Continuing our look at the Titans' roster, its time to turn to the defensive side of the ball. Here's a link to the first article if you missed it. Remember, names in green are of players I want to keep or re-sign, orange is neutral and red means we should get a replacement.
Defensive Line (grouped as this on TitansOnline): Jurrell Casey, Sammie Lee Hill, Al Woods, Mike Martin, Karl Klug, Ropati Pitoitua, DaQuan Jones
This was an extremely hard group to figure out. The defense was so awful that trying to distribute praise and criticism was a challenge. Casey obviously gets an easy green vote but after that its all a mess. Sammie Lee Hill also got a green vote - for some reason I still trust Ray Horton's assessment of him. I went back and forth on Pitoitua but I think he's good enough to keep, perhaps more in a rotation. Jones was the final keeper of the group, but only because his grade must be considered incomplete at this point. In fact, if the team isn't willing to let him play early in 2015 I don't see much of a reason to keep him around. Separating the remaining three players was difficult, but Martin got a red vote because I don't think he's done enough the last few seasons to warrant a roster spot.
I figured for this group it would be easiest to discuss them by their category. Derrick Morgan is still a really good player. His role has changed this year a bit as he's been asked to drop into coverage occasionally but his pass rushing hasn't faltered. His 6.5 sacks tied his career high and if you like PFF grades, he posted a very good +14.6. Avery Williamson started off really hot once inserted into the starting lineup but a few weaknesses started showing up as the year progressed. I think he got lost behind blockers later in the season. Still, he's one of the best 'backers on the team and certainly one we can work to build around.
I wasn't a fan of Zach Brown in his last season with Mike Munchak, but the Titans are in no position to throw away players with potential at such a weak position on their depth chart. The rest of the names consist of a bunch of special teamers. Groves got significant playing time down the stretch, but he's most definitely not suited for a starting spot.
It is never a good sign when two of your team's starters are this low on the list. Wimbley and Woodyard were absolutely horrific this year. I can't find an aspect of the game that either excelled at. Neither of them should be back. Moch jumped from the practice squad to the active roster for three games. Its a small sample size certainly, but he looked lost out there and didn't flash enough physical ability for me to want to keep him on the roster. Colin McCarthy's time as a Titan is likely over. Too many injuries and not nearly enough consistent play to bring back. Zaviar Gooden was simply a bad pick that went on to have an unremarkable career here.
Cornerback: Jason McCourty, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Brandon Harris, Coty Sensabaugh, Marqueston Huff, Khalid Wooten
I don't think Jason McCourty has been very good this year. In fact, I think he got exposed against top WRs consistently. We saw that he's not suited to be the top corner in this system. I'll hold out hope he can regain his form if he's not asked to be the top guy in our secondary. Huff is the only other player I'd certainly keep. The best way I can put it is that he managed to 'not fail' hard enough to be noticed consistently. The rest of the group was certainly noticed. Harris got his shot as a starter and blew it. Sensabaugh was decent last year so I'm willing to hold on to him as a slot corner if we can fix other positions. BWW was awful this year - so bad that I don't think there's any reason to think he'll improve.
Safety: Bernard Pollard, Michael Griffin, Daimion Stafford, George Wilson
Pollard's attitude is certainly something to be admired but the knock on him has always been his coverage skills. Stafford looks like a younger, cheaper version of Pollard, with the same weaknesses. George Wilson might be the most complete safety on this roster, which leads us to the debate on Michael Griffin. I don't know what to do with him. He's most certainly overpaid but he also wasn't as bad as he was in years past. Right now I'd lean towards getting two new starting safeties while keeping the backups.
Neutral/Look to Upgrade: 10
Cut/Do Not Re-Sign: 8
The numbers look fairly even across the board once again but if you look at starting spots it shows an uglier picture. I'd keep only ~50% of the current starters (5-6, depending on the DL set-up) and replacing that many starters is one heck of a challenge. By my count we need at least two starting LBs, one starting CB and potentially two starting safeties (keep Pitoitua but in a rotation, so you wind up with 5-6 new players).
Its hard to predict how aggressive the Titans will be in revamping the roster. If you keep both safeties then the task looks less challenging - but how willing should they be to keep that unit intact? I think we need a lot of change, and those changes need to happen at starting spots. Simply churning the bottom half of the roster is not enough.