Titans use Draft to fill needs on both sides of the ball

Monday, April 27, 2009 at 12:11am
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The Titans hope their two top NFL Draft picks, Kenny Britt and Sen'Darrius Marks, will help Tennessee immediately and in the long term. Mike Strasinger for The City Paper  

Kenny Britt said being drafted by the Tennessee Titans felt like Christmas morning.

“For me, it’s like a little kid on Christmas. I’m surprised and really happy and blessed with the opportunity to live out my dream,” said Britt, taken with the 30th pick overall, the first time a wide receiver has been Tennessee’s top pick since 1998.

The Titans themselves are hoping Britt and the other packages they opened on draft weekend can be gifts that not only can be used immediately but long-term as well.

“If you look at the board and who we took, I think it was a very productive day for us. That being said, it still needs to work out on the field. Hopefully, we go on from here,” Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. “I think we got a lot of good football players. We had 11 players. We got players that we kind of targeted.”

Britt had 87 catches during his junior year at Rutgers in 2008, and the Titans wasted no time in showing him around, as he arrived in the afternoon and was already huddling in receivers coach Fred Graves’ office getting acquainted with his surroundings and watching some formations.

“I know receiver is one of the hardest positions to translate from the college level to the NFL level so I’m willing to work 24 hours a day on my route-running and on the board stuff,” Britt said.

The Titans already expect Britt to be at least their No. 3 receiver behind Justin Gage and Nate Washington for now, but eventually hope for more from the first first-rounder ever to come from Rutgers University.

“Clearly, Kenny is going to contribute and contribute early for us,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

Britt certainly doesn’t lack for confidence in believing he can get the job done for Tennessee.

“I believe I have the receiver attitude when I’m on the field and the ball is in the air, I believe the ball is mine when it is in the air,” Britt said. 

Tackling a void

Britt was joined by second-round pick Sen’Derrick Marks, a defensive tackle from Auburn, who is expected to help fill the void caused by Albert Haynesworth’s departure to the Washington Redskins as a free agent.

Marks had a standout sophomore season at Auburn, but his play was down slightly last year because of two high ankle sprains. Playing through such a problem was no big deal for Marks, who said he didn’t want to let his Tiger teammates down.

“Once I got to that point and I had the ankle sprain, it wasn’t that I was hurt and had to shut it down,” Marks said. “I said I’m going to push through it. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t want to go because I felt like I was going to let the team down by not being able to go 100 percent, but if the coach was counting on me and the team was also counting on me then I just had to go out and give it my all. I went out and I tried and I played on it. It shows toughness and it also shows that I’m going out for my guys and no matter what it is, if I have to go on the front line for them with a broken ankle, then I have to go on the front line for them with a broken ankle.”

'These kind of guys don't come along often'

As for the Titans second-day haul in the draft, the team was plenty excited about the playmaking potential of third-round tight end Jared Cook of South Carolina. So excited, Tennessee dealt its second pick in 2010 to New England to acquire the 89th pick overall to grab 6-5, 246-pound Cook, who has lofty expectations of himself as well.

“I run great routes. I have great hands. I stretch the field well. As a blocker I’m still learning some things but I can get the job done. I’m going to bust my butt to do it,” said Cook, a one-time wide receiver at South Carolina. “I would like to be like a Jason Witten, a complete tight end. Maybe one day I can work up to that and be competitive like him.”

Fisher said Cook possesses special type abilities that made giving up the extra pick next year worth the move.

“Mike and I discussed it and we were both of the opinion that it was the right thing to do.  We should get a compensatory three for Albert next year,” Fisher said.  “We will be fine.  These kind of guys don’t come along very often with the skills that Jared has.”

After that, the Titans used their own third-round pick on cornerback Ryan Mouton of Hawaii, who possesses the speed to play cornerback and nickel, as well as return kicks, making him somewhat a faster version of Chris Carr to help out in sub-packages, depth and on special teams.

Adding speed to special teams

The drafting of Mouton was just one element of speed added to the defense and special teams units on the second day of the draft. With their next pick, at No. 130 overall, Tennessee grabbed linebacker Gerald McRath of Southern Mississippi, who will compete on special teams and play weakside linebacker behind veteran Keith Bulluck.

With their fourth-round compensatory pick, the Titans filled the void left by Daniel Loper’s exit to Detroit, picking up tackle Troy Kropog of Tulane. Kropog had been recommended by former Titans tackle Brad Hopkins, who helped him train at D-1 in Franklin.

“The main person I met with and spent the most time with was Brad Hopkins,” Kropog said. “He helped me workout and get ready for the Combine and the draft. Through him, he had introduced me to a few more guys but mainly him.”

Fisher said offensive line coach Mike Munchak is high on Kropog’s potential.

“Troy gives us the ability to take a deep breath going into the ball game because Mike thinks that he can swing and backup up both tackles and play the guard position,” Fisher said  “He is a very athletic, very smart, very talented player. Mike has had great success developing, so this was Munch’s pick. He was real excited about it.”

The Titans went back to looking for playmakers on offense in the fifth round, landing a potential surprise with Michigan State running back Javon Ringer, who was a workhorse for the Spartans last season with 390 carries and more than 1,600 yards rushing to go with 22 touchdowns.

Ringer is confident he can come into a crowded Titans backfield and establish himself alongside Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Ringer, if he makes good on his potential, not only puts 2007 second-rounder Chris Henry on notice, but potentially White as well.

“With my quickness and speed, I can be a slasher; I can be a very elusive running back,” Ringer said. “Also I like contact, that’s why I also drive my legs. I am also able to get those tough yards as many times as I had to do that this year. I am very good with running in between the tackles but I also have the quickness and speed to do what I can in the open field to make it to the outside.”

Ringer had a torn meniscus in his left knee and was only about 75 percent by his estimation when he ran a 4.54 at the Combine, and was about 85 percent, he said, when he ran a 4.42 at his pro day.

Beyond Ringer, the remainder of the Titans draft picks in rounds six and seven appear to be project-type players. Tennessee dipped into the Rutgers’ pool a second time in the sixth round, taking cornerback Jason McCourty, whose speed and return skills the Titans hope can help him secure a backup cornerback and special teams spot.

The same goes for Stephen F. Austin receiver Dominique Edison, who was Tennessee’s sixth-round compensatory pick at No. 206 overall.

In the final round, the Titans added another offensive lineman in Syracuse guard Ryan Durand, a 6-5, 307-pounder, and finally getting North Dakota State safety Nick Schommer with their last pick. Schommer is expected to contribute on special teams initially.

At the conclusion of the draft, Fisher said he believed the Titans had upgraded the roster in a number of ways.

“I feel like offensively, we’ve helped ourselves. Defensively, we’ve got speed at the corner spots now. There were needs on both sides of the ball, and at first glance, it would appear that this year, we’ve been able to fill those,” Fisher said.

5 Comments on this post:

By: jps13pat on 4/27/09 at 9:46

No Anquan Boldin, no Percy Harvin, but a great draft nonetheless.

By: TITAN1 on 4/27/09 at 10:02

Very pleased with this draft. Especially Britt and Ringer.

By: nashbeck on 4/27/09 at 10:10

We need to start off strong and beat the steelers at their place, then houston at home.

GO TITANS!

By: TitansKickAs on 4/27/09 at 12:04

OH no HENRY, they brought in a RINGER!

By: tennesseeblue on 4/28/09 at 3:01

Good draft by the titans. I gave it a B on www.tenncaster.blogspot.com.
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