Alterraun Verner is back where he feels most comfortable – at the nickelback position for the Tennessee Titans.
Verner, who was the Titans nickelback for most of his rookie season in 2010, came onto the field as the third cornerback last year, but rather than sliding inside, stayed on the outside as Cortland Finnegan moved to the nickel.
Now with Finnegan gone to the St. Louis Rams, Verner is not only poised to start on the outside, he is back in the nickel as well. Verner, who supplanted veteran Vincent Fuller as the nickel in his rookie season, is back where he wants to be.
"Right now, they have me inside. ... Me personally, I want to play inside. I like being with the linebackers and getting to blitz. I want to come in and guard some of the slot guys because that's there the ball goes most of the time, the Wes Welkers, the great tight ends, they like to work those areas, especially on third downs," Verner said. “I would love to be that guy that Cortland was last year, but wherever they put me, I'm gonna play.”
Verner is among the Titans more sure tacklers in the secondary and says he being a good tackler is a requirement to play the nickel in the Titans scheme.
“There are certain packages where we might have to fill a game as a nickel, because our ends might be rushing outside and we have to fill,” Verner said. “We have to play what the Sam (linebacker) does in our base package. Cortland was a great tackler, and they weren't worried about him making the play in there. He knew how to make tackles in open space, so I would say that's a big factor.”
If Verner winds up as the nickel as planned, then the real battle in the secondary will be for Verner's old job last year – coming onto the field in passing situations to play outside while Verner slides into the slot.
The candidates for that include Ryan Mouton, who is coming off a torn Achilles in training camp last year, second-year man Tommie Campbell, second-year man Chris Hawkins and rookie fourth-round pick Coty Sensabaugh.