Why the Titans are giving Blidi Wreh-Wilson a thorough look as the nickel

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- While he ultimately settled down some, his first season as a starter produced shaky results for Tennessee Titans cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson in 2014.

He missed the last thee games of the season with a serious shoulder injury, and his recovery from that injury sidelined him for OTAs and minicamp.

During that offseason work, free-agent addition Perrish Cox really shined for the Titans. He played so well it was hard for me to imagine Cox wouldn’t wind up the starter opposite Jason McCourty.

But the Titans hardly ran with a set lineup at cornerback through the first eight practices of training camp. As they explore their options and sort through things, Wreh-Wilson actually leads the team in time spent as the first-string nickelback.

A guy who seemed to need the help of the boundary in his first season as a starter is spending a lot of time in the middle of the field in training camp.

“One thing that helps is his size, he’s a bigger guy," Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said of the 6-foot-1, 198-pound BWW. “So he’s got quickness, that’s an advantage for him. He takes up space. It’s harder to see the receiver, it’s harder to see around him. Because that’s a tight-throw area when you play in that spot.

“For him, the downside for that for him is technique. He’s got to really play better technique. Last year he spent a lot of time outside. This is good for him to get in there and work his technique. Overall it helps him be a better player. He definitely has the physical tools to do that, so it’s a good thing for him to work on."

If that technique takes off, perhaps Wreh-Wilson could wind up as the nickelback.

I think the most likely scenario would have Cox starting in the base defense and shifting inside as the nickel, with Wreh-Wilson taking over Cox’s outside spot in those situations.

Last season’s nickel, Coty Sensabaugh, has only worked extensively with the first team Friday and Saturday, when McCourty got a couple days off.

Wreh-Wilson has a longer build than Cox, for sure, but Cox is still 6-foot tall. Sensabaugh is 5-11.

“The nickel is a little bit different because it gives more of a two-way go for the receiver, especially in man-to-man situations,” Wreh-Wilson said. “You’ve got to understand the leverages, when you can play inside, when you have to transfer to outside. There are some zone concepts where you have to match up routes more, because there is more switching of the receivers when they get closer together.”

Being a longer nickel affords a corner a chance to disrupt receivers more, he said.

Receiver Kendall Wright said the competition for the job covering the slot will be good for all the corners as they learn from their own experience and the experiences of the competition.

“I think Blidi is pretty good in the slot, he has good feet and his arms are really long,” Wright said. “He can really get his hands on you. You’ve got a tall guy with long arms in the slot, it can close some windows.”

Cox and Sensabaugh have played the spot plenty already. Wreh-Wilson hasn't. Having as many corners ready to step into the role when needed is a smart thing.