With training camp getting underway yesterday, (at last) we'll continue our Tennessee Titans' positional analyses by directing our attention to the defensive side of the football.
The defensive tackle position was certainly an area that generated a lot of attention in 2009. This was mostly due to the free agency departure of Albert Haynesworth and the team's titanic task of replacing his gargantuan presence in the interior of the defensive line.
Replacing "Fat Albert" was anything but an easy task. While Tony Brown stepped up with his best season as a pro, injuries prevented the talented Jason Jones from having a huge impact. Free agent signee Jovan Haye was disappointing to say the least, as he was mostly a non-factor in '09.
Let's take a look at how the Titans should fare at the DT position in 2010.
Will Tony Brown continue to step up?
As I just mentioned, Brown had a more than adequate season in 2009. He was certainly one of the few shining lights on a defensive unit that struggled for the most part. He accumulated five sacks, which ended up being the second-highest total on the team behind Jacob Ford.
Despite starting training camp on the active/PUP list due to lingering effects of offseason knee surgery, I'm expecting another solid campaign from Brown in 2010.
Will Jason Jones shake the injury bug?
Unfortunately, injuries limited Jones to only 7 games in 2010. His inability to play was especially disappointing considering that he was productive during his abbreviated time on the playing field, as he amassed four sacks in less than a half-season of football.
Jones has the talent to emerge as one of the defense's top performers; it's just a matter of whether or not he can stay healthy.
Hopefully, the dreaded injury bug will fly in a direction opposite of Jones in 2010.
Will Jovan Haye have a bounce-back year?
Within days of Albert Haynesworth's departure, Tampa's Jovan Haye was signed to relieve some of the inevitable pain caused by losing #92. Billed as an undersized guy who could rush the passer and was adequate against the run, we saw none of those qualities from Haye during his first season as a Titan.
Due to his struggles in '09, I'm not expecting much from Haye in 2010. Any solid production that he can provide would be a bonus but considering last year's debacle, I'll stop short of predicting a bounce-back season from Haye this year.
Will Sen'Derrick Marks emerge as a valuable D-line contributor?
Held back due to your typical NFL rookie growing pains, Sen'Derrick started to make his mark towards the end of last year. He showed a nice burst for a man of his stature and certainly displayed the potential to become a solid player sometime in the not-so-distant future.
As year-two of his career approaches, Marks has had a solid offseason of preparation by most accounts. He's improved his strength significantly and is poised to step up as a contributor on the Titans D-line in 2010.
The rest of the bunch
Brown's David Howard was the team's final selection in last April's draft. He has good size and athleticism but as the case with many small-school talents, will he be able to make the transition from a lower level of competition to the pros?
While I'm not expecting him to make the Titans' 53-man roster, with a solid showing in August, Howard could easily find himself on the team's practice squad.
Former Miami Hurricanes Kareem Brown and Joe Joseph round out the team's collection of defensive tackles. Brown is a journeyman who's bounced around a few places in the league, while Joseph is an undrafted rookie free agent.
Of the two, I like Joseph's size (6'2", 315 lbs) and compared to his fellow UM alum, he appears to have a little more upside. However, color me not excited about their chances of making the roster.
I see Jones (if he can stay healthy) and Tony Brown serving as the team's starting defensive tackles this year, with Marks waiting in the wings to produce when his number is called. As for fellow vet Jovan Haye, one would assume that he should at least be penciled in for a roster spot but if he continues to disappoint, he could be one of the team's somewhat surprising cuts later this month.
Any thoughts/predictions regarding the Titans and how they stack up at DT, folks? Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments section below.