It’s only May, and that is something worth repeating when it comes to players who are making an impression in the Tennessee Titans’ offseason work.
So here goes: It’s only May.
Still, the work put in now can help lay the groundwork for a player needing a strong training camp and preseason in July and August to either make the 53-man roster or to move up the depth chart and garner increased playing time.
Let’s take a look at five players who need to get noticed in organized team activities to improve and put themselves in a position to make an impression when training camp opens.
As far as the rookies, I’ll reserve judgment on them until I see how they mix with the veteran players later this week. Let’s stick to the veteran personnel on hand.
1) Receiver Justin McCareins. McCareins is trying to do like Justin Gage before him, taking a one-year deal worth around $1 million and hoping to parlay that into a strong season and a long-term deal. With Roydell Williams still out with an ankle injury, McCareins is sitting atop the depth chart with Gage at the receiver position. The fact that he knows Mike Heimerdinger’s system and Heimerdinger knows McCareins’ style and skills is a plus. Remember, Heimerdinger is back after three seasons away and is judging the personnel based more on what he sees on the practice field and preseason than he will on past performance. If Williams isn’t 100 percent by the time camp opens, McCareins could easily win the starting role.
2) Defensive end Jacob Ford. Ford is a bit of a long shot in that he lost his entire rookie season with an Achilles injury in training camp a year ago. He also will have veterans Jevon Kearse, Bryce Fisher and Sean Conover to contend with, not to mention rookies Jason Jones and William Hayes. Coming off that type of injury, Ford might be in an uphill fight, but he has shown good pass-rushing speed in OTAs thus far, even though he is still not quite 100 percent. Stay tuned.
3) Wide receiver Biren Ealy. No position will have more competition in camp than at receiver.
Most of the dark horse talk is centered around Mike Williams, who has a strong chance to get in the mix at the position if his conditioning keeps improving. But Ealy, an undrafted free agent entering his second year, is another player, like Williams, who fits the Heimerdinger style. He is big, rangy and has good hands. Most important, he appears to be a good route runner.
4) Tight end Dwayne Blakley. Tight end is another position where it will be interesting to see just how many players are kept on the 53-man roster. Blakley has never been a big receiving-type tight end, but in camp he has shown good hands in the red zone in short-yardage, goal-line situations. Given the Titans’ struggles inside the 20 last year, that skill can never be discounted.
5) Guard Leroy Harris. Harris is in the midst of a battle with Eugene Amano for the starting left guard position. Amano certainly has the edge in experience, having been the Titans’ top backup on the interior part of the line and having been rewarded with a contract extension last year. But Harris is one player from the 2007 draft class whom the Titans were high on when they selected him in the fourth round. After a year of mostly sitting and learning, could Harris make a major jump into the starting lineup the way David Stewart did in that same situation a few years ago?