The outside linebackers in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense are a key component and the inventor of the zone blitz, LeBeau likes to use his OLB’s as a major part of his blitz package. Having a good group with depth at that position is a must and the Titans have numbers, but they are short on experience in the 3-4 to an extent.
Players like Derrick Morgan, who is entering his second season in this defense will be counted on to continue to learn and improve quickly as he will be a key to defensive improvement this season.
So who will man these positions for the Titans in 2015? There will likely be just four players kept at this position, we take a look at them here.
Brian Orakpo: Starter- Orakpo is the gem of the Titans free agency haul, and will be counted on heavily to provide a pass rush off the outside for this defense. He has had health issues in his past, including last season when he was ironically injured against the Titans. He must stay healthy and on the field for 16 games if the Titans are going to improve defensively.
Derrick Morgan: Starter- Morgan resigned with the Titans after testing the free-agent waters. He faced his struggles last season in making the switch from a down defensive end to a standup outside linebacker, but he progressed and improved throughout the season to lead the team in sacks. With Orakpo on the other side, the hope is that Morgan’s sack totals will rise. If he can continue his improvement then the defense should improve.
Jonathan Massaquoi: Backup- Massaquoi was another addition in free-agency, and will be counted on to add a veteran presence in a backup role. He is still young (27 entering his 4th season, three with Atlanta), and has not reached his potential yet. The hope is that LeBeau can bring that out of him.
Deiontrez Mounts: Backup- Mount is a big body (6’5” 250) who the team selected in the 6th round. He has impressed early in OTA’s as he has had increased work because the team is being cautious with Orakpo returning from his injury. Mount posed impressive numbers at his Pro Day, with a 4.62 forty, 31 inch vertical, 9’11” broad jump and 28 reps at 225 on bench. What does that say? He has the physical tools to fit exactly what the Titans want in an outside linebacker, now it’s just a matter of learning and putting it into practice and on the field.
Chaz Sutton: Practice squad/Out- Sutton joined the Titans as a free-agent in 2014 and spent some time on the practice squad. That appears to be his likely destination once again unless something unexpected occurs.
Kaelin Burnett: Practice squad/Out- Burnett, like Sutton joined the team as a free-agent last season and followed the same path. He appears to be in the same position at this point.
Dezmond Johnson: Practice squad/Out- Johnson, who is a product of John Overton High School here in Nashville. He earned his shot after impressing during a tryout with other undrafted rookies. He is a smart young man, with size (6’3” 245) and he has shown to be a hard worker. All that might lead him to a spot on the practice squad at best.
Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil: Practice Squad/Out- Cudjoe-Virgil is another undrafted free-agent who earned a look. A Maryland product, Cudjoe-Virgil is a longshot at best for a practice squad spot, but it is possible.
There are four players we listed as potential practice squad members, though it is beyond doubtful that more than two at best would make the practice squad.
The coaching staff has consistently spoken of competition and it certainly appears that they have accomplished that, right down to the players who will compete for the practice squad.
If you believe Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the Titans have the 32 best roster in the league. That’s good for last in King’s opinion, and while King could be right, the roster is a definite upgrade from last season as youth is in full force for the team as they prepare to head to training camp at the end of July.
There you have it, our best guess at the outside linebackers who will make the roster, at least at this point. Again, as we have said in all our other projections, there could be a player or two added to the roster in camp as other teams begin to make cuts, but for now, this is it.