Alterraun Verner is listed as Tennessee’s starting right
cornerback, not that he’s sure he will be on the field to start
Thursday night’s preseason opener against Washington.
He could be. But so could Tommie Campbell.
A starter last season, Verner is fighting for the job in
training camp. They take turns practicing every other day with the
first-team defense, and the Titans are taking advantage of Verner’s
instincts and intelligence to work him as the extra defensive back
in the slot and as a backup free safety.
Campbell has the advantage of being 6-foot-3 and a perfect fit
for the more physical press coverage the Titans want this
Who’s leading? Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray needs to see
them play in a few games.
”I’m anxious to see how they do against the Redskins because I
know they got some guys that can really run …” Gray said. ”When
we go against some other guys, that’s when you’re really going to
get a chance to see who steps up and who wants a starting job at
Gray also sees Coty Sensabaugh, a fourth-round draft pick last
year out of Clemson, competing for the job, too.
But through the first part of camp, it’s been Campbell and
Verner taking turns working at right corner with Sensabaugh working
in the slot.
Verner has experience on his side. The 5-10, 186-pound
cornerback was Tennessee’s fourth-round draft pick out of UCLA in
2010, and he has played in 48 games with 31 starts.
He has six career interceptions and two forced fumbles. He sees
his smarts and instincts as his biggest strengths, adding he plays
physical for his size.
”If I’m playing the best I can, I feel that’s at a very high
level and I feel like I can compete with the best anywhere in the
league,” Verner said after practice Tuesday.
”So for Tommie to be in the competition, for Tommie to win the
starting job, he has to play at that level too because if I’m
playing that high and then they go with him, that means he had to
be playing that high too, and that’s a win-win for us.”
Campbell is the physical phenom the Titans couldn’t afford to
pass up in 2011. They used their final pick of the draft on the
cornerback timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at the
Cactus Bowl All-star game after he finished up at California
The Titans have gotten him onto the field for 29 games through
his first two seasons with his biggest highlights coming as a
rookie when returned a kickoff on a reverse 84 yards for a
touchdown and last year on a lateral for 65 yards on a punt return
for a TD.
Tennessee ranked 26th last season, allowing 247.8 yards passing
per game. So the defense will be including more press coverage so
the Titans can get a bit more physical with receivers.
That plays right into Campbell’s strengths, and the third-year
player said that he’d love playing press coverage every snap.
Campbell, who started college at Pittsburgh before transferring
to Edinboro, is feeling much more comfortable now in the NFL and
said the game has slowed down a lot for him.
”Before I was out there covering a go route every play,”
Campbell said. ”Now I understand the situations, down and
distance, know concepts, receiver splits, just little things like
that. And that’s helping me an awful lot with my technique, and my
athletic ability can take over after that.”
The Titans open the regular season Sept. 8 at Pittsburgh.
Campbell is from Aliquippa, Pa., and called that a little bit of
added pressure considering all the family and friends back home
that would love to see him starting that game.
”I don’t dwell on it,” Campbell said. ”I’m just trying to
just focus on the things I need to do to get the coaching staff to
trust me. That’s one of the things … I don’t think they could
trust me in the past, and I want to let them know they can trust me
to do whatever they need me to do when I’m out there.”
Notes: K Rob Bironas missed practice again with a sore back, and
coach Mike Munchak said the veteran probably will sit against
Washington. That will allow Maikon Bonani to handle the kicking
duties Thursday night. … Rookie OL Brian Schwenke has been out
since aggravating his left hamstring July 27, and Munchak said he
should return next week and have a chance to play at Cincinnati.
… RT David Stewart and WR Nate Washington got the day off.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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