With cornerback Rod Hood out for the season due to an ACL tear Friday, the Titans’ secondary has taken a hit before the season even got started.
But the Titans coaching staff says the team has plenty of options and players will be licking their chops to earn Hood’s spot in the lineup.
“We’ve got good [players] — it’s hard to get good reps in just because of the limits of OTAs,” said Coach Jeff Fisher. “We’re looking for everybody to step up, everybody is improving. It’s very competitive out there. Someone will rise to the top.”
Fisher said the decision likely won’t be made until toward the end of the preseason.
Those who are competing to fill Hood’s shoes at corner include: second-year players Jason McCourty and Ryan Mouton, rookie Alterraun Verner and currently injured (hamstring) veteran Tye Hill.
The Titans secondary still has several veterans. Safeties Michael Griffin and Chris Hope joined cornerback Cortland Finnegan in 2009’s Pro Bowl, but their play in 2009-2010 did not match that of the celebrated 2008-2009 season.
“The guys that were here that went to the Pro Bowl two years ago, they understand that we weren’t as good last year as we wanted to be,” said Defensive Coordinator Chuck Cecil. “The biggest statistic we have is that we gave up 63 20-plus-yard passes and the year before it was 39 so that is a big emphasis for us.”
Finnegan said he expects the competition of training camps to result in quality play for the secondary. He said the injury to Hood does not lower expectations for the season.
“Everybody has to step up,” he said. “Your team is as good as your backups, so your backups have to be just as good as your starters. Everybody has to step up and make sure there is no slack.
“Confidence is a big thing that we’re gaining that back so we look forward to big things this year.”
Despite the team’s attitude that they can overcome the loss, in a preseason where Hood was expected to compete for a starting position, Chuck Cecil points out that cornerback is a critical position.
“To be a starting cornerback in the NFL is a big task,” said Cecil. “From a defensive standpoint you’ve got to have two guys that can get it done. If one guy is lacking then he’s going to get targeted pretty much every week. So finding someone to complement Cortland is a big thing for us.”