Slimmer Vickerson in numbers crunch

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- What set Kevin Vickerson apart from the gang of Tennessee defensive tackles is his size. But his size isn't what it used to be.

He said he's down to 308 from 335 and ready to be a more complete player. I wondered if that might not be a mistake, if a 335-pound run-stuffing role player wouldn't be better than a more well-rounded 308-pounder who will likely rank behind Tony Brown, Jason Jones and Jovan Haye and could be behind rookie Sen'Derrick Marks, depending on how things shake out.

But the prevailing opinion with the team is that Vickerson maintained his strength, and that weight loss can only help him even at a time when the Titans are looking to move on without Albert Haynesworth, who was listed as 320, without a tackle who's heavier than a slimmed down Vickerson.

"They just wanted me to get in shape, just come in and be more healthy, have more stamina and energy on the field, be more productive," Vickerson said. "I didn't give anything up, I don't think. I guess I'm still the big guy."

"The woods are full of those big dudes," defensive line coach Jim Washburn said. "But he explodes. And he can run. We wondered the other day if Albert [Haynesworth] is any faster than 'Vick.' I don't know if Albert is any faster than 'Vick,' and Albert could fly.

"'Vick's' only issues are technique. He plays too high, and he cocks his hands rather than getting them on the blocker. I told his wife the other day if he can just get his hands right and get his pad level right, that he will provide them with money for a long time. He's his own worst enemy. He can be a starter in this league. He's just got to get his technique ironed out. One day he looks like he's the real deal and some days he doesn't, like a lot of people. He's got to shoot his hands, get his hands in there quicker and play lower."

Odds are Washburn gets to keep nine players, which means if his group of tackles and ends makes it through camp healthy he's going to lose somebody he likes a lot.

Vickerson knows he could get caught up in a number game. He also knows if he's not playing as a Titan, he'll be playing for someone.

A few other defensive line notes since I had a chance to chat with Washburn:

  • He's impressed with what he's seen from Jevon Kearse so far. He thinks Kearse's knee was bothering him more than we knew last year and is much better and more confident in it now. He also thinks the veteran knows Dave Ball and Jacob Ford will push for playing time.

  • Second-year man William Hayes is on a good growth curve: "He's really improved," Washburn said. "He has the longest way to go from Winston-Salem State. He's getting it now. He's not thinking, he's just playing. He was real unsure of himself. He walked around with his head hanging down. He said 'I am sorry' after every play. Now he's just playing."

  • Washburn on undrafted tackle Mitch King's chances: "I don't know. If you start counting numbers, there might be 11 guys who can be on somebody's 53-man roster. It's always been nine, we haven't had nine [worthy] sometimes. And a practice squad guy." Of his 11 now, Washburn's not sure anyone could get to the Titans' practice squad without being signed to someone else's roster.