Dick LeBeau sorting through Titans' nickel LB possibilities

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One year of Sean Spence is over for the Tennessee Titans, who will consider several options for the nickel linebacker job he occupied in 2016.

That role is a big one for team that too often did a poor job against tight ends last season, allowing players like C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin of the Texans, Jack Doyle of the Colts and Antonio Gates of the Chargers to do damage.

"We know that was a weakness, it has been," coach Mike Mularkey said. "Obviously you're working on your weaknesses and we're gong to do that with the players we have that we've brought in to hopefully fix that."

That nickel linebacker role is a big one against tight ends.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau listed four possibilities for the spot.

"I’m very pleased with our free-agent acquisition that we got (Daren Bates) and also with our draft choice that we got (Jayon Brown), and both of them are tremendous athletes," LeBeau said. "We have Kevin Byard from last year who can also do that role and do a good job, Da'Norris Searcy has served in that role. I think we are going to be strong at that position, I really do."

Delanie Walker, the Titans' top tight end, isn't facing full-on coverage with the rules limiting jostling at OTA practices, but said things do feel a bit different already.

As for Johnathan Cyprien, LeBeau said the former Jaguar could fill the nickel linebacker spot if needed, but "somebody's got to play safety."

"Last year we played our safeties a lot and I think we have enough depth there that we could do that some and I'm not thinking right now of Johnathan in that role," he said.

LeBeau said Cyprien is a do-everything safety who's perfectly able to work in coverage, but emphasized he's a safety. Cornerback-caliber coverage work isn't what Cyprien was brought in to provide.

Last season in Jacksonville, Cyprien played largely as a box safety, in a role similar to Kam Chancellor in Seattle and Keanu Neal in Atlanta.

"Just because we did it well, I believe all three of our teams took advantage of that and had us down there," he said. "But Tennessee in evaluating me, going back to even before I got into the league, they understand that I can do a little bit more than that. I honestly can't wait to get started and show a different part of my game.

"... I guess you guys are trying to figure out what am I going to be used here for. What I'll be used at here is as a safety. Me, Kevin, BT (Brynden Trawick), Searce, all of us are interchangeable, and each and every one of us will be playing pretty much sides of the defense. No matter if one person has to blitz or be down covering one side or the other one has the deep middle of the field, that's what we'll do.

During a game the Titans might diagnose an offense or an alignment and lean more toward more specific matchups, he said.