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A pre-draft look at the Titans’ roster: Defense

Following up on yesterday’s look at offensive side of the ball, it’s time to take a look at the state of the Titans’ roster as it pertains to the defense as we approach the 2011 draft.  Like yesterday’s post, the players listed in this post are the currently under contract to the Titans for the 2011 season.  Players not having a signed contract with the Titans for the 2011 season are not listed.

So, here’s who the Titans currently have on defense:
DE: Hall Davis, Pannel Egboh, William Hayes, Marcus Howard, Derrick Morgan
DT: Kareem Brown, Tony Brown, Jovan Haye, Jason Jones, Sen’Derrick Marks, Malcolm Sheppard
LB: Rennie Curran, Kevin Malast, Gerald McRath, Will Witherspoon
CB: Cortland Finnegan, Chris Hawkins, Pete Ittersagen, Jason McCourty, Ryan Mouton, Alterraun Verner
S: Vinny Fuller, Michael Griffin, Chris Hope, Robert Johnson, Myron Rolle, Nick Schommer
As before, players listed in bold were starters in 2010, while players listed in italitcs did not spend any of the 2010 regular season on the Titans’ 53-man roster.

More thoughts on each position, after the jump: 

DE: AKA Why I picked Robert Quinn in the Bloguin mock draft.  The Titans’ two primary starters at defensive end list year were Jason Babin and Dave Ball, each of whom is an unrestricted free agent.  Jacob Ford is also a free agent.  Yes, Derrick Morgan is coming back from an ACL injury, but (a) I was never a big fan of his, and (b) even still, the Titans need to add not just depth but an impact player.  I think there’s a good argument DE is currently the Titans’ second-worst position, after quarterback.

DT: I have to admit, I haven’t understood the Titans’ strategy at DT position for a couple years.  That’s worth a post or two on its own, which I hope to get to at some point in the next couple months, but we’ll see if and when I get to that.  The list of names there is why I’ve been fighting so hard, mentally, against the automatic slotting of Nick Fairley to the Titans; there’s both depth and some quality here.  The biggest perceived lack in 2010 was a bigger guy, somebody like Kevin Vickerson who they gave up in a worthless trade with Seattle last draft weekend, itself a good subject for another post.  Drafting Fairley doesn’t answer that need at all.

LB: If defensive end isn’t the second-worst position on the Titans, then it has to be linebacker.  Given the way middle linebacker has been discounted in the Titans’ defense, I’d be cautiously optimistic a McRath-Curran-Witherspoon grouping wouldn’t be incredibly awful, but there is a big need for depth here.  Like Tulloch, special teams and depth guys Patrick Bailey and Tim Shaw have 4+ years of service but were tendered by the Titans, and you can’t assume any of them will be back.

CB: Perfectly reasonable top three, but I’d be more comfortable with a better fourth than whichever of Ittersagen or Mouton they like better.

S: I think Chris Hope is by far the most overly-maligned player on the Titans the last two years, relative to his play, but even I think his current 2011 salary of $6.5 million makes him a strong candidate for a potential cap casualty.  With Vinny Fuller’s fall from grace, though, and Fuller himself being a free agent after 2011, I don’t know what the short- or long-term future of this position looks like.  Unfortunately this is a horrible safety draft and teams like the Texans and Jaguars with desperate safety needs will probably overdraft the safeties who are out there.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is special teams.  P Brett Kern, K Rob Bironas, and LS Ken Amato are all under contract for 2011, so I’m not worried, and spending draft picks on a punter, kicker, or long snapper is a really bad idea anyway.  The Titans also signed LS Jake Ingram in case they want somebody with more versatility than Amato currently provides.

Thanks to Rotoworld’s Titans contracts page for helping me figure out who’s currently under contract for 2011.  It’s a great resource, and more comprehensive than my spotty notes.  Anyway, I hope you found this a useful look at the Titans on the eve of the 2011 draft.  I sort of had an idea of how the roster would look before starting these posts, but I think it’s even more interesting than I expected.