Titans positional analysis – safeties

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The stats last year were terrible. Tennessee was at or near the bottom of the league in most of the pass defense categories, including 30th in passing yards per game (225) surrendered and a tie for 25th in touchdown passes given up. This doesn’t speak well for the safeties, the last line of defense.
There is room for optimism this year, though. Strong safety Chris Hope played well last year and earned the big money he was paid to sign as a free agent.
Another positive is the coaching change. Chuck Cecil and Marcus Robertson, who were both Pro Bowl safeties in their playing careers, are the secondary coaches this year.
Hope is firmly entrenched to be the starting strong safety again and the big question is whether second-year man Calvin Lowry is ready to unseat five-year veteran Lamont Thompson as the starter at free safety.
Special teams coach Alan Lowry, no relation to Calvin, inadvertently shed some light on the situation when he said he was looking to replace him as a gunner since Calvin was projected to start at free safety. Calvin Lowry was working with the first unit the first several days of training camp, but since Alan Lowry’s slip of the tongue, he’s been with the second unit behind Thompson for a few days.
Was this part of the plan, or was the change made because of Coach Lowry’s statement? No one is saying.
The Titans will probably keep five safeties on the roster and have seven men competing for those spots. Here’s a look at those seven guys.
Chris Hope – You can project him to be the starter at strong safety again. Hope led the Titans with five interceptions last year and was second on the team in tackles. There’s no reason to think he won’t duplicate those feats again this year. Hope is not only a leader on the field, he’s also one off of it. He’s led a group of DBs in offseason workouts this summer.
Calvin Lowry – In some ways, he’s like a backup quarterback in that when the starter falters, the fans are calling for him to go in. Because Lamont Thompson fell out of favor with the fans, that favor went to Lowry by default. He seems to be around the ball a lot and be a playmaker, whereas Thompson seems to be out of position too often. Lowry made some big plays and big hits on special teams last year. I frankly thought Lowry wouldn’t win the starting job right away this year because of Jeff Fisher’s reluctance to replace a veteran starter. Alan Lowry’s statement now makes it seem that Thompson will lose his job sooner rather than later.
Lamont Thompson – Former GM Floyd Reese rated Thompson as the third-best safety in the 2002 draft, only behind Roy Williams and Ed Reed, and ahead of Tank Williams, who the Titans selected as the fourth safety taken in that draft. For some unknown reason, the Bengals released Thompson after only one year and Reese snapped him up. Reese gave Thompson a new contract last year, to the dismay of many Titans fans who felt the Bengals were right about Thompson and Reese was wrong. In previous years, Thompson’s new contract might have guaranteed he’d keep his job, but that’s no longer the case.
Donnie Nickey – I have likened Nickey to a bulldog in the past, because of his ability to bite down on something and not let go. In this case, he’s bitten down on a job and refuses to let go of it. He isn’t blessed with quite enough speed to be a starter in this league, but he’s a solid contributor on special teams and is capable of making some big hits, as Courtney Roby can attest to.
Bryan Scott – A four-year veteran, Scott spent three years in Atlanta where he lost his starting job, then spent last year as a backup with the Saints. If he can play special teams, he could be a solid reserve.
Vince Fuller – The Titans had high hopes for Fuller, their starting nickleback two years ago. Things went downhill after he broke his leg on the kickoff of his second NFL game. He wasn’t back to full speed last year and didn’t get much playing time. I haven’t seen too much out of him in training camp to suggest he might be better this season.
Michael Griffin – The Titans have him listed as a safety even though he’s being used at corner. The team has the luxury of knowing he can always play safety if things don’t work out at corner.
Here’s my review of the safeties in February, prior to free agency and the draft. I was wrong then about Nickey, who’s back again this year.

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5 Responses to “Titans positional analysis – safeties”

  1. steve Says:

    Its really discouraging to fans to know that the Titans are still unsure wether or not to start Lowry over Thompson. Didn’t they see the games last year?? Heck i’ve been fussing about Thompson for two yrs now…he sucks!! He constantly gets burned on plays. Lowry definately deserves a shot imo. Im not gonna say hes one of the best safeties in the league, but I have to agree with you Andrew about one thing…hes def around the ball alot more than Thompson!!

  2. robert Says:

    Agreed. Lamont Thompson has done nothing but disappoint. I dont think Ive heard a single fan say that they want Thompson starting over Lowry. If nothing else lets just put it this way if Lowry is already just as good as Thompson this early in his career then he needs to start anyways because he can only get better while Thompson is as good as he is gonna get.

  3. Junebug Says:

    Does Lowry have Griffin’s speed?…football IQ?….quickness?….toughness?….history of success?
    Somebody please explain why Griffin is being used as an experiment at corner, we’ve tried “the athlete” approach before with so-so results, I just dont get what is going on. For instance, what do Harrison, Polomalu, and Bob Sanders have in common? Well they all three led their respective defenses to Super Bowl Championships with average corners but strong “Safety” leadership and play. In other words I think it will pay off greater to have excellent play at safety and adequate play at corner than to hope to upgrade corner a little with an average partner for Chris Hope at safety….but maybe I got Lowry under-rated, what do y’all think?

  4. Bobert Says:

    Griffin is good enough to play CB. We need a tough CB. A great CB is harder to find. etc. These are the reasons given for the Griffin situation. I’m torn. If we are moving to more zone and cover-2, as seems likely given our personnel, then Griffin is a great fit. He’ll have his eyes toward the LOS, and that means he can come up in the run game too.
    He will also be able to come in and play safety in a pinch. So I’ll reserve judgment until I see how this ‘experiment’ seems to be working out in the preseason.

  5. Matt Says:

    I’m torn about Griffin, too. And the irony is that the problem is Finnegan – another guy who played free safety in college who the Titans have converted to a corner. It looks like Finnegan is making a strong statement to be the starter opposite Harper, so is that reason to feel comfortable enough with our corners to move Griffin back to safety? Or is that enough proof that Fisher can convert a safety into a corner, and Griffin will possibly become a phenomenal corner?
    My take is this – as long as Lowry holds down the fort at free safety, I’m willing to give a few months to see if Griffin can win a starting job as a corner. He’s made great strides in camp so far, so I’m anxious to see him against WAS Saturday.

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