In my opinion, CB can be described as an area of strength for the Tennessee Titans. Although there's only room to start two of them, the team has three corners who are capable of starting. There's Cortland Finnegan, the fiesty veteran of the group, who will be joined by Jason McCourty in the starting lineup. Finally, last year's rookie sensation Alterraun Verner is the third guy in the CB rotation who'll see a ton of playing time in 2011.
As Tom noted in our offseason review of the cornerback position, 2010 wasn't exactly the best of times for Cortland Finnegan. While his play wasn't completely disappointing, it was off from the superb level of play he often demonstrated in previous seasons.
In 2011, as Andrew mentioned in his recent analysis of the nickelbacks, you'll see Finnegan shifting inside to defend the slot in nickel situations with Verner and McCourty handling things on the exterior. The goal with this exercise being conducted by new defensive coordinator Jerry Gray is for Finnegan to be put in a position that's conducive to taking advantage of his play-making abilities.
Whether it's on the inside or the outside, passing or non-passing situations, hopefully, Finnegan will have a bit of a bounce-back year in 2011.
After a engaging in yet another spirited battle with Alterraun Verner, McCourty emerged as the winner in the fight for one of the starting spots at corner.
McCourty has been a pleasant surprise since entering the league as a lowly sixth-round draft choice in 2009. He's a hard-worker with a good combination of size/speed and is more than worthy of starting opposite of Finnegan at cornerback.
Almost needless to say, I'm expecting a solid campaign from J-Mac in 2011.
Although he's not starting, we'll be seeing plenty of Verner on the playing field this year. Despite his diminutive size, what I like the most about Verner is his tenacious play and his radar-like ability to always be around the football.
Verner's play-making tendencies should allow him to continue to emerge as one of the team's integral cogs on the defensive side of the football.
The rest of the bunch
Behind the Titans' trio of aforementioned corners are two youngsters who stepped up with solid preseasons en route to earning roster spots.
Talented rookie Tommie Campbell continued his rags-to-riches story by making the squad. The former airport janitor who was able to sneak into the seventh round of the draft thanks to impressive pre-draft workouts, Campbell is a nice developmental prospect who will see the field on special teams during his rookie season.
He's a guy that's easy to root for and hopefully, he'll have a bright future in Nashville.
Fellow youngster Chris Hawkins is the final CB on the roster. After bouncing around in Jacksonville and Baltimore, Hawkins found himself on the Titans' practice-squad in late 2010 and since then, has apparently made a favorable impression by winning a spot on the roster.
As the case with Campbell, we shouldn't expect to see too much from Hawkins outside of the realm of special teams in 2011.
Well folks, that concludes the CB positional analysis. Any thoughts/opinions on the state of affairs at the position?
This is the one position where depth is questionable. The top three are fine and should provide stability for the team as long as they are healthy. However, after that, relying on Campbell and Hawkins, I am concerned that an injury to Cortland, Alterraun or Jason could have an huge negative impact on the defence. I liked what I saw from Campbell in pre-season. But I am not sure that he would be ready to step in full time if one of the top three went down. That's why I thought Walker was a virtual lock for this team. As for Hawkins, I watched very little of him. I figured Walker or Ittersagen had a better shot. Perhaps, the Titans see a little Tramon Williams in him and hope that after being kicked around the league for a while he can contribute as a CB on this team, if needed.