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Titans go Young Replacing Finnegan in Secondary

Posted Jun 8, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Titans like the young options they have to fill the void in the secondary created when free agent Cortland Finnegan decided to rejoin Jeff Fisher and become a St. Louis Ram.

Jason McCourty is back as a starter at cornerback. The Titans drafted Coty Sensabaugh in April and have been busy shifting around players filling Finnegan's spot at both a starter on the outside and when he moved inside covering a slot receiver in passing situations.

The top options are Alterraun Verner and Tommie Campbell with Chris Hawkins and Sensabaugh also pushing for their chance as well.

"That's the fun part," coach Mike Munchak said. "Everyone gets worried about when we lost Finnegan and we have to go get a veteran. But a lot of times we feel comfortable with the guys we have."

So far in the Titans' organized team activities, Verner is in line for the role of nickelback on the inside. He played that role in 2010 as a fourth-round draft pick out of UCLA in his rookie season, and he was the third cornerback a year ago. This time, Verner is handling the dual role Finnegan had last season.

"I want to play inside," Verner said. "I like being with the linebackers and getting to blitz. I want to come in and guard some of the slot guys because that's there the ball goes most of the time, the Wes Welkers, the great tight ends, they like to work those areas, especially on third downs. I would love to be that guy that Cortland was last year."

With Verner moving up, the real opening is the third cornerback who comes in as the fifth defensive back in passing situations. Campbell, a seventh-round draft pick a year ago, appears to be first in line for that role. He certainly has the size at 6-foot-2 and speed timed at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash to handle the job.

"He is a perfect example of a guy that has so much upside and the question is how quickly can we get it out of him?" Munchak said.

Campbell has been making up for finishing his career at Division II California (Pa.) by spending extra time studying film and in the weight room. The need to improve kicked in last year for Campbell, who once was out of football toiling as a janitor at the Pittsburgh airport.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and other coaches have noticed Campbell working harder, which is good with higher expectations.

"The biggest thing we've got to do is get the other guys up to speed," Gray said. "To me, it's a process, because now you're the guy, and it speeds up."

Campbell said he realized toward the middle of his rookie season how he needed to work as a professional.

"When I was working at the airport, it was eight hours every day, so it's possible for me to come over here for at least five," Campbell said.

"I've watched everything, but I was watching what the opposing teams did, route combinations and things like that. I want to develop into an all-around cornerback and not just a one-year wonder. I feel like I can continue to get better every day and take the coaching from coach (Brett) Maxie and coach (Steve) Brown."

NOTES: Receiver Kenny Britt ran five 100-yard sprints without the brace on his surgically repaired right knee Thursday. Britt had a second procedure cleaning up his knee last month following ACL surgery in October. Britt said his knee felt "100 percent" different after the second surgery. "I'm happy about it. Now, it's on to the next step," Britt said. "I want to be ready by camp, to tell you the truth. I don't want to go out there with a helmet the first week of the season and not be on the same page with Matt (Hasselbeck) or Jake (Locker)." Munchak said Britt would be limited early in training camp early and be eased in in non-contact seven-on-seven drills.

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