After a surprising 9-7 finish to last season, the Titans were expected to compete in the AFC South. After eight games this season, they sit 3-5 with one of the worst defenses in the league.
This season, they are 30th in the league in average yards per game allowed with 421.2 and are 31st in points allowed per game with 32.1. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has found himself on the hot seat after his defense has been unable slow teams down on third down and they only have 11 sacks on the season.
Gray is known for his utilization of the “Ruby” package, where the defense lines up in a 3-2-6 configuration with three down lineman, two linebackers, three safeties and three cornerbacks. The added dimension of speedy defensive backs give the defense the opportunity to bring blitzes from all different directions, but the Titans have not utilized the formation much this season.
Coming into the season, the defensive line was looked at as a strength for the Titans, primarily with their defensive tackles. Sen’Derrick Marks and Jurrell Casey are the starters but they also have a nice rotation with Karl Klug and rookie Mike Martin. Martin has been a spark plug with two sacks and three tackles for loss but he has been the only real threat to the quarterback. Casey has been good against the run, but the group as a whole has struggled, allowing 139 yards per game on the ground, the fifth worse in the NFL.
The last few weeks the Bears have faced defenses that have struggled against the run, yet they have not made it a focus to grind out the football. Running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush should both get a solid number of carries against a run defense that has struggle slowing down runners up the middle.
Kamerion Wimbley was the prize free agent of the Titans this offseason after speculation that the Bears were interested in signing the 28 year old after he was a salary cap causality of the Raiders (h/t Chicago Sun-Times). He is more of a 3-4 outside linebacker than a 4-3 rush end, but his athleticism and quickness helps him against the bigger and stronger offensive tackles. Through eight games, he has two and half sacks and will pose a problem for left tackle J’Marcus Webb.
Opposite of Wimbley is former first round pick Derrick Morgan, who also has two and half sacks on the season. Morgan’s strength is in run defense and will be matched up against arguably the Bears best run-blocker, Gabe Carimi. Carimi has struggled in pass blocking, so Morgan may be licking his chops for a chance to free rush against him.
The linebacker trio of Colin McCarthy, Zach Brown, and Akeem Ayers for the Titans all have potential that they quite haven’t lived up to yet.
McCarthy missed time earlier this year due to injury, but had 11 tackles Sunday against the Colts and has been very good at stopping the run in the past. The jury is still out on Brown, who is fast and athletic but has struggled at times in pass coverage.
The Bears have been talking all season about getting tight end Kellen Davis more involved and Davis on Brown would be a mismatch in their favor. Ayers is a tackling machine, leading the team in tackles with 67 and has the ability to rush the quarterback.
After losing Cortland Finnegan to former coach Jeff Fisher and his St. Louis Rams, the locked down cornerback Jason McCourty with a five year $43 million extension. He is solid in man-to-man coverage and has two of the teams six interceptions. He will likely be matched up all day against the Bears’ Brandon Marshall.
Alterraun Verner lines up opposite of McCourty and is fourth on the team with 50 tackles, never a good sign for a cornerback. He is a solid tackler but his lack of elite speeds makes him vulnerable against quicker receivers. The Bears have been searching for the home-run play much of the season and if they can matchup Devin Hester on Verner, expect them to try and take a shot deep.
Jordan Babineaux replaced Robert Johnson after he struggled at the free safety position and the Titans moved Michael Griffin back to free safety and put Babineaux at strong safety. He has been a tackling machine since replacing Johnson and is second on the team with 64 tackles. He has the potential to get beat deep, but plays solid against the run and is a good tackler. The Bears will try and exploit his weaknesses against the deep pass with trying to match him up against their slot receiver or tight end.
Michael Griffin has been stellar in the past for the Titans, going to two pro-bowls and named an All-Pro in 2010. This season though, he has been average at best. He struggled against the run when playing strong safety and has had a tendency to get beaten deep. He has gotten caught cheating up often times this season and the Bears could take advantage of that by trying to use more play action and quarterback roll outs with Jay Cutler.
Matt Eurich is a contributor to Bearsbacker.com. Follow Bears Backer on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute news about the Bears. Also, check out Matt’s work on BleacherReport.com and follow him on Twitter @MattEurich.