NFL camp preview: Titans banking on change bringing improvement

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE -- As the Tennessee Titans open training camp Wednesday and start workouts Thursday, they are certainly a different team than the one that gave up a franchise record 471 points and scored far too few themselves last year.
The question is, are they better?
The Titans changed players on defense and overhauled the offensive lineup and playbook to make things more friendly for quarterback Jake Locker.
In all, the Titans added 16 free agents and eight draftees. Now they must put together the new pieces to their puzzle.
Offensively, both starting guards were changed with the addition of free agent Andy Levitre and top draft pick Chance Warmack.
At tight end, Delanie Walker replaces Jared Cook and in the backfield Chris Johnson has a new sidekick in former Jet Shonn Greene.
All of it has Locker excited about the possibilities and the challenge the Titans face to jell quickly in camp and preseason.
"I'm just looking forward to the opportunity to put that product on the field," Locker said. "There have been a lot of changes, but guys have taken it really well and made strides with it. I'm looking forward to see that product on the field."
The other part of that change is a complete overhaul of the playbook by new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. Loggains is a disciple of the late Mike Heimerdinger, so expect Locker to be toying with a stronger running game, more short-to-medium passes off rollouts and even run-pass options.
So it will be a busy training camp.
Defensively, the Titans promise to be more aggressive, playing more man coverage in the secondary and finding creative ways to get to the quarterback. Orchestrating this will be Gregg Williams, he of New Orleans bountygate infamy.
Like the offense, there are a few new faces to blend in, such as safety Bernard Pollard and defensive tackles Sammie Hill and Antonio Johnson. But the biggest change should be the addition of Williams and the change in philosophy. A good part of camp will be spent trying to perfect that new ideology.
Overall, however, Locker is the key to the Titans' season in 2013. Everything done this offseason has been done with Locker's development and improvement in mind - to the changes on the line, the addition of security blanket tight end Delanie Walker and the retooling of the playbook.
The Titans' first-round pick in 2011 needs to produce, and the quick success of guys like Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Robert Griffin III only exerts more pressure.
Locker could use the help of fifth-year receiver Kenny Britt, whose career thus far has been an unfulfilled promise since being a first-round pick in 2009, thanks to too many injuries and bad decisions.
He has shown the ability, but not consistently, and Locker needs somebody to count on.
Even before he can pass the ball, Locker needs somebody reliable to snap it to him. There is a battle for the starting center job between Fernando Velasco and Brian Schwenke.
The Titans are focused on their offensive line being a strength in 2013. With Levitre at left guard and Warmack at right guard, they want a center to make the middle solid. Velasco is a former undrafted free agent who managed to start last year. Schwenke is a fourth-round draftee the Titans believe is close to being NFL ready.
As things go for the Titans, that is a good problem.

What to Read Next