To hear coaches tell it, every NFL player looks like a future Pro Bowler during the months of May and June. Still, the trumpeting of second-year Titans CB Tommie Campbell a few weeks back by coordinator Jerry Gray is worth discussing.
Gray called Campbell “probably one of the best technique corners we’ve got besides (Jason McCourty).” For a 2011 seventh-rounder who sources say is still very raw on the field and immature off it, it begs the question: does the statement say more about Campbell or the rest of the guys on the Titans roster?
A number of candidates exist to replace the team’s best defensive player a season ago, Cortland Finnegan. The ballhawking Alterraun Verner is the front-runner to assume Finnegan’s slot responsibilities, but the door is wide open for a young player to emerge opposite McCourty on the outside.
According to Gray — as well as the sources we’re talking to in Nashville — Campbell shouldn’t be discounted. After all, his outstanding size, speed and athleticism have never been in question; it’s his temperament and lack of discipline that played a major role in him transferring schools before sliding to the seventh round on Draft Day. But Gray, who added that Campbell’s dedication and hunger have stood out this offseason, thinks his young player might be ready to turn the corner.
One other theory on Gray’s comments: we hear the relationship between he and Finnegan soured late last season, after Gray was extremely complimentary of Finnegan, another player with a reputation for being undisciplined, in the first part of the campaign. Obviously, Campbell and Finnegan are different players in different situations, but it bodes watching whether Campbell will sustain the good vibes, or if he turns out to be Gray’s flavor of the month.
- Cortland Finnegan