Since Andrew recently took a look at how the Tennessee Titans stack up at the defensive end position, it’s only natural for the next installment of our offseason positional analyses to be focused upon the guys who make up the rest of the defensive line: the defensive tackles.
Heading into the 2009 season, filling the enormous void left by “Fat Albert” Haynesworth was the main goal for the Titans at DT. Despite the stellar play of Tony Brown and a solid run defense, the DT position failed to get the type of consistent pass rush that was a trademark of the units that consisted of the gargantuan Haynesworth manning the fort in the trenches.
With 2009 behind us and 2010 looming on the not-so-immediate horizon, let’s analyze the state of affairs at defensive tackle.
Tony Brown’s a keeper, folks
As my recent article indicates, retaining the services of DT Tony Brown has to be one of the Titans’ top offseason priorities.
His tendency of jumping offsides aside, Brown emerged as perhaps the team’s best defensive player in 2009. A free agent next month, I’m sure that they’re will be several teams looking to pounce on Tony but hopefully, the Titans will be able to lock him up for the next few years with a brand-spanking new contract.
Stay healthy, Jason Jones
Coming off his memorable performance against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers in a pivotal AFC showdown in December 2008, the hopes were high for Jason Jones entering the 2009 season.
With Haynesworth vacating the premises last offseason, the goal was for Jones to continue his progress and continue his emergence as an up-and-comer at the DT position.
Unfortunately, injuries derailed Jason in 2009 as he was limited to only seven games. On the bright side, Jones was productive when he was healthy, amassing four sacks and defending five passes in a little less than a half of a season.
In his third season in the league, I’m expecting Jason to continue his stellar play as he develops into one of the better defensive tackles in the league. Hopefully, the injury bug that permeated his 2009 campaign will fly in the opposite direction of Jones in 2010.
Time to step up, Jovan Haye
Signed as an immediate replacement for Haynesworth, Haye failed to live up to his billing as he struggled mightily in 2009. Lauded for his pass-rushing abilities and his penchant for playing solid run defense despite his lack of size, Haye displayed neither of those tendencies on a consistent basis for the Titans last year.
Unlike Jones, Haye was able to stay healthy for the majority of the ’09 season, playing in 15 games. Also contrary to Jones, (unfortunately) Haye was anything but productive when he was on the playing field, routinely serving as a turnstile as opposing running backs ran by him while also providing no pass rush whatsoever as indicated by his paltry half-sack performance in the QB takedown category.
Needless to stay, Haye has to show us more in 2010.
Will Sen’Derrick make his mark in ’10?
Slowly but surely, Sen’Derrick Marks started to show signs of being a producer down the road. Due to the team’s early season struggles, Marks had plenty of opportunities for playing time at the end of the year.
Marks is a big guy with the ability to get to opposing passers and despite his lack of experience, he’s a project with some upside and with Coach Jim Washburn yelling expletives in his direction, Marks has a chance to develop into a player in the future.
Happy trails, Kevin Vickerson?
Due to Albert’s departure, Vickerson was the team’s designated big-body on the defensive line last year. He played well at times and continued to serve as a solid rotational guy for the Titans in ’09.
Vickerson is a restricted free agent this offseason and has recently hired notorious agent Drew Rosenhaus in his pursuit to get a nicer deal. The Titans should try to re-sign him, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the allure for more playing time in a less crowded DT rotation in another NFL locale is appealing to Vickerson.
Possible offseason moves
The DT position is a bit crowded, so barring a departure or two by the likes of Brown and/or Vickerson, I’m not expecting the Titans to make any significant moves at the defensive tackle spot.
However, I’m a bit intrigued by the potential of University of Tennessee alum Dan Williams, a talented youngster who possesses a few Haynesworth-esque qualities. I’d be (pleasantly) surprised if the Titans went in that direction with their first-round selection.
Your turn, guys: What are your thoughts on how the Titans stack up at defensive tackle?