As the long and seemingly unbearable offseason prepares to come to a grinding halt later this month, let's continue our analysis of what lies in store for the Tennessee Titans in 2010.
Today, I'll take a look at the players who could be on the cusp of a breakout performance this year. These are the guys who for one reason or another, whether it's because of injuries, inconsistency or a combination of the two factors, have failed to step up. However, as the new football-year approaches, the following list of players should get the chance to seize the moment and emerge as valuable contributors for the Titans.
My list of 2010 Tennessee Titan breakout candidates, after the jump.
Jason Jones DT
Filling in for an injured Albert Haynesworth, Jones arrived on all of our radars with his unforgettable sack-performance against the Steelers in late 2008.
Unfortunately, injuries prevented Jones from sustaining his momentum in 2009. While he was productive during his limited time on the field, amassing four sacks in only seven games played, his presence was surely missed in the other nine games that consisted of him being a spectator on the sidelines.
If (and that's a big IF) Jones can stay healthy in 2010, he certainly has the talent to approach the double-digit sack plateau while emerging as one of the team's best defensive players.
Craig Stevens TE
Due to Alge Crumpler's departure to New England, Craig Stevens will finally get his opportunity to shine as the team's primary blocking TE. Regarded by draft guru Mike Mayock as the 2008 NFL Draft's best blocking TE, Stevens has diligently paid his dues on special teams; now it's time for him to step up on offense.
Leroy Harris OL
Due to veteran Kevin Mawae's offseason departure, the opportunity for the talented Leroy Harris to become a member of the Titans' starting offensive line has finally presented itself.
Like Stevens, Harris is another guy who has paid his dues by sitting behind the vets. Similar to Stevens, it's also going to be interesting to see how Harris reacts to increased playing time on the offensive side of the football.
Jason McCourty CB
In a recent article, I discussed McCourty's chances of emerging as Cortland Finnegan's sidekick at starting CB. Based on rave reviews during OTA's, I'd say that the odds of "J-Mac" stepping up to the challenge are pretty good.
Due to some difficult on-the-job training during his rookie year as a result of the team's injury-plagued secondary, even as he struggled, McCourty gained some valuable experience in 2009. With a strong offseason under his belts, he appears to be poised to grab the reigns as the team's #2 CB.
Lavelle Hawkins WR
Entering his third season in the NFL, "The Hawk" has failed to take off as a significant factor in the Titans' passing game. Sure, he's teased us with his tantalizing abilities demonstrated during OTA's and the preseason but during the regular season, when it matters the most, Hawkins has yet to fulfill his potential.
Apparently, Hawkins has finally earned the trust of the coaching staff due to this year's performance during OTA's. Will that trust result in "The Hawk" becoming a bigger part of the team's passing attack in 2010?
Stay tuned, folks.
Jared Cook TE: He's becoming quite the enigma, due to his ridiculous talent and maddening inconsistency.
Gerald McRath LB: Hopefully, he'll come back strong after missing the season's first four games due to a league-suspension.
Javon Ringer RB: If (please don't, CJ) Chris Johnson decides to hold out, Ringer will definitely get more than his share of touches running the football.
Enough of my ramblings, folks. Who's your pick to emerge as the Titans' breakout performer of 2010?