down.
On both the offense and the defense, it looks as though this depth will be utilized not by simply having a good player on the bench in case of injury, but also by rolling out multiple looks and packages. There's finally enough talent on the team on both sides of the ball to do that with.
Offensive "Depth" Players of note:
WR - Damian Williams, Justin Hunter, Michael Preston, Kevin Walter
TE - Taylor Thompson, Craig Stevens
RB- Shonn Greene
QB - Ryan Fitzpatrick
Defensive "Depth" Players of note:
S- George Wilson, Al Afalava
DL - Karl Klug, Mike Martin, Rapoti Pitoitua, Lavaar Edwards
LB - Moise Fokou, Zaviar Gooden
CB - Tommie Campbell, Blidi Wreh-Wilson
While there seems to be good to decent depth at previously thin positions such as wide receiver and corner back, there are still some weak spots. While Fokou and Greg Jones are providing good depth behind the oft injured Colin McCarthy at the middle line backer position, the outside linebackers have little of note behind them. Safety depth could also continue to be a concern.
Obviously depending on the defensive package or offensive personnel grouping, many of theses players will be used as more than backup. For the first time in a long time, the drop off in ability and production may not be so dramatic if a starter gets injured, or the team fields more than the base package of defenders at any one position group. This depth is key to being able to rotate position groups such as the defensive line and have ready replacements at positions such as wide receiver and corner back. Hopefully the upgrades to both the first and second level of players this off season will translate to an upgrade in wins and losses.
I had written this post on Saturday morning before the Bengals/Titans preseason game. After watching Akeem Ayers and Kendall Wright get carted off the field, I realized Akeem Ayers may be the one irreplaceable player on the roster. As high as I am on Kendall Wright, the drop off won't be huge to the next receiver to step up. Conversely, I don't think there's anyone on the roster with Akeem Ayers abilities and skill set. He's the move-able chess piece for Gregg Williams and Jerry Gray on this defense that can play linebacker and defensive end at will. An injury to Ayers would expose the Titans lack of depth at that particular position.