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Titans Offseason Positional Analysis – Defensive Ends

One definite position of need this offseason is defensive end. Kyle Vanden Bosch earned a trip to the Pro Bowl after the 2005 season and had perhaps even a better year in 2006, but the play on the other side was not up to par. KVB’s sacks dropped to 6½ last year when opponents doubled him, not worried about a rush from the other side, which underscores the need for a new RDE.
The Titans’ defensive line had two big problems last year — getting a pass rush and stopping the run — as Tennessee was 29th in the league last year in sacks. A pass-rushing end who could also help against the run would be a boon for the entire defense. Whether they pursue someone in free agency or address the need early in the draft remains to be seen.
If Tennessee doesn’t sign a defensive end in free agency, I fully expect that to be their number one priority in April’s draft.
Here’s a look at the current situation:
Kyle Vanden Bosch – Now in the second year of a new four-year contract, KVB will once again be the fixture at the left defensive end spot. He’s a throwback, a guy who plays nearly every down. He rarely tires, though he’s the hardest working guy on the field on nearly every play. KVB probably plays over 90% of all the snaps, even though the rest of the Titans’ D-line continuously rotates in and out. Known as a better run-stopper than pass-rusher when he first came to the Titans, KVB registered 12½ sacks in his first season wearing two-tone blue. KVB also showed an added dimension to his game last year when he occasionally rose up out of his stance and lined up like a 3-4 outside linebacker against the Colts. Titans fans should all pray that KVB remains healthy. The Titan D will be in dire straits without him.
Travis LaBoy – The second selection of the Titans in the 2004 draft, LaBoy has been a major disappointment thus far, even though he improved his game a little bit last year. He’s missed too much time with injuries and been slowed somewhat by them when he has played. He was credited with only 3½ sacks last season, which is not getting the job done. 2007 is a contract year for LaBoy, so if he wants a nice new contract, he’d better start performing up to the expectations of a second-round draft pick.
Antwan Odom – Same song, second verse. The third selection of the Titans in the 2004 draft, also in the second round, Odom hasn’t lived up to expectations either. He’s also had an injury-plagued career, though 2006 was the first year he missed any games. He then made up for the two prior years by missing twelve last year. As it is with LaBoy, 2007 is also a contract year for Odom. The two of them are like two peas in a pod. Tweedledee and Tweedledum. About the only difference between them is LaBoy is a better pass rusher and Odom is the better run stopper.
Tony Brown – A serendipity, Brown was picked up as a street free agent in the wake of Albert Haynesworth’s five-game suspension. Although he played defensive tackle during that stretch, Brown proved his versatility by also contributing at RDE in Odom’s absence, where he played well against the run. An exclusive rights free agent, I’d like to see the Titans find a way to keep him this year, whether as a DT, DE, or DL. He’s a tweener. At 285 pounds, he’s very small for a DT and a little large for a 4-3 DE. He’s the only man on the roster with the dual designation of DT/DE.
Sean Conover – An undrafted rookie free agent, Conover appeared in six games, starting two last year.
Josh Savage – Saw limited action with the Bucs in 2004, the Falcons in 2005, and played in five games for the Titans in 2006.
The stats for the DEs were so poor last year, I’m not going to bother to post them. They’re not worth looking at.
The Titans typically keep four DEs on the roster every year. The four I’d like to see this year are Vanden Bosch and the new guy (whoever it will be) as starters, along with LaBoy and Brown.