Derrick Morgan, Defensive end
THE TITANS didn't expect Morgan to be available to them in last April's draft. An 8--8 record left them with pick No. 16, and the chances of scoring a talent like the rangy 6' 3", 278-pound defensive end at that spot seemed unlikely. But when the Eagles traded up to grab Michigan end Brandon Graham with the 13th selection and the Giants snagged South Florida's Jason Pierre-Paul two picks later, Tennessee knew it had its man.
More so than most other teams, the Titans have a knack for developing fearsome pass rushers. It doesn't matter if they're first-rounders like Jevon Kearse (whom they took 16th overall in 1999) or second-rounders like Kyle Vanden Bosch (35th overall by the Cardinals in 2001). Their latest project is Morgan, who led the ACC in sacks (12½) last season and ended his Georgia Tech career with 30½ tackles for loss. His ability to both rush the passer and stop the run instantly boosts a defense that ranked 31st against the pass and 28th overall in 2009, Chuck Cecil's first season as coordinator.
Though Morgan was slowed by a calf injury in training camp, the Titans' coaching staff believes he has the work ethic and consistency to help fill the pass-rushing void created by the losses of Vanden Bosch (whom the Lions signed in free agency) and Kearse (not re-signed). The focus is on getting Morgan healthy and on the field. "He's got great hands and feet," coach Jeff Fisher says. "Working with [defensive line coach Jim Washburn], he's going to get significantly better."
In short, Morgan has the makings of another Titans success story.