We continue our look at the players who could make or break the Titans 2014 season. We've looked at uber-athletic linebacker Zach Brown and young phenom Justin Hunter so far. Both those guys have roles to fill on the 2014 Titans squad, and should make a big difference, one way or the other, in the fortunes of the team's offense and defense. The next player on our list has big shoes to fill, and has the potential to elevate the Titans defense to new heights, or allow it to crash and burn in Jerry Gray-style failure.
# 3 Blidi Wreh-Wilson
Whether the Titans envisioned Alterraun Verner's departure long term or not, there is now a heap of pressure on second year corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson to step up in his stead. Wreh-Wilson has ideal size and arm length, with which he has proven excellent at disrupting passes. He's also got the strength to jam receivers at the line, something he did adeptly at the college level in Connecticut, where he excelled in a man-coverage-heavy scheme.
Beyond this, he was also a versatile defender while at Connecticut, playing both inside and out. While his size may suggest he is a solely outside defender, he has proven he can play the slot if need be. He showed the ability to plant and drive to the football to break up passes, and with seven college interceptions to his name (two of which he returned for scores), Wreh-Wilson has the skills to transition well the to NFL level.
In his first season with the Titans, he played under 100 snaps and didn't see any real significant action. With Verner now in Tampa Bay, Blidi Wreh-Wilson stands as the favorite to win the outside spot, stepping up to the position he was drafted to man. Thus far into training camp, he has looked solid, and he split snaps with Coty Sensabaugh during OTA's as well.
Not without weakness, Wreh-Wilson did struggle with the more slippery receivers out of the slot. He also came out of college with less than ideal strength to shed defenders and play the run, something that is of premium importance in Ray Horton's scheme. His deficiency in this area remains a concern, and his lack of top end athletic ability may favor a zone-heavy scheme as opposed to a man-centric one. While possessing solid technique for a young player, his struggles to consistently wrap up tackles could haunt the team if not addressed.
In a league where offensive talent is taking over, having two quality starters at corner is a must. With the Titans now in flux, having Wreh-Wilson step up into that vacated spot is a big ask. If he can prove himself there and excel, the Titans will have a much better chance of getting to the quarterback on passing downs, and subsequently, getting off the field. If not, Tennessee will be looking at a quasi repeat of 2012, where receivers found space underneath consistently, and negated any good efforts by the defensive line.
Wreh-Wilson carries a lot of that responsibility this coming season, and could well be a big difference maker one way or the other in Tennessee having an improved defense. Only time will tell, but should Wreh-Wilson win the CB2 spot as expected, he will shoulder a lot of the Titans defensive fortunes on his shoulders in 2014.