Coordinator says Titans’ defense work in progress
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee coordinator Ray Horton says the Titans’ defense should look totally different Sunday in season opener at Kansas City than in the preseason.
Still, he cautions that the Titans remain a work in progress.
The Titans are switching to a 3-4 defense, something Horton says could take several weeks to refine. If the preseason was any indication, that assessment is correct. Tennessee allowed touchdowns on the opening drive of all four preseason games and did not intercept a single pass or force one fumble.
“I don’t want to put a timetable on it, but typically it takes about eight games for them to go, ‘Oh, I don’t have to worry about what I do anymore. I just want to worry about what they do,’” Horton said. “We’ve had a good week of practice with guys focusing more on Kansas City and less on Tennessee, if that makes sense.”
That means that the Titans now are thinking less and reacting more, which should be a good thing.
“We’ve just got to go play. We’ve got to know and understand the defense. This is a new defense for a lot of people,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “We’ve got people in different positions. We’ve just got to react, and that’s hard. We’ve got defensive ends moved to linebacker and have moved some guys around. But if we communicate, this thing is going to be cake.”
The Titans feature only two new starters in linebacker Wesley Woodyard and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley now are outside linebackers rather than pure defensive ends as they were in the 4-3 the Titans ran previously.
Still, Pollard cautions it will take time to come together.
“If you’re expecting us to come out and look like the 2005 Steelers, who led the league in everything, we’re not going to be that the first game,” the safety said. “We will be a work in progress. We are getting better. The players are more focused than they have been the whole offseason. You’ll see the improvement. But are we going to shut Kansas City out? I don’t think we will.”
No one had a bigger change to make than Morgan, the team’s 2010 first-round pick. Morgan has been a 4-3 pass rushing end for his first four years in the NFL but now is being asked to drop back and cover tight ends and running backs on passing routes.
Morgan says he feels comfortable but acknowledges it’s been a big learning process. He points out he’s had his hand down on the ground the past seven or eight years. He credits linebackers coach Lou Spanos and the other linebackers with being patient with him.
“I was really the only 4-3 end that was coming in,” Morgan said. “Kam was, but he’s been a linebacker for the majority of his career. There would be times in the offseason, we’d be going over route concepts, and they’d kind of be skipping through going from A to Z real quick. And I was like, ‘Hold on, can we go back on that real quick.’”
The Titans certainly hope so.
Notes: Fullback Jackie Battle (shoulder) and quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (right pinkie) both practiced fully and will be probable for Sunday. Defensive lineman Mike Martin (hamstring) will be questionable. Martin missed all of preseason with his injury.
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