AFC South Player Analysis: Every Team, Every Unit, Every Player



QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Deshaun Watson. Backups - Brandon Weeden, Joe Webb.

Watson has made a full recovery in the wake of an epic rookie season before he injured his knee. He tore his ACL, but was on pace for 43 touchdown passes before he got hurt in practice. Weeden is a proven backup, but has a totally different style than Watson because he's a pocket passer. Webb has versatility working in his favor as the third quarterback and can play receiver or special teams.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter - Lamar Miller. Backups - D'Onta Foreman (PUP/could return later in season), Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, Buddy Howell.

Miller is hoping for a resurgent season after a down year. His longest run was 21 yards. Miller is a good pass-catcher out of the backfield and more durable than advertised. Foreman provides a tackle-breaking presence and has some wiggle on outside runs, but isn't fully healthy after a torn Achilles tendon. Blue is a proven backup who also excels on special teams. Ervin missed most of the season with a torn quadriceps, but has been cleared for this year. Howell is a strong inside runner.

TIGHT ENDS: Starters - Ryan Griffin. Backups - Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas.

The retirement of C.J. Fiedorowicz hurt a lot. He was the only combo tight end the team had on the roster. Griffin is a tall, athletic downfield threat. The Texans like his athleticism and toughness. He had two concussions last season. Akins could provide an immediate impact as a rookie. Thomas is a project, but an intriguing one.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V. Backups -- Keke Coutee, Bruce Ellington, Sammie Coates, Vyncint Smith.

Hopkins is in line for another big season. He is one of the best offensive players in the game. He was named first-team Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro. He led the NFL with 13 touchdowns, catching 96 passes for 1,378 yards. He was signed to an $81 million contract prior to the season. Fuller dealt with a lot of injuries, and had arthroscopic knee surgery. He had a broken collarbone and a knee injury during the season, but is fully healthy now. Fuller caught seven touchdowns and clicked with Deshaun Watson before he got hurt. Ellington is dangerous after the catch. Coutee has been dealing with a hamstring injury. Ellington is excellent after the catch. Coates is a strong special-teams contributor.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Julie'n Davenport, LG Senio Kelemete, C Nick Martin, RG Zach Fulton, RT Seantrel Henderson. Backups - LT Kendall Lamm, RT Martinas Rankin, C-G Kyle Fuller, C-G Greg Mancz, RG Chad Slade.

The line has been overhauled with four new starters. Martin is the lone returning starter from a shaky group. Martin is a capable technician in the middle, but is coming off ankle surgery. Davenport is big, but raw. Fulton is arguably the top healthy lineman. Kelemete's ability to line up at several positions makes up for his lack of size. Henderson had substance-abuse issues with the Bills, but has been a model citizen so far with the Texans. Mancz is a gritty backup.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - DLE J.J. Watt, NT D.J. Reader, DRE Joel Heath. Backups - RDE Christian Covington, NT Brandon Dunn, LDE Carlos Watkins, RDE Angelo Blackson.

A three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Watt is coming off a tibial plateau fracture. He's expected to make a full recovery, but has barely played the past two seasons due to back surgeries and this latest setback. Reader has capably replaced five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork. He's stout inside and can rush the passer. Heath took a step back last season. Covington has nice quickness, but is undersized and coming off a torn biceps. Dunn is a nice player who's versatile. Watkins got off to a slow start, but picked up steam at the end of the season. Blackson is a good rotational player.

LINEBACKERS: Starters - MLB Benardrick McKinney, ILB Zach Cunningham, OLB Jadeveon Clowney, OLB Whitney Mercilus. Backups - ILB Dylan Cole, OLB Brennan Scarlett, OLB Duke Ejiofor, OLB Peter Kalambayi, ILB Brian Peters.

McKinney is the Texans' $50 million middle linebacker. Cunningham has excellent speed and instincts. Clowney is one of the most disruptive pass rushers in the NFL. Mercilus returns from a torn pectoral. Cole is the best of the backups. Scarlett is a decent spot pass rushers Ejiofor is a good situational rusher.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Johnathan Joseph, RCB Aaron Colvin, SS Tyrann Mathieu, FS Kareem Jackson. Backups - CB Kevin Johnson, S Justin Reid, CB Johnson Bademosi, S A.J. Moore, CB Natrell Jamerson, CB Kayvon Webster.

Colvin is a big-ticket free agent with a $34 million price tag who should upgrade the secondary. Joseph got picked on some in single coverage, is 34 years old, but provides leadership. A converted corner, Jackson is a good tackler and solid in coverage. He should help make up for the loss of Andre Hal due to lymphoma. Johnson has had injury issues and hasn't lived up to first-round draft status. He gets a lot of penalties, but the team is hopeful and picked up his fifth-year option. Bademosi was mostly signed for special teams. Webster is a former Broncos and Rams starter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Ka'imi Fairbairn, P Trevor Daniel, LS Jon Weeks, KR Tyler Ervin, PR Will Fuller.

Fairbairn is a good young kicker. He hit his first 11 field goals, but dealt with some consistency issues as the season went on. He connected on 20 of 25 field goals and made 3 of 4 from beyond 50 yards. He missed three extra points. Daniel beat out seven-time Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler. Ervin and Fuller provide upside in the return game. Weeks is a consistent former Pro Bowl selection



QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Andrew Luck. Backup - Jacoby Brissett.

The only question about Luck is whether he will return after a 20-month absence to his previous three-time Pro Bowl form. He was a bit rusty in three preseason appearances, leading the first-team offense to its only TD in its final series of the third game. But he asserts his surgically repaired right shoulder is as strong as before the procedure, and the velocity on his throws supports that. Perhaps timing and accuracy are just a matter of getting enough snaps. Brissett was such a capable fill-in last season, the Colts turned down trade offers for him in the preseason. Should Luck's injury issues resurface, Brissett did complete 276 of 469 passes for 3,098 yards with 13 TDs and just seven INTs. He also ran for four scores.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter - Marlon Mack. Backups - Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines, Christine Michael, Robert Turbin (SUS).

Turbin will miss the first four games of the regular season as he serves a league-mandated PED suspension. Mack was set to take over in his second season after showing a strong burst in 14 games as a rookie reserve, but he missed much of the preseason with a hamstring injury suffered in the opener. If Mack isn't ready for Sunday, expect Wilkins to get the starting nod after the rookie rushed for 75 yards in exhibitions. Michael led the team with 83 yards in his return after missing all of last season with a leg injury. Hines has been used primarily as a returner and has been inconsistent at best with some muffed catches and bobbles.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Jack Doyle. Backups - Eric Ebron, Erik Swoope, Ryan Hewitt.

Doyle's progression earned him his first Pro Bowl nod last season. A former undrafted signee by the Titans in 2013, the Indianapolis native has returned home and become a fixture at the position. Doyle hauled in 80 passes for 690 yards and four touchdowns. The addition of Ebron as a veteran free-agent signing from Detroit should give the Colts offense some much needed flexibility. He will line up at tight end, H-Back and sometimes as a receiver, and is expected to use his athleticism to stretch the field more than Doyle, who is more of a short-range possession option. Swoope is coming off a season-ending knee injury after playing well in 2016.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant. Backups - Marcus Johnson, Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers.

Although Hilton's numbers dropped without Luck last year, the four-time Pro Bowl star is still one of the league's best big-play receivers. He caught 57 passes for 966 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. Grant, a veteran free-agent addition from Washington, edged Rogers for the No. 2 slot despite registering a lone 17-yard catch in preseason. Rogers had five catches for 71 yards. Both had drops, so expect the Colts to shuffle them interchangeably, hoping one emerges as a definitive No. 2. Johnson was acquired from Seattle last week and is reunited with new Colts head coach Frank Reich, for whom he played sparingly in Philadelphia last season when Reich was offensive coordinator. Pascal, undrafted in 2017 and claimed off waivers in June, had a solid preseason with six catches for 91 yards and two TDs to earn a roster spot.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Quenton Nelson, C Ryan Kelly, RG Matt Slauson, RT Joe Haeg. Backups - G/T Le'Raven Clark, G Mark Glowinski, G/T Denzelle Good, G/T Braden Smith, T J'Marcus Webb.

On paper, the Colts could have their best offensive line group since the Jeff Saturday-led group from the mid-2000s. Castonzo, Nelson, and Kelly were all first-round draft choices. Castonzo missed the preseason with a hamstring injury, but is confident he will be ready for Week 1. Slauson was a veteran free-agent addition from the Chargers. Who starts at right tackle is the question. Haeg got a long look and is versatile, capable of playing all three offensive line positions although he's a natural guard. Good was thought to be an option, but suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game and is listed as week-to-week, which means he'll need time. Smith, a second-round pick, also got his share of snaps in trying to convert from his natural guard position.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LDE Kemoko Turay, NT Al Woods, DT Denico Autry, RDE Jabaal Sheard. Backups - DE Tarell Basham, DE Margus Hunt, DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, T Hassan Ridgeway, T Grover Stewart, DE Tyquan Lewis (IR/could return later in season).

Sheard converts from a 3-4 outside linebacker, where he had a team-high 5.5 sacks. Woods returns for his second season but will be counted upon more as a run stuffer since Johnathan Hankins was released because he didn't fit the scheme. Autry, signed as a free agent to a three-year, $17.8 million contract, had 10.5 sacks in four seasons with Oakland, including five last year. The rookie Turay, a second-round pick, is raw but expected to start. That said, expect to see the veteran Hunt get snaps outside. Ridgeway led the team with four sacks in preseason. Lewis, another second-round pick selected for his pass-rushing skills, has a toe injury and it remains to be seen if the Colts will be able to bring him back from IR after eight weeks. Basham, a third-round pick in 2017, was underwhelming at times in preseason and like Turay still has a lot to learn.

LINEBACKERS: Starters - OLB Najee Goode, MLB Anthony Walker, OLB Darius Leonard. Backups - OLB Matthew Adams, OLB Zaire Franklin, MLB Skai Moore.

Goode and Walker are the only linebackers with starting experience and will set the tone for the younger players. Goode played 16 games with three starts in winning a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles last year. Walker, a fifth-round pick in 2017, appeared in 10 games with two starts as a rookie. But he's been slowed by a groin injury. The coaches are high on Leonard, a second-round pick who has shown promising skills in playing fast and running to the ball. The undrafted Moore also impressed enough to earn a roster spot. Franklin, a seventh-round pick, also figures to get his share of snaps as the Colts look to play young players and hopefully speed up the learning curve.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - CB Pierre Desir, S Malik Hooker, S Clayton Geathers, CB Kenny Moore II. Backups - S Matthias Farley, CB Nate Hairston, CB Chris Milton, S Corey Moore, CB Quincy Wilson, S George Odum.

Desir started four games last season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. That's a consistent theme here, considering both Hooker and Geathers had knee injuries, too. Hooker, a first-round pick, stands out as a playmaker on a unit in need of more. Kenny Moore got most of the snaps at cornerback on the other side, but expect Wilson, Milton and Hairston to get snaps, too. Farley started 15 games and made 98 tackles last season. He will rotate in for Hooker and Geathers. Odum made the team as an undrafted free agent. Corey Moore, claimed off waivers on Sunday, started 11 games in three seasons with Houston.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Adam Vinatieri, P Rigoberto Sanchez, LS Luke Rhodes, KR Nyheim Hines, PR Chester Rogers.

Vinatieri remains one of the most prolific kickers in league history. He connected on 29-of-34 field-goal attempts last season, including going 5-of-6 from 50 yards. The NFL's oldest player at 45 signed a one-year contract to return. Sanchez had a strong rookie season, averaging 44.8 yards on 84 punts. He also capably handled kickoff duties with 46 touchbacks. If Hines continues to have issues catching the ball, expect Rogers to handle both. Rogers averaged 8.0 yards per punt return on 10 chances in 2017.



QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Blake Bortles. Backup -- Cody Kessler.

Bortles begins his fifth season as the Jaguars starter with greater expectations this year than any of the previous four. He didn't enjoy a stellar preseason as he failed to throw a TD pass and had three interceptions. The good news is that his completion percentage was at 67.3, considerably higher than his career mark of 59.1. With the Jaguars leading the league in rushing yards per game a year ago and with one of the best defenses in the league, Bortles doesn't have to produce 300-yard games with his arm. But he does need to be effective with his throws and be as accurate in the red zone as he was a year ago (18 TDs, 0 INTs). Kessler looked sharp in the preseason, giving the Jaguars hope that the season wouldn't be a lost cause if Bortles was out with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- Leonard Fournette, FB Tommy Bohannon. Backups -- T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant.

It's the same four backs who enabled the Jaguars to lead the league in rushing a year ago. Fournette is the standout after putting together a 1,000-yard season as a rookie in 2017. He's 10 pounds lighter than he was last year and looked exceptionally quick in his brief playing time in the preseason. With the likelihood of an increase in swing passes his way, Fournette could touch the ball an average of 25 times a game this year (he was at 19.0 in 2017). Yeldon and Grant are solid backups. Yeldon was used often as a third-down back but Fournette may see added time in those situations this year. Grant showed the Jaguars he can be an effective weapon as a receiver when he caught three first-half passes and gained 59 yards in the AFC Championship Game against New England. Bohannon is solid in leading Fournette through holes and also showed his talents as a pass receiver with two catches for 34 yards and a TD in the Jaguars final two playoff games a year ago.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Backups -- James O'Shaughnessy, Niles Paul.

Seferian-Jenkins was signed in free agency to bolster the tight end spot and give Bortles more options, especially in the red zone. The Jaguars are still figuring he'll provide that threat despite catching just one pass for 14 yards in three preseason games. They like his size (6-5, 265) and feel he'll be a tough load for any safety or linebacker to match up with. The two backups offer different strengths. O'Shaughnessy will help the passing game and is a strong special teams contributor. Paul lacks in the passing game but is probably the best blocker among the three tight ends. Watch for Paul to line up as an H-back on occasion and lead the way for Fournette or Yeldon. The Jaguars will need to keep these three players healthy as this is a position crucial to the offense in both passing and running.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole. Backups -- Dede Westbrook, DJ Chark, Jaydon Mickens, Rashad Greene.

Losing Marqise Lee to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason will hurt the passing game as he led the team in receptions (56) and was second in yards (702). The addition of Moncrief acquired in free agency will help offset Lee's departure if he can post the numbers (64 for 733) that he had with Indianapolis three years ago. Cole and Westbrook were pleasant surprises a year ago as rookies with Cole's 748 yards in receptions a team best. Both players will need to increase their numbers from last year however to help compensate for Lee's absence. Chark could be the surprise of the 2018 draft class. He had a strong offseason showing and while his preseason totals were just average, at 6-4, 200, he's easily the biggest target among the receivers. Mickens and Greene lend support in both the passing game and in returning punts.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Cam Robinson, LG Andrew Norwell, C Brandon Linder, RG A.J. Cann, RT Jermey Parnell. Backups -- T Josh Walker, G Josh Walker, G Chris Reed, C/G Tyler Shatley, T Will Richardson.

This is a unit that helped the Jaguars average over 160 yards a game the first 10 contests last year before falling off to a 109 per-game mark the final six outings. Still, the overall product was good enough to lead the NFL in team rushing. Four of the five starters return for another season. The new guy is Norwell who was a first-team All-Pro selection a year ago. He's stepping in to a spot that was the team's biggest weak link in the line last year. If the five starters can stay healthy and with stout runners like Fournette and Yeldon, this will again rank as one of the best groups in the league. But all five must answer the call each week as the depth is a concern. Shatley can adequately handle either a center or guard spot, but if the Jaguars have to use Wells or Richardson at one of the tackle spots, it will expose a weakness. Cann, who many thought was in jeopardy of losing his starting spot, had a standout camp and solidified his status as a starter. Robinson must become more consistent and Parnell must stay healthy after missing three games in 2017 with an injury.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LDE Yannick Ngakoue, DT Malik Jackson, NT Abry Jones, RDE Calais Campbell. Backups -- LDE Lerentee McCray, NT Marcell Dareus, DT Eli Ankou, E/T Taven Bryan, LDE Dante Fowler (SUS), DT Michael Bennett, DE Dawuane Smoot.

It was the strength of the defense a year ago and should be again in 2018. The Jaguars are solid two-deep at each of the four spots on the line and then some. First-round draft pick Bryan is the only one of the 10 players on the D-line who was not with the team last year. While Campbell was the standout of the group a year ago with his 14.5 sacks, look for the talented Ngakoue to take that role this year. In just his third season with the team, Ngakoue could easily surpass the 12.0 sacks he recorded a year ago. Size, speed and unique moves from his end spot puts him in an elite group. Jackson, Dareus and Jones are often overlooked because of the two talented ends, but they combine to clog the middle and shut down opposing running attacks. Fowler is out for just the first game of the season and he'll be looking to match (10 sacks including postseason play) or exceed that total in what will likely be his last year in Jacksonville. Cap restraints will likely prohibit the Jaguars from matching offers Fowler will get as a free agent after this season.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Telvin Smith, MLB Myles Jack, SLB Leon Jacobs. Backups -- MLB Donald Payne, LB Blair Brown.

A solid trio of starters but they too must stay healthy. There are only two other linebackers on the roster and neither Payne nor Brown were good enough to beat out seventh-round draft pick Jacobs for the only open starting position on the defensive unit. Smith has been first or second in team tackles in each of his four seasons with the Jaguars. His best year was in 2017 when he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. Jack appears to have made the transition to the middle after two years on the outside. His speed and athleticism make him a natural for playing in the middle. Jacobs won the starting spot with a strong showing in the offseason and in OTAs. He lined up as the starter the first day of training camp and has been there each day since. Payne and Brown will be standouts on special teams, but if either has to take a starting spot with the defensive unit, it could expose a weakness within this group.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Jalen Ramsey, RCB A.J. Bouye, FS Tashaun Gipson, SS Barry Church. Backups -- CB DJ Hayden, CB Tyler Patmon, CB Tre Herndon, SS Ronnie Harrison, FS Cody Davis, FS Jarrod Wilson.

A close second to the D-line as to which unit is the strongest part of the Jaguars defense. All four starters return from a year ago for a secondary that had the NFL's lowest mark for average passing yards allowed per game (169.9) in 2017. In just two seasons, Ramsey has established himself as one of the league's premier corners. He routinely asks for and usually gets, the assignment of covering the opposing team's leading receiver. Just a shade behind him in terms of talent and production is Bouye who joined Ramsey as Pro Bowl participants a year ago. Church and Gipson have lived up to their billings when the Jaguars acquired them in free agency. With the talents of Ramsey and Bouye, it allows the safeties more flexibility and range. Harrison is a star waiting in the wings. He's been the most impressive of the Jaguars rookies and will get his share of playing time this season. Patmon and Hayden battled throughout training camp to claim the nickel back spot and both will see plenty of action when the Jaguars go with an extra player or two in passing situations. Davis and Wilson are big contributors on special teams.

SPECIAL TEAMS: -- K Josh Lambo, P Logan Cooke, LS Carson Tinker, KR Corey Grant, PR Jaydon Mickens, PR Dede Westbrook, PR Rashad Greene.

The Jaguars would love to get a repeat performance from Lambo. All he did after joining the team in the seventh week of the season was convert on 19 of 20 field-goal tries and 22 of 24 extra-point attempts. His longest 3-pointer was from 56 yards last year against Cincinnati. His 95.0 field-goal percentage was a team record. Cooke won the punting job after the Jaguars made him a seventh-round selection. He brings added value in that he can be used on kickoffs. Tinker missed all of last year when he was placed on injured reserve prior to the start of the regular season. Grant adds a special dimension as a kickoff returner with his elite speed. He averaged just under 25 yards a return on 19 attempts in 2017. Mickens, Westbrook and Greene have all shown ability to return punts. Mickens had the job for the second half of last year and finished with a 10.3 average on 28 returns. Greene averaged 16.7 yards on 18 returns as a rookie. He was out all of last year on injured reserve.



QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Marcus Mariota. Backup - Blaine Gabbert.

After three years in two different systems that were not really centered around his skill set so much, Marcus Mariota will have this Titans' offense tailored to him. That means it will contain lots of short, quick timing routes with receivers expected to make plays for him with yards after the catch. It also should allow Mariota to improvise and run either with scrambles or by design. The good news in bringing Gabbert on board is that the journeyman has enough mobility that if Mariota misses time with an injury, the Titans won't have to ditch half the playbook like they did when Matt Cassel was the backup.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Derrick Henry. Backups -- Dion Lewis, David Fluellen.

Henry becomes the No. 1 running back, but Lewis, who comes over from the Patriots, is likely to be 1A, as he brings an element as a receiver out of the backfield that the Titans have not had in quite some time. The two should combine to be a solid duo for the Titans. Fluellen once again will be the third back and a mainstay on special teams.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Rishard Matthews, Corey Davis. Backups -- Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe, Darius Jennings, Cameron Batson.

The Titans' new offense - judging from the Rams model of a year ago - should have more three-wide looks than before when two tight ends was the base offense for Tennessee. That means that not only does Davis need to step up in a big way in year two, but so does Taylor, who was lost as a rookie at times last year. The Titans believe Davis has No. 1 receiver potential, but for now, Matthews, who spent all of camp on PUP, may hang onto that role. Sharpe is back after missing last season. Jennings and Batson made the 53-man roster based on their special teams abilities as much as their receiving prowess.

TIGHT ENDS: Starters -- Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith. Backups -- Luke Stocker, Anthony Firkser.

Walker just keeps on ticking. He just turned 34 and is still playing at a high enough level that he is still one of the Titans' most indispensable players. The Titans rewarded his production with a two-year extension that keeps him under contract in Tennessee through 2020. The coaches hope that Smith will grow into an eventual replacement for Walker, if the latter does ever start to slip. Behind those two, Stocker is primarily a blocker, and Firkser was a camp surprise, who, if he is active on game days, can operate as a fullback/H-back type player.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Taylor Lewan, LG Quinton Spain, C Ben Jones, RG Josh Kline, RT Jack Conklin. Backups -- T Dennis Kelly, C/G Corey Levin, G/T Kevin Pamphile, G Aaron Stinnie.

The Titans made Lewan the highest-paid tackle in the NFL just as camp opened. Eventually, the starting line is expected to return intact for a third straight year. Conklin, coming off left ACL surgery, will miss the first few weeks of the season rehabbing the injury, as Kelly will fill in. Elsewhere, the supposed camp competition at left guard between Spain, Pamphile and the now-released Xavier Su'a-Filo never materialized. Spain fended off all comers. Jones and Kline might be better suited for the new zone blocking scheme the has been implemented.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LDE DaQuan Jones, NT Austin Johnson, RDE Jurrell Casey. Backups - NT Bennie Logan, DE Matt Dickerson.

Casey continues to be a top-shelf performer and is in better shape than in years past. The Titans re-signed Jones in the offseason and he could play some on the nose as well. Logan replaces a disappointing Sylvester Williams who was released. Johnson will start and has the ability to play both end and nose. Dickerson is the surprise here, showing good strength and potential as an undrafted rookie.

LINEBACKERS: Starters --LOLB Derrick Morgan, LILB Wesley Woodyard, RILB Will Compton, ROLB Brian Orakpo. Backups - OLB Harold Landry, ILB Jayon Brown, ILB Rashaan Evans, OLB Aaron Wallace, ILB Daren Bates, OLB Kamalei Correa, OLB Sharif Finch.

Morgan and Orakpo are still productive, but are entering the last year of their contracts. The Titans hope that second-round pick Landry will provide a boost in the pass rush, but both Landry and Morgan could miss time early with injuries. Wallace missed most of last year with an injury, but is a contributor and may start for the first week or two while Morgan and Landry heal. On the inside, Woodyard found a fountain of youth last year by changing his diet and turning in a productive season. Rookie first-round pick Evans had a shot to start immediately alongside Woodyard, but suffered an injury early in camp. That opened the door for Compton to play regularly - at least early. Brown did well as a nickel linebacker as a rookie last year. Bates' calling card is special teams, while newcomer Correa could see time early. Finch is a project, but the Titans like his rush ability.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Adoree' Jackson, RCB Malcolm Butler, SS Kenny Vaccaro, FS Kevin Byard. Backups - Nickel CB Logan Ryan, CB LeShaun Sims, S Brynden Trawick, S Dane Cruikshank, S Kendrick Lewis, CB Kenneth Durden.

The secondary has a chance to be an asset for the Titans this year. The signing of Butler as a free agent moves Ryan to the nickel-back spot, while Jackson should improve in year two. Byard was an All-Pro last season. Vaccaro came aboard when Johnathan Cyprien went out with a torn ACL, and will start. Sims is a decent backup, but depth took a hit when Kalan Reed and Tye Smith were lost to injuries. Kenneth Durden, a late comer to camp, excelled when pressed into action and made the roster. Cruikshank is a rookie who will back up at safety. Lewis is a veteran backup, but has been dealing with a foot injury to start the year. Trawick's contributions will be on special teams.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Ryan Succop, P Brett Kern, KR/PR Adoree' Jackson, KR Cameron Batson, KR Dion Lewis, LS Beau Brinkley.

Kern and Succop both had remarkable seasons for the Titans a year ago and there is no reason to think they won't continue to excel. Jackson and Lewis are far and away the best return options on punts and kickoffs respectively, but there is the argument that they are too valuable at their primary positions to risk on special teams. Batson could get a look at one or both roles if he is active on game days.