The Titans enter this season with a defense that has some things to prove.
Most importantly, the cornerbacks come into this year with a challenge on their hands. The inability to get stops on third-down passing plays a year ago, coupled with the loss of Cortland Finnegan has the Titans in a position they have not seen in a long time.
They are entering the season with no true lead corner in place since Finnegan signed on with St. Louis to the tune of five years and $50 million.
The question looms large as to who will be "the man" at cornerback this year, i.e, the No. 1 corner assigned for the most part to cover the opposing team's top reciever. Will it beAlterraun Verner Jason McCourty?
The Titans drafted Verner in 2010 with a fourth-round pick. Verner, who also inherits Finnegan's nickel role in sub-packages, was known as a playmaker in college, but he lacked top-end speed, with a 40 time a tenth or two of second slower than recommended for most cover corners. It may have cost him a couple of rounds in the draft.
Many scouts wondered if his speed would be an issue at the NFL level. So far, it has not been due to the great instincts he plays with. But will his speed be an issue if he is the lead corner, though? It could possibly be. Recovery speed is something that most top-flight lead corners have, and that was the knock on Verner entering the league.
Jason McCourty was drafted in the sixth round by the Titans in 2009. He has good speed, as he was timed at a 4.32 "officially" in the 40 at his Pro Day at Rutgers. He also has good size at 6-0 and the ability to make plays on the ball. He is coming off of his best year to date with the Titans with 107 tackles, thirteen passes defensed and two interceptions. The big thing for McCourty is can he elevate his play to another level. He fit the role as the complimentary corner last year and fit it well.
At times last year, it seemed he drew the tougher assignment over Finnegan in certain matchups. But things change when you go from being the complement to the leader at the position. Can he handle being the guy to defend the top receivers in the league or will he find that challenge too big for him?
The Titans have all camp to figure out who will win this battle between these two fierce competitors, but whoever wins it will have a big challenge on their hands. Both have been in the spotlight in their collegiate careers, but the NFL is a different breed. There are no days off, and one play could be the difference in the game.
This battle won't get the attention of the quarterback competition, and it might be overlooked by some altogether, since both figure to be in the starting lineup all season, barring injury. But in terms of game day mixing and matching, it will be interesting to see which player gets the nod.