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Titans positional analysis – special teams

There are more questions and unknowns than you should expect about the Titans’ special teams this year, especially after a stellar performance last season.
About the only sure things you can bank on are having Craig Hentrich back at punter and Ken Amato as the snapper again this year.
The loss of Pacman Jones is huge for the Titans’ special teams. He gave them a gamebreaking capability and a productivity which can’t be replaced. Another bonus Pacman provided was occasionally forcing the opposition to punt short or out of bounds, giving the Titans much better field position.
Cortland Finnegan is getting a long look on punt returns, along with a few others. Finnegan, who ran a 4.33 40, set some return records in college and looks to have the inside track for the job. It takes more than speed for that job though, and I’m not sure if he has all the tools Jeff Fisher would like to see.
Courtney Roby is being tried again as a kick returner, along with rookie Chris Davis and others. That competition seems to be pretty wide open.
All of those guys should get some looks in the preseason games.
Kicker Rob Bironas has some competition in training camp, something he didn’t have a year ago. After a very good season last year, with a lot of game-winning field goals, you’d think his job would be secure. Bironas had two offseason surgeries however, that give cause for concern.
One of those surgeries was to clean up a knee. The Titans aren’t saying what the other surgery was for, but I’ve heard speculation it may have been for a groin injury. Whatever the reason, he isn’t kicking the ball quite as far as last year and I imagine that’s partly why John Vaughn was brought in as an insurance policy.
Vaughn, a rookie from Auburn, has kicked well when I’ve seen him in camp. His problem is, Bironas has too, except for kickoffs.
It looks to me like the job is Bironas’ to lose. After the clutch field goals he made last year, he’ll probably have to fail miserably to lose the job.
Hentrich actually has a little competition too, a punter from Kentucky named Glenn Pakulak. Like Bironas’ situation, the job is Hentrich’s to lose. Hentrich has even more advantages working for him than Bironas does, though. Besides being the punter, he’s versatile enough to also be the backup kicker, the holder and the emergency quarterback. He has the ability to pass out of punt formation. He punts a knuckleball that has resulted in a number of recovered turnovers for the Titans over the years.
As I noted in my review on the safeties, Calvin Lowry may not be back as a gunner this year since he’s projected as a starting safety. The other gunner last year, Finnegan, is also competing for a starting job at corner and nickel. Special teams coach Alan Lowry has been working with rookie RB Chris Henry to try him as a gunner. Henry definitely has the strength and speed to beat blocks to get off the line. Michael Waddell, who excelled as a gunner two years ago, is in danger of not making the final cut this year.
Tennessee lost their backups at two spots from last year, holder Drew Bennett and snapper Rob Reynolds. Kevin Mawae can probably snap in a pinch but I’m not sure who the Titans would turn to as the backup holder.
Donnie Nickey, LeVar Woods, Eric King and Casey Cramer should all get plenty of work on the various units. All four have a pretty good shot of making the roster because of their special teams ability.
Antwan Odom has a knack for blocking kicks which is always a good thing to see. Michael Griffin excelled in college at blocking punts and kicks by rushing off the edge.
I expect to see a lot of different people getting a look-see at all these different positions this preseason. How it’s all going to shake out is up in the air right now.