TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: SPECIAL TEAMS
In camp: P Brett Kern, K Ryan Succop, K/P Austin Barnard, Returner Adoree' Jackson, Returner Adam Humphries, Returner Dion Lewis, Returner Cameron Batson, Returner Taywan Taylor, Returner Amani Hooker, Returner Joseph Parker, Returner Kalif Raymond, Long snapper Beau Brinkley.
Offseason developments: The Titans signed Adam Humphries to give the team a boost on offense, but he's also returned punts and kicks in the NFL. A pair of undrafted free agents – Parker and Raymond – are expected to work in the return game in training camp along with the veterans returning from a year ago. There will be a competition in the return game in camp, as Adoree' Jackson and Darius Jennings look to regain their jobs from a year ago. Earlier this offseason the Titans signed punter Brett Kern, who played in his second straight Pro Bowl in February, to a new long-term deal. Kicker Ryan Succop didn't practice this offseason, and was placed on the team's Physically Unable to Perform list earlier this week.
In the spotlight: Jennings. Once again, Jennings will be battling for a roster spot, something he's definitely used to by now. Look at his list of transactions and you'll be astounded by how many times he's been cut. So it's safe to say Jennings takes nothing for granted. But as camp starts this year, Jennings will show up with some impressive credentials -- and confidence. In 2018, Jennings led the NFL and set a franchise record with a 31.7-yard kickoff return average, which includes a 94-yard kick return for a touchdown. Once again, Jennings will try and prove to coaches and the front office he's worth keeping as a receiver – and as the team's best option at kick returner.
Battle to watch: Punt returns. When the Titans drafted Jackson in 2017, the expectation was he'd be a dynamic returner for the team. But during his first two NFL seasons, Jackson hasn't made a huge impact as a returner. He averaged just 9.3 yards on 16 punt returns in 2018, with nine fair catches. Titans special teams coach Craig Aukerman mentioned Jackson, Humphries and Hooker when asked about possible punt returners for this fall, but several others will also be in the mix. It will be interesting to see who gets opportunities in preseason games, and whether someone can steal the job away from Jackson. I get the sense Humphries is a legitimate candidate here.
Keep an eye on: Brinkley. Kern has proven to be reliable – he holds the top seven net punting seasons in franchise history, and is coming off a year when he averaged 47.1 yards per punt with a 41.7-yard net. Succop made 26-of-30 field goals in 2018, and he's converted 83.6 percent of his field goals in his 10 NFL seasons. He'll begin training camp as a spectator, on PUP. So why not watch Brinkley, who handles the snaps on field goals and punts? Snappers usually don't get noticed until they sail a snap over a punter's head, or they're off on the snap to the holder. So it's a good thing Brinkley doesn't get his name called most of the time unless he's the first guy down the field to make a tackle. He's been a reliable pro.
Up next: Training camp.
TitansOnline.com looks back at punter Brett Kern's Pro Bowl season in 2018. (AP Photos)