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Titans training camp 2017: Breaking down the inside linebackers

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NFL: Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Training Camp Week!!! With camp officially starting this Saturday, July 29th, let’s take a look at how things are shaping up with the inside linebackers.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Returning: Avery Williamson, Wesley Woodyard, Nate Palmer, Justin Staples

Departures: Sean Spence (signed with Colts)

Additions: Jayon Brown (Draft), Daren Bates (FA), Johnny Ragin III (UDFA)

This group returns 75.5% of their 2016 snaps. The snaps that left were the 505 belonging to Sean Spence who left in free agency to sign with The Land of Misfit Titans Colts. You probably didn’t realize that Spence was on the field for 46.3% of the Titans defensive snaps last season. I know I didn’t which kind of tells you all you need to know about his level of play.

Both starters are back with Williamson and Woodyard expected to begin their third straight year as the Titans starting inside linebackers. Williamson is the run stuffing strongside backer and he was great in that role in 2016.

While he has worked as a three down linebacker for most of his three year career, he still struggles mightily in pass coverage a lot of the time. Hopefully he can improve on that heading in to his contract season.

Woodyard was solid once again as the weakside backer and was rewarded with a 3 year contract extension this offseason. In addition to maintaining a strong level of performance on the field, Woodyard is known to be a leader in the locker room and a great example for young players.

Speaking of young players... Jayon Brown, the Titans 5th round pick out of UCLA, was probably the biggest standout from OTAs and mini camp earlier in the summer. Coaches, teammates and media members all raved about his speed and coverage skills.

He’s another guy that will be on my list to watch when I get out to Saint Thomas Sports Park. I don’t think he pushes Woodyard out of a starting spot, but I would certainly call him the favorite to take the Sean Spence role and that includes a bunch of snaps as I mentioned earlier.

Daren Bates and Nate Palmer are both primarily here for special teams snaps and they are plus players in the third phase of the game. I expect both of them to make the 53 man roster.

Justin Staples is an interesting guy to me because he can play both inside and outside linebacker in this scheme which is valuable, especially when the Titans have so little experienced depth at outside linebacker. Staples will need to have a good camp, but I could see him challenging for a spot.

Johnny Ragin III has the coolest name on the Titans, but he’s not going to make the team.

Overall, this group is solid, but not spectacular. Williamson and Woodyard are very capable starters and I have high hopes for Brown after hearing all the buzz early in the summer. If Brown turns out to be a gem, that is a game changer for this team.

GRADE: B