Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 5/15/12
Last year, even on short notice, the Tennessee Titans got more contributions from their rookies than they could have ever imagined. First-year defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug quickly established themselves as the Titans best players at that position, with Klug even posting a team-best seven sacks as an unheralded fifth-round pick. The Titans found a couple of keepers at linebacker as well in strong side linebacker Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy, a fourth-rounder who splashed onto the scene when Barrett Ruud was injured, and kept the middle linebacker spot with his big-play and tackling abilities. If that group continues to progress, and first-round quarterback Jake Locker pans out the way the Titans saw in his cameo appearances last year, 2011 could go down as one of the best draft classes at least since the team set foot in Tennessee in 1997. With Ruston Webster, who had a strong influence on the 2011 draft, now with his first draft as general manager, the Titans are hopeful that the 2012 group can quickly give them the same type of production that last year's rookies did. The Titans were scheduled to get their first look at the group at rookie orientation over the weekend. Even though defense was the priority, the Titans believe first-round pick Kendall Wright of Baylor will step in immediately and contribute at wide receiver. The Titans envision Wright not only being able to run after the catch, but also being able to take the top of the defense with deep routes. "We think he can be a lot of help this year, and that is why we chose him with the 20th pick," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "We feel like he gives us a lot of options to use him a lot of ways." Beyond Wright, the Titans appear to be counting on contributions from at least their next three picks in some form or fashion. Second-round linebacker Zach Brown should immediately be in the mix to be a weak-side nickel linebacker and maybe win the starting "Will" spot outright, if he can fend off incumbent veteran Will Witherspoon. If Brown wins the job, it will be because of his speed, something the Titans made a priority of all over the defense, but especially in the back seven. "I think it helps me cover the slot receivers and the running backs and the tight ends. Not a lot of linebackers can do that," Brown said of his speed. Defensive tackle Mike Martin, taken in the third round, should immediately move into the rotation there with Klug, Casey and Sen'Derrick Marks and bring a blue-collar work ethic to the defensive line room with his approach. The Titans also have a place for fourth-round pick Coty Sensabaugh, who jumps into the mix to be the team's nickelback, or at least the third cornerback, even if starter Alterraun Verner slips inside against three-wide looks. Tennessee is certainly getting younger on defense, and that is something Webster says is a good thing. "Defensively, I think youth is good," Webster said. "You have to be able to run, hit and move and as guys get older and start losing a step, even though they have that great savvy and all that, it does affect your defense. ... Defensively, I think at all positions, it's such an athletically demanding side of the ball that I think it's important to be young.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Winners and losers from NFL Saturday in Week 15

Lions break out Rockettes celebration after touchdown

Steve Kerr: Draymond Green shoulder issues ‘a little bit concerning’

Dodgers reacquire Matt Kemp from Braves for Adrian Gonzalez

Lakers’ Caldwell-Pope to miss games due to legal agreement

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

WATCH: Boise State gets too cute on Statue of Liberty play

Bill Cowher has no interest in coaching New York Giants

Report: Yankees re-sign CC Sabathia to $10 million contract

Baker Mayfield has high praise for Georgia defense

Is Vince McMahon looking to bring back the XFL?

Conor McGregor wants 'a real fight', says MMA is next up for him

Sports & Politics Intersect: Mr. Jones goes to Washington

The 'It's the most wonderful bowl of the year' quiz

NHL Weekender: Bolts keep striking, Preds on the hunt

Chargers are the AFC team no one wants to play in January

Donald Trump's quotes vs. the sports world in 2017

Five MLB teams that should trade for Manny Machado

The 'It's always chilly in Indiana' quiz

NFL puts safety entirely on players, again

Eight NFL teams who simply need to start over

Most important player on every team in each bowl matchup

NFL Week 15 Predictions

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Boogie, Z-Bo reach out and punch someone

Titans News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Sports & Politics Intersect: Mr. Jones goes to Washington

NHL Weekender: Bolts keep striking, Preds on the hunt

The 'It's the most wonderful bowl of the year' quiz

Donald Trump's quotes vs. the sports world in 2017

Chargers are the AFC team no one wants to play in January

The 'It's always chilly in Indiana' quiz

NFL puts safety entirely on players, again

Most important player on every team in each bowl matchup

NFL Week 15 Predictions

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Boogie, Z-Bo reach out and punch someone

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker