Over the next few weeks at Titans' training camp, a seasoned veteran will attempt to hold onto his starting job while he's pushed by an energetic, aggressive youngster. It's expected to be an intense battle that could have wide-ranging effects on the Tennessee offense in 2012. Incumbent center Eugene Amano will compete with Kevin Matthews for a spot on the first-team offensive line.
Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker will vie for the starting quarterback position. The quarterback and center competitions will be closely scrutinized throughout August. A battle between 11-year veteran Will Witherspoon and second-round pick Zach Brown for the starting weakside linebacker spot will be another to watch.
Top 3 position battles in training camp
Quarterback – Matt Hasselbeck v. Jake Locker
It's been nearly a decade since Hasselbeck has been pushed for his starting spot in training camp. Hasselbeck and Locker bring different attributes to the offense. Hasselbeck is renowned for his ability to read defenses before the snap and expertly adjust. It's one reason why the 36-year old quarterback finished with 3,596 yards in 2011 (the third-most in his career). The three-time Pro Bowl QB flourished in the red zone last year – one area where pre-snap adjustments are critical. Locker, 24, is better at keeping plays alive with his feet, which gives the Titans' young receivers more time to get open downfield.
It will be a crucial factor in the competition. If Hasselbeck is unable to avoid the rush, it will be tough for him to stay healthy. Since the end of the 2007 season, Hasselbeck has missed 13 games. On the other hand, if Locker continually leaves the pocket after making just two reads he could leave plays on the field.
Hasselbeck is projected to have less interceptions and sacks, according to footballoutsiders.com. Though Locker is faster, Hasselbeck gets rid of the ball more quickly.
With the Patriots, Chargers, Lions and Texans in the Titans' first four games, the veteran may be the safer choice.
Center – Eugene Amano v. Kevin Matthews
Amano received the brunt of the criticism last season for the Titans' struggles with their interior blocking. The nine-year veteran also battled knee and ankle injuries during OTAs and sat out the majority of snaps. Matthews has his father (OL coach) Bruce's determined resolve, but is inexperienced. Nepotism may work against Matthews if the Titans want to ensure that the competition will remain fair. Fernando Velasco, a third-year lineman and William Vlachos, a rookie undrafted free agent will be in the mix.
Edge: Too close to call
Weakside Linebacker – Will Witherspoon v. Zach Brown
Witherspoon has recorded at least 99 tackles in seven of his 10 pro seasons, but could be breaking down after a productive career. Last season, Witherspoon had just 62 tackles, marking the first time he finished an NFL season with less than 80. Brown was clocked as one of the fastest players in the draft, but must overcome a perception for being “allergic to contact.” During OTAs, Brown was buried on the third-team.
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