The fact that his name is at the top of the depth chart means nothing to Jordan Babineaux.
It is the fact that nearly a decade ago his name was not called during the NFL draft that continues to resonate with the veteran Tennessee Titans safety.
“I still like I have to prove myself going into my ninth season,” he said. “In this business, you don’t want it no other way because once you get a sense of contentment and start getting comfortable with where you are you start losing you edge.
“So I’m competing every day and taking notes as if I’m learning the defense for the first time.”
His knowledge of the defense actually was part of the reason the Titans signed him as a free agent last season. After seven seasons with Seattle, he followed defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, the Seahawks secondary coach in 2010, to Tennessee once the lockout ended.
“As far as his thought process and understanding the game, it’s very helpful,” Babineaux said. “… Now that everyone has an opportunity to play in Jerry’s system for a second year — and for me to be my third — as far as knowing his mentality and what he’s thinking, I think we should be a lot better.”
He ultimately started 14 games, including the final 12, at strong safety for the Titans. He finished with a team-high 117 tackles and was one of just four members of the defense who had at least one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for the season.
His role primarily was the result of injuries to Chris Hope and it was a dramatic change from much of his time with the Seahawks. He made Seattle’s roster in 2004 as an undrafted free agent and over the course of 99 games played there, he was in the starting lineup just 29 times. He started every contest in 2009 but none the following season and never more than eight in any other year.
Hope and Babineaux were scheduled to be free agents following the season.
Hope was not re-signed. Babineaux was and ever since he has practiced as the starter, which is expected to be the case again this week when the offseason program concludes with a three-day minicamp Tuesday through Thursday.
“Obviously this game is a game of situations,” Babineaux said. “Knowing the situation and understanding the situation is what’s going to give you your best chance to be successful.”
The situation in the Titans’ defensive backfield is relatively clear-cut. With no proven veteran depth, Babineaux and free safety Michael Griffin are solidly entrenched as the starters.
A group of younger players led by 2010 draft choice Robert Johnson and this year’s sixth-round pick, Markelle Martin, bide their time and try to learn as much as they can.
And that is all Babineaux needs to know.
“They had a draft this year,” he said. “So that means there are guys coming in trying to take my position. I remember when I came in and had an opportunity to kind of showcase myself. I was thinking I’m not coming in here trying to befriend the veterans, other than the fact that I’m going to learn from their game and learn how to be a pro. Other than that, I’m trying to take their position.
“So I know the younger guys [now] are thinking the same way, whether it’s this team or any other team.”