TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: LINEBACKERS
In camp: OLB Brian Orakpo, ILB Wesley Woodyard, ILB Avery Williamson, OLB Derrick Morgan, OLB David Bass, OLB Aaron Wallace, OLB Kevin Dodd, ILB Sean Spence, LB Nate Palmer, OLB Deointrez Mount, LB Curtis Grant, LB Justin Staples, OLB J.R. Tavai.
Offseason developments: The Titans signed Spence in free agency, and claimed Palmer off waivers from the Packers. Both players were impressive during offseason work. The team also signed Grant, formerly with the Chargers, and drafted two players – Dodd (second round) and Wallace (seventh round). Morgan worked his way back from last season’s shoulder surgery, and after being limited early in the offseason, he increased his workload by the time camp broke in June. Dodd suffered a setback when he suffered a foot injury. He had surgery, and began rehabbing. The Titans are optimistic he’ll be ready early in training camp. Wallace flashed during the offseason. The team has a lot more depth here compared to last year.
In the spotlight: Morgan. A first round pick in 2010, Morgan got off to a blistering start last fall. He had two sacks in the season opener at Tampa Bay, and had 4.5 sacks in the first four games of the season. Then Morgan suffered a shoulder injury. Morgan played with the injury for a stretch, but he wasn’t nearly as effective and the decision was made to shut him down. The Titans missed his production, and teams were able to focus more on Brian Orakpo, which limited his success. Morgan is healthy now. His presence should help change the look on defense, and also free up Orakpo to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Battle to watch: Woodyard vs. Spence/Palmer et al. A year ago, Woodyard’s job security was up for debate heading into camp. But the veteran held his own, and he’s coming off a very productive season in 2015. His presence in the locker room is valued by the organization. Some new faces will make a push on the inside, though. Spence is a talented player who should help in situational packages, and Palmer is versatile enough to play inside and outside in the defense.
Keep an eye on: Dodd. When Dodd slipped into the second round, the Titans snatched him up in a hurry. Dodd, a Clemson product who recorded three sacks in his final college game against Alabama, said he planned to use the draft weekend fall as motivation. But will Dodd, coming off foot surgery, be able to make the impact he wants in 2016? That’s the big question. The Titans believe Dodd is capable, but some answers will come as he works his way back from injury. The Titans got a boost from Bass in the second half of last season, but Dodd is talented and powerful enough to really add a pass rush threat off the edge behind Morgan and Orakpo.
Next up: Cornerbacks.