- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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The volume is down now, and things have cooled.
Last week the Titans started putting the word out: Don’t count Alterraun Verner out of the competition for the left cornerback job, a spot he held last season. Verner is a good football player, but he is less equipped physically to play the press style the Titans now want to go with more.
"Don’t count Verner out," roughly translated, means "Campbell isn’t turning into what we thought we could turn him into and may be blowing his opportunity."
They’ve alternated days as the starter, and on Saturday both got some first-team work. Campbell will start next weekend in Cincinnati and said he hopes to get some snaps against the Bengals' top receiver, A.J. Green.
In the preseason opener Thursday against Washington Campbell played with the second team and appeared tentative. He hardly took advantage of his strength.
“His strong suit is as a press corner and we put him in situations, he was not aggressive at the line of scrimmage pressing guys, he was playing off,” said Steve Brown, the Titans' assistant secondary coach who played cornerback for the Houston Oilers for eight years. “It was kind of because he was going against a fast guy and he was more worried about getting beat as opposed to playing technique.
“That’s why we’re out here every day, getting him to focus in on his technique and perfect his technique so he can be proficient in the games. It’s a work in progress.”
Say this for Campbell, he maintained the sort of confidence a corner needs in playing such a bounce-back position. Saturday afternoon in practice he picked off a Jake Locker pass aimed for Kenny Britt and outran Britt for a long touchdown return.
“It’s about a comfort level,” Campbell said, reflecting on the Washington game. “Sometimes the receiver was lining up real tight [to the quarterback] and it was kind of dictating which leverage you want to play. It creates possible pick situations. … Once I got the feel of it, I was press all the time. I even pressed a third-and-17, which wasn’t smart. I did it because I got comfortable in the game. Once I got the feel of it I was fine.”
But Campbell emphasized that no one got behind him and sounded like a zone corner to me, which he’s most certainly not.
“A couple people caught balls, but the fact of the matter is we didn’t give up any touchdowns and we got people down and lived to play another snap,” he said. “People are going to catch balls, it’s all about getting it down right then and there and playing another snap.”
Playing with a focus on no one getting behind you isn't necessarily healthy or productive in this instance.
Campbell has great speed, which means he can recover and so allows him to be physical in the first 5 yards in a way where he doesn’t have to fear that a guy might beat him off the line.
Campbell’s got an incredible story, and an opening day start in Pittsburgh -- where he once worked as a janitor at the airport -- would be remarkable.
Is his chance at it slipping away?