Before the New England Patriots take on the Tennessee Titans tomorrow, it’s time to take a look at five key players on defense to watch for on the Titans. One of them is a brother of one of our own and another player was a needed offseason signing.
To view my five players to watch on the Titans offense, click here.
1. Kamerion Wimbley
The Tennessee Titans signed former Oakland Raiders star pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley to give themselves a quality pass rusher opposite LE Derrick Morgan. Wimbley has the ability to go off at any moment and had solid sack numbers year in and year out while with the Raiders. Young left tackle Nate Solder needs to be ready for a big challenge tomorrow, because Wimbley has the ability to consistently beat his opponent and put pressure on the quarterback; especially when he is playing against a younger offensive lineman.
2. Jason McCourty
The Titans signed Devin McCourty’s brother to a hefty $43 million extension this offseason, which proves that he is their No.1 guy. Expect him to get a lot of time facing the Pats big offseason addition in Brandon Lloyd, and it will be an interesting matchup pairing a talented young player against a top veteran receiver. The Titans are really high on the former Rutgers star, and McCourty also had 107 tackles last season due to his tackling ability and impact in run support.
3. Alterraun Verner
The 23-year-old UCLA product will primarily be matched up against Wes Welker in the slot, as Alterraun Verner has taken over Cortland Finnegan’s role as the RCB in base packages and nickel corner. The Titans will be using three cornerbacks for basically the entire game, and there will be a high focus on Verner to be up to the task of trying to cover the uncoverable Welker. Verner’s pass rushing ability and run stopping make him an ideal slot corner, but the problem is that he is better at covering receivers on the outside despite his tackling ability. Welker and Aaron Hernandez could have big games against him, but it should be noted that Verner has tremendous ball skills and tips passes at a high rate.
4. Jurrell Casey
A rookie out of USC in 2011, Jurrell Casey was a sleeper pick for a number of analysts due to the solid all-around ability that he flashed in college. Casey is one of the best run stopping defensive tackles in the NFL, and he and fellow rookie Karl Klug formed a dominant and underrated duo on the interior of the Titans defensive line last year. Klug is a solid pass rusher, while Casey can shut down an opponents running game with his 6’1″, 300 pound frame. It’s not often that you see a rookie being able to consistently shed blocks against solid veteran competition, but that’s exactly what Casey was able to do in 2011. First-year starter Ryan Wendell needs to be prepared for a battle in the trenches whilst trying to help pave the way for fellow first-year starter Stevan Ridley.
5. Michael Griffin
Ah yes, one of the most interesting and, possibly, mercurial safeties in the NFL; Michael Griffin. The Titans playmaking safety has 17 interceptions over the past five seasons and has made a couple of Pro Bowl appearances in his career, but man does he make some big mistakes by either missing a tackle or blowing coverage in a big way. But still, Griffin is one of the better safeties in the league and is somebody you definitely don’t want to test athletically. Still, the Patriots can exploit him if he has to cover Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski. Griffin is going to hold a crucial role for the Titans as they try to stop the numerous weapons the Pats have in the passing game (four of the top pass-catchers in the NFL).
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