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Titans positional analysis – safeties

The stats last year were terrible. Tennessee was at or near the bottom of the league in most of the pass defense categories, including 30th in passing yards per game (225) surrendered and a tie for 25th in touchdown passes given up. This doesn’t speak well for the safeties, the last line of defense.
There is room for optimism this year, though. Strong safety Chris Hope played well last year and earned the big money he was paid to sign as a free agent.
Another positive is the coaching change. Chuck Cecil and Marcus Robertson, who were both Pro Bowl safeties in their playing careers, are the secondary coaches this year.
Hope is firmly entrenched to be the starting strong safety again and the big question is whether second-year man Calvin Lowry is ready to unseat five-year veteran Lamont Thompson as the starter at free safety.
Special teams coach Alan Lowry, no relation to Calvin, inadvertently shed some light on the situation when he said he was looking to replace him as a gunner since Calvin was projected to start at free safety. Calvin Lowry was working with the first unit the first several days of training camp, but since Alan Lowry’s slip of the tongue, he’s been with the second unit behind Thompson for a few days.
Was this part of the plan, or was the change made because of Coach Lowry’s statement? No one is saying.
The Titans will probably keep five safeties on the roster and have seven men competing for those spots. Here’s a look at those seven guys.
Chris Hope – You can project him to be the starter at strong safety again. Hope led the Titans with five interceptions last year and was second on the team in tackles. There’s no reason to think he won’t duplicate those feats again this year. Hope is not only a leader on the field, he’s also one off of it. He’s led a group of DBs in offseason workouts this summer.
Calvin Lowry – In some ways, he’s like a backup quarterback in that when the starter falters, the fans are calling for him to go in. Because Lamont Thompson fell out of favor with the fans, that favor went to Lowry by default. He seems to be around the ball a lot and be a playmaker, whereas Thompson seems to be out of position too often. Lowry made some big plays and big hits on special teams last year. I frankly thought Lowry wouldn’t win the starting job right away this year because of Jeff Fisher’s reluctance to replace a veteran starter. Alan Lowry’s statement now makes it seem that Thompson will lose his job sooner rather than later.
Lamont Thompson – Former GM Floyd Reese rated Thompson as the third-best safety in the 2002 draft, only behind Roy Williams and Ed Reed, and ahead of Tank Williams, who the Titans selected as the fourth safety taken in that draft. For some unknown reason, the Bengals released Thompson after only one year and Reese snapped him up. Reese gave Thompson a new contract last year, to the dismay of many Titans fans who felt the Bengals were right about Thompson and Reese was wrong. In previous years, Thompson’s new contract might have guaranteed he’d keep his job, but that’s no longer the case.
Donnie Nickey – I have likened Nickey to a bulldog in the past, because of his ability to bite down on something and not let go. In this case, he’s bitten down on a job and refuses to let go of it. He isn’t blessed with quite enough speed to be a starter in this league, but he’s a solid contributor on special teams and is capable of making some big hits, as Courtney Roby can attest to.
Bryan Scott – A four-year veteran, Scott spent three years in Atlanta where he lost his starting job, then spent last year as a backup with the Saints. If he can play special teams, he could be a solid reserve.
Vince Fuller – The Titans had high hopes for Fuller, their starting nickleback two years ago. Things went downhill after he broke his leg on the kickoff of his second NFL game. He wasn’t back to full speed last year and didn’t get much playing time. I haven’t seen too much out of him in training camp to suggest he might be better this season.
Michael Griffin – The Titans have him listed as a safety even though he’s being used at corner. The team has the luxury of knowing he can always play safety if things don’t work out at corner.
Here’s my review of the safeties in February, prior to free agency and the draft. I was wrong then about Nickey, who’s back again this year.