Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Much too early roster projections: ILB's

By Greg Arias

June 16, 2015

When it comes to the Titans defense in 2015, stopping the run is perhaps the biggest area the team must improve upon as the start of training camp approaches. Last season the Titans were gashed early and often though sixteen games by a front seven that could not stop the run.

The defensive line has one new starter entering the season, and the inside linebackers will welcome the return of Zach Brown from injury, which should help bolster the interior defense, but will that be enough.

Today we continue our series looking at the much too early roster predictions for the team, and we preview the inside linebackers who must become a force against the run.

CURRENT PLAYERS ON THE ROSTER (7): Avery Williamson, Zach Brown, Wesley Woodyard, Zavier Gooden, Yawin Smallwood, Nate Askew, Justin Staples

Avery Williamson: Starter- Williamson was the Titans steal of the draft in 2014, and perhaps the entire NFL as the rookie linebacker proved to be a tackling machine and became a starter midway through the season. Now an unquestioned starter, and someone who is being counted on to produce and to be a leader, Williamson could reach Pro-Bowl status if he does not suffer a sophomore slump and continues to improve this season.

Zach Brown: Starter- Brown suffered a torn pectoral muscle last season in week one against Kansas City and was lost for the season. His return should add an element of speed to the defense as Brown is one of the fastest players on the entire roster. Brown entered last season in the doghouse but worked his way out to become a starter prior to the injury. He will be counted on especially in pass defense as his speed will allow the Titans to matchup against speedier players with Brown who was a track star in college.

Wesley Woodyard: Backup- Woodyard signed with the Titans prior to the 2014 season and was a key contributor to the defense. As a starter next to Brown, the tandem was thought to be set for the season, but Brown’s injury made way for Williamson. Woodyard struggled at times against the run as he is somewhat undersized (6’ 0” 233) and he should become more of a situational player entering his eight NFL season.

Zavier Gooden: Backup- Gooden is another track guy with speed to burn but he has failed to make a significant impact on anything other than special teams. Entering his third season, it’s time for Gooden to produce something or he could find himself looking for a new team. At this point however, Gooden looks to be in good shape to make the roster, but he needs to take a major step forward to help this unit improve.

Yawin Smallwood: Practice Squad/Out- Smallwood was a practice squad player a season ago, and could have options to return, but it is more likely that he might be out.

Nate Askew: Practice squad/Out- Askew is in the same situation as Smallwood. He could find a position on the practice squad, or be out. Askew has had moments so far that make me think he might be ahead if anyone in this group is to make the practice squad.

Justin Staples: Practice squad/Out- Another player in the same situation. Staples is on the bubble and could be on his way out.

The Titans are likely to keep eight linebackers in all, with four on the outside and four more inside, though there is a slight chance that there could be a ninth if a linebacker outperforms and forced the coaching staff to keep one more and keep one less at another position.

However this position group shakes out, it is going to be imperative that those who remain on the roster are able to produce.

Popular Posts