Finnegan at nickel doesn't erase matchups

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
2:16
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Cortland Finnegan’s move to the nickel spot when the Titans see three wide receivers looks to be a good one. He’s a physical corner who can blitz and likes to mix it up in traffic.

But it left me with one big question:

What happens when the Titans want to match Finnegan up with a top receiver, as they often do with Andre Johnson. [Insert tired joke about how Johnson got the best of Finnegan in their fight last season here. We will pause for it. …OK, move along.]

Well, while the Titans intend to use Finnegan as their primary nickelback, it doesn’t mean he’s their lone nickel ack. Alterraun Verner played there much of last year after replacing Vincent Fuller, who is still around. Safety Jordan Babineaux is working there with backups.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray wants flexibility. The team’s corners are not exclusive to a side of the field and can flip. And he has more than one frontline option at nickel. He can adjust plans by game.

“Right now to me, Cortland is our best nickel from a blitzing and covering standpoint,” Gray said. “And he has that extra dimension -- he doesn’t mind going in there and mixing it up with the big guys, that’s what makes him a lot better in there.

“We’ve got some other guys who can play it. He just happens to be the best at it. If we decide to match up versus guys, we can do it, that’s easy. If we’ve got guys who are good that you can match up personnel-wise, or you want to put a tall guy on him, that’s easy.”

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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