Defensive end was a position of strength for the Tennessee Titans in 2008. In addition to the solid play of starters Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jevon Kearse, backups Dave Ball, Jacob Ford and William Hayes also stepped up by consistently bringing the heat to opposing quarterbacks.
In the next installment of our offseason positional analyses, let's take a closer look at where the Titans currently stand at DE.
Kyle Vanden Bosch
Courtesy of a nagging groin injury, KVB's ability to relentlessly chase opposing quarterbacks was hindered in 2008. Coming off of an impressive 12-sack performance in 07, Kyle only notched 4.5 sacks last season.
KVB started 2008 off with a bang as he accumulated 14 tackles, 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in the season's first three games. Unfortunately, the groin injury severely limited his production for the remainder of the year.
I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to a big bounce-back season from a healthy Vanden Bosch in 2009.
Once upon a time, I would have been heavily disappointed with Jevon Kearse for only amassing 3.5 sacks in one season. However, the Freak's glory days have long since passed as injuries have taken their toll on a player who was once one of the game's most feared pass rushers.
As a result of my lowered expectations, I was happy with Kearse's performance in 2008. I was mostly impressed by his durability, as evidenced by Jevon playing in all 16 games for the first time since 2001.
Kerry Collins wasn't the only Tennessee Titan who had a comeback season in 2008.
Missing all of 2007 as a result of an Achilles injury, Jacob Ford stepped up big with 7 sacks last year. He was a part of the motley crew of guys who did a great job of replacing KVB's pass-rushing presence on the defensive line.
I'm looking forward to witnessing Ford's continued development in 2009.
KVB's injury also provided journeyman Dave Ball with an opportunity to shine last year. Playing for his third team in five years in the NFL, Dave went from being on the free agent scrap heap to emerging as a solid part of the Titan D-line rotation, amassing 4.5 sacks while also returning an interception for a touchdown in the Thanksgiving massacre of the Lions.
My disdain for his celebratory dances aside, Dave is the type of lunch-pail guy who can often be found on winning franchises.
Despite getting off to a slow start, Hayes made a nice transition from the MEAC to the NFL during his rookie season. In perhaps his best showing, "Big Plays" Hayes forced a fumble and notched a sack in Tennessee's 31-14 victory over the eventual-Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bigger and better things are probably on the horizon for the talented Hayes next year.
Ulrich Winkler and Charles Bennett
Formerly of the now-defunct NFL Europe, Winkler's season ended prematurely because of a knee injury during training camp. Signed to a futures contract a few weeks ago, Bennett's only NFL-action came in 2006 as a member of the Tampa Bay Bucs.
To say that Winkler and Bennett are long shots to make the team is a drastic understatement.
What are your thoughts about the Tennessee Titans' stable of defensive ends?