TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: INSIDE LINEBACKERS
In camp (7): Azeez Al-Shaair, Monty Rice, Chance Campbell, Luke Gifford, Ben Niemann, Jack Gibbens, Otis Reese IV.
Offseason developments: The Titans signed Al-Shaair, previously with the 49ers, early in free agency. The Titans also added Gifford, a special teams ace with the Cowboys. Later, the team signed Niemann, who has played with the Cardinals and Chiefs. Campbell returned to practices after missing all of the 2022 season with an injury. The Titans signed Reese, who played at Ole Miss, as an undrafted free agent. The Titans parted ways with Zach Cunningham, who remains unsigned, and the team opted not to sign David Long Jr., who landed with the Dolphins. Former Titans linebacker Dylan Cole signed with the Bears, while Andre Smith joined the Falcons. Joe Jones, who spent time with the Titans last season, has not been re-signed and he remains a free agent.
In the spotlight: Al-Shaair. The Titans signed Al-Shaair to take the place of Long, a productive player with the team in recent years who missed time with injuries. Al-Shaair has been a productive player himself, but he now finds himself in an even bigger role in Tennessee. Al-Shaair made a nice impression right out of the gate this offseason, from a play and leadership standpoint. He’ll get a chance to show what he’s really made of when the pads come on in training camp.
Battle to watch: Monty Rice vs. Chance Campbell et al. Rice played in 13 games, with six starts, in 2022 and he racked up 63 tackles in those contests. Heading into his third NFL season, Rice knows what to do and he’s been mostly solid while finding his footing with the team. Campbell showed promise in training camp and preseason games during his rookie year, but a knee injury ended his season before it even started. Heading into Year 2, he’s bigger and more confident entering camp. Gifford and Niemann are looking for more opportunities, and they’ll aim to make their case as well.
Keep an eye on: Gibbens. Nicknamed “Dr. Gibby” because of his smarts, Gibbens ended up playing in five games for the Titans in 2022, with a pair of starts. The undrafted free agent from Minnesota did his job when called upon during his rookie season, and he’s continued to impress those around him this offseason. Gibbens will compete in camp, for a roster spot, and potentially more playing time.