TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: LINEBACKERS
In camp: OLB Derrick Morgan, OLB Brian Orakpo, OLB Harold Landry, OLB Aaron Wallace, LB Wesley Woodyard, LB Jayon Brown, LB Will Compton, LB Rashaan Evans, LB Daren Bates, LB Nate Palmer, LB Nick DeLuca, LB Robert Spillane, OLB/DE Kevin Dodd, OLB Josh Carraway, OLB Sharif Finch, OLB Tobenna Okeke, OLB Gimel President.
Offseason developments: The Titans hit this position hard in the NFL Draft. The team selected Evans, who starred at Alabama, with their first round pick, and then drafted Landry, a Boston College prospect, in the second round. In free agency, the team also signed Compton, formerly with the Redskins. President was claimed off waivers from the Texans. Former Titans ILB Avery Williamson departed, signing with the Jets in free agency, while Erik Walden's contract expired, and he remains a free agent. The Titans return some of their key veterans, from Orakpo to Morgan to Woodyard, who is still going strong heading into Year 11. But it was second-year linebacker Jayon Brown who really stood out during offseason work. Dodd is capable of playing on the line and at OLB, but his absence from offseason work put him behind some others in the competition. One of those guys is Wallace, who looked good in the offseason coming off of back surgery last year. Right now, I'd say he's the fourth OLB behind Orakpo, Morgan and Landry. Camp will sort some things out.
In the spotlight: Landry. The Titans know what they have in Orakpo and Morgan, two veterans who combined for 14.5 sacks last season. The players are adjusting well in a defense now run by DC Dean Pees. Landry is the wild card, a player who racked up 26 sacks in his collegiate career. Landry showed a burst during the offseason, but we still haven't seen him in pads. If he's able to adapt quickly to the NFL, while working against savvy veterans, the Titans could be tough to deal with on the outside, especially when you consider improved personnel on the d-line and in the secondary.
Battle to watch: Compton vs. Evans. The Titans selected Evans 22nd overall in the draft, and from all accounts they got a steal. Based on what I've seen so far, Evans has a chance to be a heck of a pro. He's athletic, smart, and mature for his age. But he won't be handed a starting job right out of the gate. Compton played in 57 games over five seasons with the Redskins, and he's been a productive player. He's been good in offseason work with the Titans. The reality is both Compton and Evans are going to play. But the big question is: Which one will start? The competition will continue in camp.
Keep an eye on: Brown. I touched on Brown in the intro, but I'm circling back here because now fans will have an opportunity to see what practice observers saw during the offseason. A fifth-round pick out of UCLA last year, Brown was solid as a rookie, when he played all 16 games and made an impact in defensive packages and on special teams. He finished the year with 67 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6 QB pressures and two tackles for a loss. In OTAs and minicamps, Brown was all over the field. By the look of things, he's going to be an even bigger factor for the Titans this fall.
Next up: Cornerbacks.
The Titans select Alabama LB Rashaan Evans in first round (#22nd overall) of 2018 NFL Draft. (AP Photos)