TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: SAFETIES
In camp: Rashad Johnson, Da'Norris Searcy, Marqueston Huff, Daimion Stafford, Kevin Byard, Josh Aubrey, Lemarcus Brutus, CB/S Curtis Riley.
Offseason developments:** The Titans first said goodbye to veteran safety Michael Griffin, who roamed the secondary for nine seasons. In free agency, the team signed Johnson, who spent his first seven seasons with the Cardinals, to a one-year deal. In the draft, the Titans snagged former MTSU star Kevin Byard at the top of the third round. Byard impressed during the offseason. Riley, signed as an undrafted free agent last season, worked at the safety positon after playing cornerback in last year's camp before his injury. The Titans have some new voices here – Deshea Townsend (secondary) and Steve Jackson (assistant secondary) were hired by head coach Mike Mularkey.
In the spotlight: Searcy. In his first season with the Titans, Searcy provided stability on the back end. He played in 15 games, and recorded 54 tackles and an interception. The INT came in the season finale against the Colts. Searcy will be part of a new tandem on the back end of the defense, so developing chemistry will be important. But Searcy should be more comfortable, and in a position to make more plays this fall. The Titans would like to see Searcy create more turnovers in his second season with the team.
Battle to watch:** Johnson vs. Byard. Johnson is a savvy veteran, and he's made some big plays over the years. Johnson has nine interceptions over the past two seasons, and 14 over the last four years. Byard is a youngster with plenty of talent, however. He picked off 19 passes while playing at MTSU, and he's been a quick study this offseason. The Titans value Johnson's leadership, and the guess here is he'll hold off Byard to be the Week One starter. Byard could make things interesting in camp, however. He's a confident player who has impressed coaches with his mannerism on the field.
Keep an eye on: Riley. The Titans have depth in the secondary, and with numbers, the team opted to try Riley at safety during the offseason. Riley made plays in his first offseason last year before suffering a season-ending injury. But he impressed the team with his commitment while on Injured Reserve, and he has a good feel for the defense. He had a good offseason, and his versatility is a plus. With some more experienced players around him, he'll aim to make enough plays in training camp to keep himself in the conversation for a roster spot.
Next up: Special teams.