Titans competition fierce at right corner

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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