Who can the Titans least afford to lose?
Fellow blogger Jordan Churchill just finished a series on the top 5 players that will make or break the Titans season. While the focus being on young players that need to take the next step in order to further advance this franchise, I decided to take another direction and look at who the Titans needed the most, or who is the least replaceable.
Let's take a look at the options.
The obvious vital cog here is Jurrell Casey. An underrated wrecking machine on the interior of the defensive line. His constant pressure and sacks are a huge help to the Titan's secondary, but he's not a one trick pony by any measure. His ability to read the run and shed blocks is among the best among interior lineman as well. We will soon see if his abilities can translate to defensive coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme.
The Titans currently have more depth at this position than I can remember. The current first team rotation in camp consists of Kamerion Wimbley, Wesley Woodyard, Zach Brown, and Derrick Morgan. Wimbley didn't shine in the transition to defensive end in the 4-3 last year and looks more at home at OLB. Subsequently Derrick Morgan is making the opposite transition this year and will try his hand moving back to linebacker. Zach Brown spent the latter part of the previous season in the doghouse and has been spoken about needing to prove himself to the current staff. While a critical cog in a 3-4 scheme and vital to the success of the defense, you would be hard pressed to say that any of these players would make or break the defense's season.
The Titan's secondary played very well last year with the key additions of Bernard Pollard, George Wilson along with the coaching help of Gregg Williams. Pollard's attitude and playing ability aided in multiple sets by the savvy veteran play of George Wilson helped return Michael Griffin to his old form. Alterraun Verner played lights out and McCourty ranked as one of the best corners in the league, while Coty Sensabaugh came along well in the slot.
Verner has moved on, but the rest of the secondary remains intact and ready for another year.
In my mind the winner here is McCourty. Much has been made about the current battle between Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson vying for the outside corner spot opposite of McCourty. But while the front office was okay with letting the next generation take over for the now departed Alterraun Verner, and likewise the previous departure of Cortland Finnegan, they have seen it fit to lock up McCourty for the long term. In fact, Jason McCourty's consistent play and reliability are part of what would allow the team to move on at the depth of the position.
Casey is a close second, but his value and play in the new scheme of the front seven is yet to be seen. While I personally think there isn't much that can stop Casey, the Titans are slightly deeper at his position than in the secondary.
If McCourty were taken off the field, the team might be able to hold on in two corner sets with BWW and Sensabaugh, but would be stretched way too thin in nickel and dime packages without proven depth. At that point you are looking at Marqueston Huff and/or Tommie Campbell consistently seeing the field. In a league that is ever on the move towards a passing basis, one of the best corner's in the league is just too valuable to lose.