Training camp goals
1. Determine the quarterback competition winner. The Titans have thrown open the quarterback position, saying last year's first-round pick Jake Locker will have the chance to unseat incumbent Matt Hasselbeck, who came in as a free agent last year and put up his best season since 2007. Locker needs to show that he is really ready for the job on a permanent basis to prevent coach Mike Munchak and offensive coordinator Chris Palmer from making the safe choice and sticking with Hasselbeck. If the Titans believe they are solid enough for a deep playoff run now, then they should stick with Hasselbeck and ride his veteran savvy for the short run. But if the Titans are still building, then they should begin Locker's maturation process as a quarterback sooner rather than later.
2. Fix the defense. The most glaring problem on defense in 2011 was the lack of a pass rush, but there are many more holes to plug than just on the defensive line. However, improvement up front could help mask some of the other problems that plagued this group a year ago. The Titans believe three things will add up to them being better. First, they added Kamerion Wimbley to help rush the passer off the edge. Second, they believe youngsters like Colin McCarthy, Akeem Ayers, Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug will only get better with an actual offseason to prepare. And finally, that offseason should allow defensive coordinator Jerry Gray to actually implement his defensive scheme, something that began in the offseason and will carry through training camp and preseason.
Player to watch
Kendall Wright. The rookie first-round pick was to be brought along slowly, first learning the offense as the slot receiver after a four productive seasons at Baylor during which he amassed 4,004 receiving yards in the spread system but never was tasked with learning a playbook. However, the implication that Wright wouldn’t quickly grasp Chris Palmer’s detailed system proved off-base, and Wright learned all three wide receiver positions in the Titans’ offense this offseason even without participating in the first minicamp because of a bum shoulder. “He is really decisive,” QB Matt Hasselbeck said. “He’s going to be a good player for us.” Now healthy, he could be pushed to start if Kenny Britt misses time. Britt might be ready for the start of the regular season after a third knee procedure – two on his reconstructed right knee, a scope on his left in July – since October, but his history of injuries almost certainly will help push Wright into a prominent role.
On the hot seat
Running back Chris Johnson. A year ago, Johnson was the focus of the Titans' entire training camp and preseason, conspicuous by his absence due to a holdout. Now, one mediocre season and a $53 million extension later, Johnson has a different sort of target on his back. He has proven that he is closer to the running back who ran for 2,006 yards three years ago instead of the one that struggled to just over 1,000 yards last season following his return from the contract dispute. With offensive coordinator Chris Palmer looking to use his quarterbacks and receivers more, Johnson might not even be the primary focus of the offense anymore. But with a hefty contract and coming off a down year, he still has much to prove.
G Leroy Harris has been cleared to return to practice following shoulder surgery.
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