NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We've focused on the big stuff and the fun stuff through one week of Tennessee Titans training camp.
Now, ahead of this evenings' scrimmage at Nissan Stadium, here are seven deeper observations you need to consider if you're looking at the big picture.
1) Receiver Tre McBride makes a lot of plays. The 2015 seventh-round pick out of William & Mary probably rates as the eighth receiver right now. But I still expect Justin Hunter won’t make this team, and either Harry Douglas or Andre Johnson won’t. That would move McBride to sixth. I think the Titans probably keep five, though McBride's special teams capabilities will really help his candidacy. He’s eligible for the practice squad, and I could see him there. The trouble is, he’s the type of guy who could play a lot in the preseason and be productive, gaining some attention from teams in need of receivers.
2) The Titans have a deep batch of safeties they need to sort out. Da-Norris Searcy and Rashad Johnson are the starters, with third-rounder Kevin Byard very much the third guy who could challenge Johnson at some point. After that are Daimion Stafford, who played as a dime linebacker some last season, Marqueston Huff and Josh Aubrey. Huff just got suspended for the one game for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. All three are quality special-teamers. At least one of them won’t be around. Don’t count out Aubrey. The last two times I’ve looked up to see who’s running with the twos, it was Aubrey who was alongside Byard.
3) Undrafted rookie fullback Sam Bergen out of Rutgers has looked good. One person with the team deemed him “solid.” That you can find a solid fullback as an undrafted is a testament to why you don’t spend a fourth-round pick on a fullback, as former general manager Ruston Webster did last season on Jalston Fowler.
4) Set aside Dexter McCluster, regarded by the team as a specialty back, and Fowler (or Bergen). I am not enamored with any of the candidates to be the third guy behind DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. That group is Antonio Andrews, David Cobb, Bishop Sankey and David Fluellen. They are all getting chances, though I don’t feel Sankey has been toward the top very often. (He was the seventh running back to get a carry in a 13-play nine-on-seven period Friday.) That said, voice of the Titans Mike Keith made a good point this week. Two of that group could make it, creating a running back group of six, counting the fullback and McCluster. The Titans likely won’t have special-teams help in a low-ranking receiver like Andre Johnson or Dorial Green-Beckham. They may need to make up for that with an extra running back or linebacker.
5) Move Nate Palmer from the questionable column to the 53-man roster column. He plays inside and outside linebacker -- rare versatility in the 3-4. He’s been second-team inside and spelling Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo periodically with the first team, in part because Kevin Dodd is on PUP and unavailable to work in that role. Palmer will be a key special-teamer. The Titans aren’t sure why the Packers dumped him but are happy he was available to be claimed off waivers.
6) Saturday night’s scrimmage at Nissan Stadium will make the Titans fifth of their 12 padded practice of training camp. It’s time to start shuffling that left guard spot and seeing if Jermiah Poutasi, Brian Schwenke or Sebastian Tretola can bring any more to it than Quinton Spain. Mike Mularkey said Spain has been more hot than cold, but that his bad plays are significant.
7) Where do the Titans need to add an experienced player the most? I’d say at swing tackle. Josue Matias is the No. 2 left tackle, and Will Poehls is second at right tackle. They are both promising but inexperienced. If left tackle Taylor Lewan or right tackle Jack Conklin go down, the Titans need a third guy who won’t have practiced much to be able to step in. That would have been Byron Bell, but he suffered a season ending-injury in the offseason. For the premium the Titans have put on protecting Marcus Mariota, they probably need someone who’s been-there, done-that to step in if something happens to the edge of the offensive line.