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.
Today, we will look at the depth at outside linebacker. While hopefully the Titans take every precaution with Brian Orakpo and he manages to stay healthy for all 16 games, or at least the majority of them, it is very hard not to look at the past and use it as an indicator for what may come. Plus, in the NFL, injuries happen—anyone can go down at any given point, no matter how cautious the team is. While Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan could be a potentially solid starting tandem, the Titans are going to need some of the backups to have a good camp, and be ready if and when their number is called. Injuries or not, the linebackers behind Morgan Orakpo will get snaps. At this point, the key players are Jonathan Massaquoi, Deiontrez Mount, and J.R. Tavai. While this could potentially be an upgrade over last year’s depth at the position—it would be difficult to get worse—there are a lot of questions here.
The Titans claimed Jonathan Massaquoi after he was waived by the Atlanta Falcons. While the word on him is that he is a talented pass rusher, there are some definite concerns. First, there was talk about his attitude and relationship with the coaching staff being one of the main reasons he got waived. While it may have just been a bad fit for both sides, it is hard to not be concerned about the same thing happening in Tennessee—it is not as if Ken Whisenhunt is exactly incident-free as far as relationships with players in the past. Also, the fact that the Falcons—one of the only teams as desperate for edge rushers as the Titans—moved on from him tells me that while he may have potential, he was not worth the trouble. Finally, Massaquoi has had issues with his shoulder. He missed OTA’s which already puts him behind the 8-ball. Also, if his shoulder is not fully recovered and he tries to push through it this summer, he may not be the same player, or even worse, he may have a setback, which would thin the team out even more at the position.
Deiontrez Mount and J.R. Tavai are also newcomers at the position. Since Orakpo and Massaquoi were injured in the spring, they were able to get some run with the first team, which is certainly valuable. There have been more positive reviews on Tavai thus far, but for both players, year one contributions are a big question. Dick Lebeau’s system is not friendly towards rookie pass rushers. Throw in the fact that Mount was a 6th round pick and Tavai was an undrafted free agent, and you have more unanswered questions.
While it is very difficult to get much worse than the likes of Quentin Groves and Dontay Moch setting the edge, the Titans have to be concerned with their depth at outside linebacker. It is really surprising that they have put themselves in this position yet again, even after acknowledging how big of a need it was. The team would really be helping themselves out by keeping an eye out and potentially bringing more players in this summer to compete. While the players that will be available likely will not be the best options either, the Titans just need to do everything that they can to make it through this year before hopefully, finally, shoring the position up completely next off-season. While the situations of the current players on the roster at outside linebacker will be something to watch, it will be very interesting to see if the team brings in more competition and depth. We can only hope so, because the current state is alarming to say the least.