Cornerback, not quarterback, emerges as top Titans' camp battle

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 11:30pm

Coty Sensabaugh got the call.

With a lot of pride and a little physical exertion at stake, the rookie cornerback was charged with upholding the honor of the entire defense. An early competitive period in the Tennessee Titans’ training camp workout Tuesday evening was tied after four one-on-one battles between cornerbacks and wide receivers — two completions, two incompletions.

“No matter what happens ... it’s usually two-two going into the fifth and deciding one,” coach Mike Munchak said. “So I always try to tell them you put your best guy fifth. But it was good. I think that’s what you want out here. You want everyone watching.”

Sensabaugh, the fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson, lined up opposite veteran wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins — and broke up the play. As he accepted high-fives from teammates and coaches on the defense, members of the offense performed five up-downs.

“We thought it was fun to let everyone watch what everybody actually does,” Munchak said. “It’s fun to watch the offensive line to watch receivers go one-on-one and receivers to watch those guys go one-on-one, to watch the backs go one-on-one versus the linebackers. So, I think it was good for all of them to see all that.

“… [Sensabaugh] did a heck of a job.”

He also showed just how competitive things are at cornerback for the Titans.

While the bulk of the football world focuses on which one of two quarterbacks, Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck, will start Sept. 9 against New England, there are seven cornerbacks trying to sort out a pecking order — not to mention spots on the roster.

The Titans ended last season with five on the roster, and only one of those — Cortland Finnegan — did not return this season.

One of last year’s five was Chris Hawkins, who made the team as an undrafted free agent. He benefited from the season-ending injury Ryan Mouton sustained in the opening days of the 2011 training camp and held his spot to the finish.

Mouton returned this season and has turned some heads in the early going. Sensabaugh was added through the draft. Plus, free agent Terrence Wheatley, a three-year veteran, was signed during the offseason.

Assuming starters Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner and second-year player Tommie Campbell, a top prospect, are all safe, that means four players might be in a battle for as few as two spots.

“We have some young guys that are fighting for playing time and want to get on the field,” Munchak said. “They are versatile where they can move into the nickel, a couple of them. Mouton can and Sensabaugh can. So there are ways they can get on the field that way. They can play special teams.

“So, these [preseason] games are real important for them to separate from each other if they can and show us that they can play.”

Success in a pressure-packed practice rep can’t hurt either.