The Titans DT corps got a shot in the arm in 2013, after being a weakness on the Team in 2012. The numbers were improved across the board on the interior, especially with the emergence of Jurrell Casey. However, the group was still a way's from where it needs to be in defending the run. Turns out "getting bigger" at DT wasn't an appropriate answer.
($670k in 2014, final year)
The undisputed star of the Titans front seven, Casey exploded in 2014 with 55 total tackles and 10.5 sacks. The impressive campaign landed him at 4th among DT's in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. He also added 2 passes defensed and a forced fumble which sealed the win in St. Louis. Karl Klug (97) is also worth watching on the play below.
Casey is coming into the final year of his affordable rookie deal. The Titans would be wise to lock him down long term asap, as I can only see his worth increasing if he puts in another great season. Casey proved too much to handle for most of the year, providing the Titans' most consistent pressure, which is a very rare thing from a DT. His efforts masked the poor pressure generated off the edges this past year.
The knee injury that held him out of the pro-bowl wasn't considered a serious one. As for next season, the transition to Ray Horton's defense will be something to watch. Casey is an ideal 4-3 3-tech DT, but lacks ideal height for a proto-typical 3-4 DE, and the weight for a 3-4 NT. As has been said however, it is more likely that the Titans show a similar 4-3 under look most of the time, where Casey has already displayed his dominance.
($3.3 million in 2014)
Hill is looking like a flop as far as production to contract is concerned. He has a chance to redeem himself with a new staff this coming season, but will need to show much better form in 2014 to justify his contract. His multiple injuries in 2013 didn't help his cause, and no doubt hampered his play throughout the year. He was brought in to shore up the run defense, and mostly failed to do that when he was on the field.
I tend to think physical measurables are overrated in some sense. Thus far in his Titans career, Hill falls into that category.
($590k in 2014)
I expected to see a lot more of Mike Martin than I did this past season. He played well enough in spots during his rookie season to warrant an increase in duty. With the Titans very deep at DT, I can understand the lack of snaps. Martin is a talented player at this point, bull-strong at the point of attack, with the skill set to play both the pass and the run. I expect his duties to increase this next season, especially if the Titans decide to cut ties with Hill, which I think is unlikely at this point, but certainly a possibility.
($645k in 2014, final year)
Klug maintained his status as an enigma this past season. Despite low snaps yet again, the undersized DT was a force when rushing the passer. Per multiple metrics, Klug's pass rushing efficiency was on par with Jurrell Casey's, that being No. 1 and 2 in the entire NFL. His physical specifications had him playing some from the DE spot as well, and in base 3-4 looks, Klug looks like an excellent fit at DE in 2014. He should see some nice match-ups at that spot next year.
I sincerely hope this new coaching staff figures out how to get Klug on the field, better so than did the last crew. Despite playing a paltry amount of snaps in his first few seasons, Klug has notched 12.5 sacks, one of the higher totals on the team in that span.
Johnson was a late add to the DT rotation in Tennessee last season. He provided added depth to the unit, and actually played quite well when given the chance. He finished the season with 3 sacks and 22 total tackles, improving on his prior stigma of playing poorly against the run. He played better with the Titans in 2013 than he did with the Colts in 2012. I doubt he'll be back next year as he is a FA at this point, but credit Ruston for an effective stop-gap to bolster the DT unit at the last minute.
Looking to 2014:
The DT corps is possibly the team's deepest unit. That aside, they could do better than Hill as far as "starting DT" is concerned. There has always been a very heavy rotation of the linemen in Tennessee, so I don't see a lot of change. With "Mookie" Johnson gone, look for the team to add a couple of bodies to battle out that last spot in camp. Hill could be a surprise cut, but nothing is set in stone at this point. As it stands, the team looks ready to make the "switch" to Ray Horton's defensive scheme, and I think he'll get more out of these guys. If Casey can maintain his crazy level of play, this could be an increasingly dangerous group in 2014.
For the other position groups, see below: