The 2010 Tennessee Titans' draft class entered their rookie seasons with some relatively high expectations.
For seemingly the first time in recent memory, the franchise selected a group of talented (and highly intelligent) players who also produced on the college level. Instead of drafting projects as they've done in the past (Chris Henry unfortunately comes to mind) Mike Reinfeldt and company reeled in numerous guys who had already demonstrated their knack for getting it done on the playing field.
At the halfway mark of the season, it's so far so good for many of the Titan rookies, with several of them doing a great job of translating their college success into gridiron production on the NFL level.
The honors for this award should be shared amongst two players who were drafted in the fourth round or below: CB Alterraun Verner and KR/PR Marc Mariani.
Verner turned heads early as he constantly made plays in OTAs and has continued this trend by stepping up during the regular season. Pressed into a starting position due to an injury to Jason McCourty, Verner has done a solid job manning the fort in his absence.
He's a guy who plays much bigger than his size and if he keeps it up, he'll be a stalwart on the Titans' defense for years to come.
Mariani has proven that he was drafted for reasons besides his relationship with Jeff Fisher's son. He's solidified the team's return game that was badly in need of a guy who could get the job done.
Needless to say, with the surprise performance of unheralded 7th rounder Marc Mariani, the Titans have finally found their Chris Carr-replacement on kick/punt returns.
Derrick Morgan gets this award not because of his performance but due to his season-ending torn ACL suffered earlier in the season.
When healthy, Morgan displayed flashes of his vast potential rushing the passer as well as stopping the run. Unfortunately, the aforementioned ACL injury ended his season way too prematurely.
Hopefully, he'll rehab his injury and come back strong ready to step up as a contributor on the Titans' defensive line in 2011.
Slowly, but surely
In this category, we have two rookies who after slow starts, have started to become involved on recent Sundays.
Damian Williams was my pick to have the biggest rookie impact due to his potential at wide receiver and his assumed role of serving as the team's designated specialist on returns.
Of course, Mariani's emergence has foiled his plans at KR/PR but Williams has started to assert himself as a receiver. In the last four weeks, he's totalled 11 catches for 146 yards and is showing the potential to be a nice weapon in the Titans' passing game moving forward.
Rennie Curran finally experienced some NFL action in the Titans' most recent game against the Chargers, as Rennie amassed two tackles on the afternoon. Like Williams, Rennie's a guy who should continue to some playing time as the season progresses.
The one that got away
Controversial but talented undrafted free agent RB LeGarrette Blount seemed to be in the lead position to serve as the Titans' short-yardage back due to having a solid preseason. However, Blount was surprisingly released prior to the start of the season.
Since then, he's resurfaced in Tampa Bay and as of late, has started to make an impact running the football as he's accumulated 50 carries for 241 yards and two scores over the last four games.
I'll repeat here what I said in a late September article regarding Blount's emergence: Keeping Blount would have been a luxury and he wouldn't have had the same opportunity in Nashville that he's getting in Tampa Bay.
Of course, it still stings a little when a talented player starts to make plays in another uniform and considering the Titans' current need to limit Chris Johnson's carries a bit, having a sledgehammer such as Blount tote the rock a few times every Sunday wouldn't have been a bad thing.
However, the team's already having problems getting backup Javon Ringer some opportunities so with Blount around, there would have been even greater difficulty getting two talented young backs enough carries while backing up CJ.
To close, I still understand the Titans' decision to let Blount go but I'll admit that there's always that thought of "what-if" that enters my mind each time I've seen highlights of Blount bowling over defenders in Tampa .
Any thoughts on this year's performance of the Titans' 2010 rookie class at the season's halfway point? Feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the space below.