We continue our preseason positional analyses by moving across the line of scrimmage to take a look at the defensive tackles.
Although Albert Haynesworth has left Tennessee I am mindful of the old adage about clouds and silver linings. The depth at DT is much deeper this year, which is a very good thing when viewed in the context of the Week 5 game with the Ratbirds last year. Only three DTs dressed for that game and when starters Big Al and Tony Brown got banged up, defensive end Dave Ball had to move inside. He actually played fairly well considering he wasn't at his natural position.
Continuing with the cloud and the silver lining theme, serendipity has transpired for the Titans in this regard. Brown is more comfortable at RDT, where he'll be the starter in the spot occupied by Big Albert for the last seven seasons. Brown has blossomed in Tennessee after being picked up as a street free agent and if he feels better on the right side than he does on the left, he may continue to improve.
Free agent pickup Jovan Haye is more comfortable at the left defensive tackle position, so he'll replace Brown there. I really like the Haye acquisition, in part because I remember him playing so well against the Titans two years ago. For some reason, probably because he gets more sacks than a lot of DTs, Haye has a reputation for not being good against the run. Bull. That Sunday afternoon he was very tough against the run, with a stat line of ten tackles, seven solo and three assists. Not bad for a guy who can't stop the run. Oh, and he also had a sack and two quarterback hits. As Tom noted in this article, Haye was rated this offseason as the 19th best DT in the league. He should fit in nicely at Brown's old spot.
Second-year man Jason Jones, who also prefers the left side, is penciled in to back up Haye. He'll get plenty of snaps, though, in the d-line rotation. I'd guess that as long as Haye remains healthy, Jones should play about 30 downs a game. If he makes the big jump expected of second-year players he could even push Haye for more snaps. But I believe that as long as he's an improving backup, the Titans will be satisfied if he simply continues his progression.
Even though he hasn't played a down in the NFL, Sen'Derrick Marks is second on the depth chart at RDT, behind Brown, due to his status as a second-round draft selection. Marks may have a ways to go, as Drexel noted, but his status makes things difficult for the rest of the guys in the position group.
The depth is so good at DT, that two months ago I wrote that the Titans would have a difficult time deciding whether to keep or cut a fifth one, probably Kevin Vickerson.. As we've written several times before, Vick's biggest asset is his size. He's a big body needed to get the defense off the field on third and short.
LaJuan Ramsey, whom Drexel compared to Ball as a longshot to make the team, should have an even tougher time than Vickerson.
Derrick Jones begins what he hopes will be his second NFL season after being with the Falcons last year.
Rookie Mitch King rounds out the competition, vying with Ramsey and Derrick Jones for his spot in the pecking order. Training camp and the preseason games will be the battleground so if you're interested in the position group, this will be a good one to watch.