NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans general manager Ruston Webster said Wednesday that he's pleased with the team's offseason efforts of adding strength, depth, leadership and competition at multiple positions.
Webster and "Voice of the Titans" Mike Keith were guests of the Nashville Sports Council during the Comcast Spotlight Sports Speakers Series at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel Wednesday. Webster covered multiple topics, including additions through free agency and the 2012 NFL Draft, with Keith and fielded a series of questions asked by attendees before participating in a media session.
Webster said the signing of free agent Kamerion Wimbley will help the Titans' pass rush, and bringing in veteran free agent guard Steve Hutchinson, combined with a full offseason, will help Tennessee run the ball better in 2012.
Tennessee retained Chris Johnson, Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper as its three top running backs, and Webster said he expects good things from all three this season. He said Johnson has been especially impressive during organized team activities.
"He's working too hard not to have a big year," Webster told the crowd.
After missing last year's training camp because of a contract holdout, Johnson rushed for 1,047 yards. He moved past the 1,000-yard mark that generally earns distinction as a good season for a running back for the fourth time in four seasons, but it was a career low. Johnson added 418 yards on a career-high 57 catches last season, but Johnson and Titans coaches agree that he is capable of more rushing yards. Johnson ran for 1,228 in 2008, a league-leading and franchise best 2,006 in 2009 and 1,364 in 2010.
"He's doing a great job," Webster said. He's working hard, he looks great. I don't think — it's not like he went away. He still had, for most people, a good season. I just love the way he's working. He's there every day; he looks really good, so I just feel good about the direction we're going in general.
Tennessee drafted Baylor receiver Kendall Wright in the first round with the 20th overall selection last month. Wright is expected to add an explosive element to a position group that was already considered strong. Wright and other drafted and undrafted rookies arrived at Baptist Sports Park last week for a minicamp and joined the veterans during workouts this week.
"It was good," Webster said of what he's seen from the rookies so far. "The guys fit in. They worked hard. Nobody looked out of place, and most of them looked very much in place. I think they'll fit in with the vets and I was happy with it."
Webster, a father of three who was elevated to Titans general manager in January, said he experienced a little bit of paternal instinct as he watched his first draft class.
"Even before now, it's a little bit like that," Webster said. "It's almost like your kids are out there. I use to get all uptight about it, but now I don't. I've seen guys go in and do well and just be OK, and I've seen guys not do well and become very good players."
Webster and Titans coach Mike Munchak have placed a value on competition throughout the offseason and training camp. That includes the quarterback position where veteran and last year's starter Matt Hasselbeck and second-year pro Jake Locker are friends and competitors. Webster said the Titans believe they can win with Hasselbeck or Locker, and the decision will likely be a gut feeling closer to the season. He said the depth at the position presents a unique situation.
"I've never been around where we've had two quarterbacks this good," said Webster, whose first season in the NFL was in 1988. "(Third-string QB) Rusty Smith is doing a great job too. I've never, I don't think I can ever remember that.
"You usually scramble to get one," Webster added with a laugh.
Webster has advanced through the decisions of who to bring on the team. He said he's happy with the way that players are handling the competition for roster spots and playing time. Webster and coaches will have months of observations before cutting the roster down to the 53 players who will most likely help the Titans win the AFC South and earn a playoff bid.
"All these guys are pros, so they don't shy from competition in any way," Webster said. "I think that's what you want. You want to have to make hard decisions at the end, and hopefully, you make the right decisions. I think all the competition at the different positions is just going to make everybody better."