NASHVILLE, Tenn. --Second year cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson is in the midst of one of the Titans' most watched competitions of training camp, with the offseason departure of corner back Alterraun Verner opening a starting spot opposite veteran Jason McCourty.
Right now Wreh-Wilson and third-year corner Coty Sensabaugh are the top candidates to fill that role.
The Titans took Wreh-Wilson in the third round (70th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft. As a rookie Wreh-Wilson played in 13 games, making nine tackles with one forced fumble. This season he is in full competition mode to earn as much playing time as possible.
"My mindset right now is what coach Lou Spanos said 'There's no job too small,' so basically anything they need me to do I'm going to do it to the best of my ability," Wreh-Wilson said.
New defensive coordinator Ray Horton has not only brought his scheme to the Titans, but the mentality that guys need to be willing to move around and find success in multiple spots.
"We watched the Browns last year and there were guys all over the place playing multiple positions, so you have to be able to do whatever is asked of you," said Wreh-Wilson. "If I can go out there and compete at any position, then I know I can add value to the defense and that's what I'm looking to do."
Horton's scheme worked wonders in Cleveland. He only spent one year as the Browns' defensive coordinator, but took a 23rd-ranked defense in 2012 and turned it into the ninth-ranked defense in 2013. Horton spent 10 years in the league as a defensive back himself, logging 19 interceptions over his decade-long career.
From controlling the front seven in his 3-4 scheme, to knowing what he wants from the defensive backs, Horton has the entire Titans defense moving in the right direction.
"He played in the league and he knows how offenses work," Wreh-Wilson said of his new defensive coordinator. "He understands that sometimes the ball is going to get caught but how do you react to that? He wants us to protect the deep ball, play fast, and don't think a lot. I really like that about him."
As a young player, Wreh-Wilson has sought guidance from both McCourty and Verner, both of whom have been a part of training camp competitions in the past.
"I've talked to J-Mac and I've talked to Vern as well and they've told me to take care of what I can control," said Wreh-Wilson. "You can't worry about someone else or what the coaches are thinking. Coty knows as well and we're just trying to help each other compete and raise the level of the secondary through our play. We both know we're going to be valued parts of the defense."
The word competition can be a bit deceiving in this case. It's true that either Wreh-Wilson or Sensabaugh (or presumably another corner) will earn a starting job across from McCourty, but both players are likely to see plenty of action. Three-receiver sets are more common than not in today's NFL, and the "loser" of this battle will likely spend the season as the team's nickel corner covering the slot receiver.
Titans Online looks at the players in the secondary at the start of the 2014 training camp. (Photos: Donn Jones Photography, AP)
Wreh-Wilson and Sensabaugh understand that they will both be important parts to Tennessee's defense and are using the competition to better one another.
"We just play ball," Wreh-Wilson began. "At the end of the day if he sees something that will help me, he'll tell me and I do the same for him. We're completely cool and it's great for both of us to have good competition."
Competition will always bring out the best in everyone as long as it's healthy. Come week one, these two will be competing side by side, not against each other.
"We're going to war with each other on Sundays so if we have bad blood now it's going to be a disconnect on game day. We both understand the situation and so does everyone else," said Wreh-Wilson.
Jason McCourty mentioned last Friday when players reported to Saint Thomas Sports Park that he didn't mind which side of the field he played. One of the questions going into camp was whether or not he would stick to one side of the field, or follow a team's top receiver. Thus far through the four days of camp, McCourty has spent most of his time on the left side of the field, leaving the winner of the Wreh-Wilson vs. Sensabaugh battle on the right.
Wreh-Wilson has spent his football life playing outside corner until just last season. He conceded that he would prefer to stay in his comfort zone on the outside, but reiterated the decision is up to the coaches and he will live with whatever the outcome may be.
"I've played all my career on the outside until last year when I played mostly nickel," Wreh-Wilson explained. "I understand the nickel and can play it, but I'm most comfortable outside. Again, whatever the coaches need me to do and want me to do is what I'm going to do."