The true measure of an NFL cornerback comes from his resume, not a ruler.
That’s the approach of the Tennessee Titans following a season in which they finished 31st in the league against the pass.
“You want experienced cornerbacks,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “We learned that last season a little bit the hard way.”
Veterans Nick Harper, Vincent Fuller and Cortland Finnegan all were injured and missed extended periods of time in 2009. That led to several games in which rookies Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty comprised two of the three cornerbacks in the nickel pass defense.
Things finally began to settle when Rod Hood, a veteran of 87 games with two other franchises was signed in mid-October. Hood only played six games for Tennessee but tied for second on the team with three interceptions.
He was re-signed in mid-March and on Monday fifth-year veteran Tye Hill agreed to contract terms.
Hill is 5-foot-10, which is one inch shorter than Hood. Of the six cornerbacks currently on the roster McCourty – at 6-foot – is the tallest. The other five all are 5-foot-something with the 5-foot-9 Mouton (a 2009 third-round choice) looking up at all the others.
That’s a decided change in philosophy from several years ago when the Titans, under former general manager Floyd Reese, coveted size at cornerback.
Between 1997 and 2003 the Titans drafted seven cornerbacks who stayed with the team and produced – to varying degrees – for a substantial amount of time.
Five of those of seven were 6-foot or taller, including two of the three taken in the first or second rounds – Andre Woolfolk (6-foot-2) and Samari Rolle (6-foot). Other relatively tall players at that spot included Denard Walker (6-foot-1), Dainon Sidney (6-foot-1) and Tony Beckham (6-foot-1).
In the most literal sense, the Titans’ current group simply does not measure up.
“What we’re looking for are guys who can play – guys who have quickness, speed, acceleration and can play the ball,” Fisher said. “That’s what we have.”
In Finnegan, Harper, Hood and Hill they also have a quartet that averages six full seasons of NFL experience.
“We still feel good about what we have in (Mouton) and Jason McCourty,” Fisher said. “We’re going to continue to develop them, but veteran group we have gives us a lot of flexibility. It’s nice to have that experience.”