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Tennessee Titans Training Camp Preview: Safety

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With training camp around the corner, it's time to break down the team's position groups.

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

With training camp practically on our doorstep, it's time analyze the roster's position groups; the players, changes, expectations, and broad-stroke overviews. I'll start with the back end of the Titans defense and work down. Our fearless leader, Mr. Morris, will do the same for the offensive position groups.
The Titans have had issues at Safety for a number of seasons. That changed in 2013 when the team brought Bernard Pollard on board to start at Strong Safety, and reinforced the corps with veteran George Wilson. With Griffin having something of a resurgent season with the upgraded talent around him, the group looks more stable than it has in a long time here on the brink of the 2014 season.

The Players

#1: Michael Griffin {FS} - 82 tackles, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles.

At this time last season, people were losing their patience with the former Texas star safety. Griffin responded with a resurgent season in which he displayed some of the physical style he had not in the past few campaigns. With added talent around him Griffin was able to limit big plays to his quadrant of the field, and played with increased awareness and vigor.

Despite his lofty price tag, the Titans don't have any plans to cut ties with Griffin, and expect him to continue playing at the above-average level he did in 2013. At 29 years old, he's still got time to shine, and is signed with the team through 2016. In Horton's new defense, Griffin should fit in well, taking over some cover-1-heavy, single high looks.

#2: Bernard Pollard {SS} - 99 tackles, 3 Interceptions, 10 passes defensed.

Bernard Pollard didn't so much arrive in Tennessee as he exploded. Pollard was immediately a difference maker on the defensive side of the ball, both with his physicality and edge-setting ability against the run, and in his fearless leadership that made him an instant cornerstone. He responded with his best season as a pro, racking up around 100 tackles and making big plays against both the run and the pass.

With Titans fans fearing his exodus after only a single season, Pollard was re-upped to a two year, $6.3 million deal. If Griffin is a good fit in Horton's system, Pollard is a perfect one. His ability to help set the edge and "walk" down into the box makes him an exceptional tool. His liabilities against the pass were not highlighted last season, and he played respectably in that regard as well.

#3: George Wilson {SS} - 40 tackles, 1 Interception.

Wilson arrived before Pollard last off-season, and was immediately projected to the be the Titans starter at Strong Safety. He ended up playing second fiddle to Pollard, without complaint. Wilson was an unsung hero for the Titans in 2013, providing outstanding special teams play, slotting in very well in "Ruby", or three safety sets, and spelling Griffin and Pollard. He ended up with a respectable stat line including one game-sealing interception against the Jaguars.

The Titans smartly signed Wilson to a two year deal last season, giving the roster added flexibility, leadership, and one of the deepest safety groups in the league.

#4: Daimion Stafford - 8 tackles.

e Currently sitting at No. 4 on the Titans safety depth chart, Stafford is heading into year two of his professional career, with expectations that he will make a big leap in his growth as a player. The athletic safety didn't play much in 2013 (13 snaps). New Defensive Back Coach Louie Cioffi is confident that Stafford can make that jump.

"He is a very gifted, talented, athletic player...so we expect him to grow and be as productive as he was on special teams last year in a defensive role.

With talented veterans ahead of him, Stafford is a long shot to see extensive snaps this season either, but hopefully he can progress as the coaching staff intends and develop into an eventual starter down the road.

#5: Marqueston Huff

Huff was a reach as a 4th rounder, to me anyway. While his versatility made him a productive college player, his "jack of all trades, master of none" tab leaves much to be desired in the pro's. His frame is small for a safety, and he isn't a burner down the stretch either, limiting his potential as a corner.

The trick will be working him in on dime downs and seeing how he does. The Titans didn't spend a 4th round pick to gain a guy who's limited to special teams duty. It will be up to the coaching staff to develop him into something more.

What's Changed

Not a whole lot. The big three remain stable, which should add some benefits as far as unit cohesion is concerned. Huff enters the fray as a fringe player. Most of the coaching staff eyes will be on the development of Stafford. On the starting front, things should be relatively unchanged, save for learning Horton's system.

The Big Question

If any, the big question is can Michael Griffin maintain his level of play? With Griffin and Pollard holding strong on the Titans back-end, the defense posted improved numbers from the catastrophe that was the 2012 season. If Griffin can hold his own and continue to play smart, physical football, the rest of the secondary should follow suit.

I think Pollard fits into this new scheme like a puzzle piece. His play should remain stable, if not improve.

Best Case Scenario

The best case scenario is that both safeties play at a high level and avoid injuries. Not groundbreaking stuff. The Titans have a talented safety net in Wilson who can fill in at either Strong or Free Safety should things go awry. I would say the best case scenario (avoiding the obvious) would be seeing positive signs from the younger guys like Stafford and Huff.

Worst Case Scenario

As stated, the Titans are fairly safe with Wilson waiting in the wings, should anything happen injury-wise to the Titans top two defenders at the safety spot. Should Pollard go down, however; and it's a point we touched on recently on MCM Radio, is that his leadership and on field presence is not easily replaced or replicated.

Making sure the younger guys on defense have the right attitude, and line up in the correct spot, is something that is hard to quantify in the NFL, but it's easy to see the importance (most often when the player in question is no longer around). Pollard is huge for the Titans defense, and as we saw in 2013, the energy and philosophy he brings to the team is a huge plus.

Summary

The Titans should have the same starting safeties in 2014 as they do in 2015. It's beyond there before the team should start wondering who's picking up the reins. If they have faith that secondary guys like Huff and Stafford can be that kind of player, great. If not, they have time to pick and choose a replacement who can take over when the Pollard/Griffin combo are done in Tennessee. Hopefully for the Titans (and us, their fans), that won't be anytime soon.