The biggest training camp question for Tennessee Titans at every position on offense, defense
Here's what we know right now:
Question: Do the Titans need an upgrade at the backup spot?
Logan Woodside, Tannehill’s backup last season, and DeShone Kizer, the Titans’ practice-squad quarterback at the end of last season, will battle in training camp and preseason for the QB2 role. The competition may not impress some team observers, as Woodside has little game experience and Kizer is 0-15 as an NFL starter. But Tennessee would not be alone in having concerns if its starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, were to miss time.
The Titans could look to add a body to the room if the backup battle underwhelms during camp, though. Last training camp, for instance, Tennessee released seventh-round rookie Cole McDonald and signed veteran Trevor Siemian to compete with Woodside, who eventually won the job.
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Question: How will Derrick Henry’s workload be managed?
Two things to watch here: How the Titans’ talent at wide receiver may influence new play caller Todd Downing to adopt a heavier passing scheme than previous Tennessee offenses, which could cut back on Derrick Henry’s league-leading usage and how the play of backups Brian Hill, Jeremy McNichols and Darrynton Evans dictate the coaching staff’s confidence in giving (or not giving) Henry more rest.
Question: What version of Julio Jones shows up in 2021?
Jones seemed to leave a good first impression on the Titans by taking part in voluntary OTAs just days after his trade to Tennessee. His participation – and how well he looked in drills throughout the offseason – also indicated his lingering hamstring issues of 2020 are behind him, as he said in his introductory press conference.
Despite missing seven games last year, Jones paced for more than 1,300 receiving yards on a 16-game slate. And those around the league still believe he’s an elite player at 32. He was ranked the fifth best wide receiver in the NFL in an ESPN poll of more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players.
Question: Is Tennessee going to add another tight end before the season starts?
On paper, it would seem that the Titans need to, with Jonnu Smith’s departure to the Patriots unaccounted for with a corresponding move. But coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson appear content with the tight end room as is for training camp, wanting to see the competition shake out with pads on before making any decisions on a change.
In Smith, Tennessee lost its do-it-all tight end – a big factor in both the run and pass game – so the players left in the group, headlined by Anthony Firkser, need to showcase more versatility to bridge the gap. Tight ends coach Luke Steckel said everyone is going to have to do more than they’ve done in the past.
Question: Who is going to be the starting right tackle?
Veteran Kendall Lamm and rookie second-round pick Dillon Radunz will battle it out. Even if Radunz loses out, he appears to be in for a significant role in Year 1. He showed coaches the versatility to play guard during offseason practices, despite playing primarily left tackle at North Dakota State.
Question: Have the Titans neglected the nose tackle position?
After losing in free agency veteran stalwart DaQuan Jones, who played on the last season of a three-year deal worth $21 million in 2020, the Titans are set to replace him with a cheaper alternative. Second-year pro Teair Tart ($780,000 base salary for 2021), undrafted rookie Naquan Jones ($660,000) and veteran Abry Jones ($1.075 million) are the top options. The production at nose tackle on early downs will be critical in creating manageable third downs for a Titans’ defense which struggled getting off the field last season.
Question: Will Bud Dupree be the solution to the Titans’ pass-rushing woes?
Dupree is a talented, violent edge rusher. He has said all the right things publicly. But there’s risk with the Titans throwing big money at him because he tore his ACL last year, a recovery that could limit him to start 2021. His acquisition comes just a season after Tennessee swung and missed on a Jadeveon Clowney-Vic Beasley pass-rush tandem.
The Titans can’t be overly dependent on Dupree, especially to start the year. Big seasons from Harold Landry III and rookie Rashad Weaver would help. The addition of veteran defensive lineman Denico Autry should help the interior pass-rush efforts.
Question: What is Rashaan Evans’ future?
Evans’ future in Nashville beyond 2021 is uncertain, with the Titans declining the fifth-year option on his rookie contract – making him an unrestricted free agent after this season – and drafting a potential replacement in third-rounder Monty Rice.
A strong training camp is critical for Evans, who’ll try to regain his 2019 form, when he looked like a rising playmaker in the NFL. The former Alabama star was inconsistent last season and led the Titans in penalty yardage.
Question: When will Caleb Farley be able to play?
This is one of the biggest questions entering training camp. The Titans offered no substantive updates on Farley’s recovery timeline during the offseason program. It appears unlikely he’ll be ready to start camp because of the lingering back injury, considering his pre-draft health prognosis. Patience will be required of team observers. Like the Jeffery Simmons situation in 2019, Tennessee drafted Farley knowing he’d need time to properly heal.
Question: Who’s the No. 3 safety?
Amani Hooker, now set to be a starter, set a high standard as the No. 3 safety with four interceptions last season. Dane Cruikshank and free-agent acquisition Matthias Farley, both special teams guys, are frontrunners for the lead backup role. The 29-year-old Farley has more defensive experience – he has 18 starts and played 1,349 defensive snaps since entering the league in 2016 – but Cruikshank could have more upside, being three years younger. He played just two games last season.