Here it is, better late than never, but our mailbag issue that was scheduled for Friday has finally arrived on Monday, as a family situation took our attention away for the weekend.
So just what was it that you, our readers wanted to know about your Titans as we enjoy this current six week break in team activities prior to the start of the team’s training camp in late July.
Nick Brown writes to ask: “””Who could you see being the starting 5 oline week one?”
That’s a great question, and one that will be at the center of things to watch for when camp opens. There are several possibilities for three positions right now. However, since you asked the five that I feel will make the start in Tampa are Taylor Lewan at left tackle and Chance Warmack at right guard, which are locks. While the team is not pleased with the performance of Andy Levitre so far, he will get every opportunity to hold on as the starter at left guard, something that I think he will be able to do at this point as no one has stood out through OTA’s and mini-camp that I can definitely say has a chance to take the spot. Although, he will be challenged by Justin McCray, Jamon Merideth and Josue Matias in camp and possibly Quinton Spain if he can get healthy.
Brian Schwenke will likely start at center, thought both he and rookie Andy Gallik dealt with minor injuries during mini-camp, which allowed Levitre and McCray to take their turns at center in their absence.
Lastly right tackle, which is perhaps the biggest question mark where free-agent Byron Bell and rookie Jeremiah Poutasi are the top two contenders. The team would like to see the rookie earn the spot as he is likely the long term answer at that spot. Bell however has more experience, and while he struggled last season in Carolina at left tackle, he is back on the right side now which is his more natural position. Given what we saw early on, I would say Bell will be the starter in week one if nothing else because of his veteran status and it being a road came that the Titans can, and actually really need to win to get off on a good start with a young team and rookie quarterback.
Carli Griffin writes asking: “As a posterchild for the Titan rebuilding procees, Marcus Mariota is the top draft pick that has not signed. Are the Titans leaving the door open for a potential holdout that can slow down his development, or will negotiations be wrapped up soon?”
I think certainly the team is aware of the situation and that a holdout could occur. However, with the new system under the CBA that is in place, and with rookie salaries slotted the holdup is not about money. It is over offset language in the contract, which Mariota’s representatives are likely pushing to exclude while the Titans want it included in the deal.
If there is no deal in place by July 20, then it might become time to worry for the team. Players are set to report for training camp on July 30, so if it gets late on the calendar then it will definitely become a very pressing issue. Mariota’s agent, Bruce Tollner of Rep 1 Sports could hold out as long as possible because they hold the top card the team needs, and might be willing to wait it out even if it means holding out into the start of camp to get their client what they want. I’d expect the Titans to blink before then however.
Our next question come from Carson Palmer (No not Cardinals QB Carson Palmer), who asks: “What do you think about Angelo Blackson? I was surprised by that pick and don’t know much about him.”
Blackson has been impressive so far, having his name mentioned by head coach Ken Whisenhunt for his play during mini-camp.
He is a physically impressive young man (6’5” 318 is not a stretch) and can move for someone of his size. He has exceptional speed and quickness and looks like a perfect fit for this defense as he is versatile with size to play inside, while having speed to move to end and seeming be able to provide a rush from that spot. He is a rookie and faces the learning curve that all rookie do, but the physical tools are therem and while I did not know a lot about Blackson when his name was called, he might well be a hidden gem that the Titans found hidden behind more higher profile players at Auburn.
David Andredez writes to ask: ”Schwenke was injured last season, and now again in mini-camp. Why can’t he stay healthy and can he ever reach the hype the team made when they took him?”
I can’t really say why he can’t stay healthy, other than bad luck and he plays a tough position inside with big, powerful guys flying all around him. His early injury this year does not appear to be to serious, and he should be ready for training camp.
Entering this season, it might not be make-or-break for Schwenke, but it is close. The selection of Gallik was not a silent motivator for the incumbent. It was a warning that it’s time for Schwenke to take control and produce or he could find himself on the bench. I think Schwenke wins the job in camp, but Gallik will likely continue to push him throughout the season and if his play slips, the rookie might get his shot.
Our next one comes from Steve Ellison, who writes to ask: “Will we see (Bishop) Sankey step up this season, or do you expect (David) Cobb to pass him and be the main back?”
Sankey has worked hard during the offseason, and you can tell it when you look at him. He is bigger, stronger and has maintained his speed and quickness. He looked like he was ready to assume a bigger role in the offense this season, but will still likely find himself part of a backfield-by-committee approach with Cobb, Antonio Andrews and Dexter McCluster all in the backfield at running back and Jalson Fowler at fullback looking for carries.
Sankey should be the starter, with Cobb and Andrews getting carries in short yardage, or goal line situations, while McCluster should take on the third down specialist role as a possible receiver out of the backfield, or even the slot. Fowler has shown soft hands and the ability to make difficult catches and should also factor into the equation.
All in all, the Titans seem to be in good shape in the backfield at this point. It remains to be seem of course, just what they can do in a game, and will the offensive line give them room to work, but I like what I have seem so far.
Scot Dixon writes to ask: “Who has stood out most to you during the early part of the work?”
That’s an easy one. Perrish Cox.
Cox has been all over the place, making plays and being seen during both OTA’s and mini-camp. Obviously he must continue it in the preseason, but he looks to have answered one of the biggest question marks on defense as to who will play opposite of Jason McCourty.
Wesley Stafford asks: “Will (Dexter) McCluster handle all the return duties this season?”
McCluster will definitely handle the punt return duties, and will get a long look on kickoffs, but so will come others. It’s hard to say if he will be the kickoff returner at this point because the team did not do a lot of installation of that during OTA’s and mini-camp. We will likely get our best look at that in the preseason when the team can actually see how players do when it’s live.
Don Paulson asks: "Will Hakeem Nicks do anything this season?"
Nicks has looked good so far, showing good speed and hands. Of course he is a veteran and knows how to do it, and is being counted on as a leader for his position group, which has some young players.
I think Nicks will find a role on this team and contribute this season. How much is the big question. He says he is ready to return to the form he showed in New York. If he can come close, he will be a big part of the offense. Everyone hopes he can reach that level again, and we are in his corner as he seems to be a good guy and his teammates like him. We shall see what happens, but I think he does contribute something this year.
There it is, our late mailbag. We apologize for the delay, but unfortunately that happens sometimes.
We hope that we answered all your questions with good information and keep them coming in the next few weeks leading up to the start of camp.