After one of the most exciting and significant off-seasons in Tennessee Titans’ history, training camp is finally around the corner. Between positional competitions, coaching changes, and several new pieces, there are a number of interesting storylines that all Titans fans should keep an eye on this summer. The plan is took examine a new one each day until camp arrives.
Yesterday, we looked at Marcus Mariota’s contract situation. Today, we will flip over to the defensive side of the ball. The Titans spent a good amount of money in March on outside linebacker, Brian Orakpo. While this was a move with a lot of upside, the Titans must be cautious this summer. If OTA’s were any indication, the team seems to be on the right track as far as handling him correctly. They eased him along, and he was very limited in team drills. Given Orakpo’s injury history, they need to do everything that they can to ensure that he is full go in September, and ready for 16 games. His situation reminds me a little bit of Kenny Britt’s going into just about every training camp. At the beginning they should probably take it easy with him, and very slowly and gradually ramp things up. If there is even the slightest hint of a setback or soreness, they should probably sit him. While mental reps are not ideal, especially for newcomers, I trust a veteran like Brian Orakpo to be able to properly handle time off.
While outside linebacker was a glaring need going into this off-season, it was not hit as hard as it could have been by the front office. They are still not very deep at the position behind the starters. Not only will limiting Orakpo’s reps help as far as preserving him, but it should also help young linebackers, such as J.R. Tavai and Deiontrez Mount get some time with the 1’s and 2’s that they normally wouldn’t.
Orakpo’s level of play after all of the injuries he has faced is something that remains to be seen. As a player whose game was built around power, multiple torn pectoral muscles will almost certainly water that aspect down. He re-evaluated his training regimen and switched to a more finesse approach, putting less stress on the pectorals, but changing your game is an entirely different animal. It will be a very tough balancing act for the team to get him enough reps for him to make some changes to his game and feel comfortable, but remain limited and healthy.
If Brian Orakpo goes down or has lost it, then the Titans are not very far off from where they were at outside linebacker last year. Realistically, the team just needs to ride him for this season and cross their fingers, before being able to really beef up at outside linebacker in 2016—the offensive approach to the draft somewhat hindered that this year. One can easily make the argument that he is the most important player on the defense this year. Outside of Marcus Mariota, keeping Orakpo healthy for all 16 games should be one of the biggest priorities for the team.