Found November 08, 2012 on Fox Sports Tennessee:
Last week the Tennessee Titans moved defensive coordinator Jerry Gray from the field to upstairs in the booth. The result in a 51-20 home loss to Chicago was that Gray's defense allowed more points -- 37 -- than it had on average all season, as the Bears special teams and defense each kicked in a touchdown. So much for a fresh perspective. After a slight uptick in a period of a few weeks in the form of a 23-20 win over Pittsburgh and a 19-13 overtime loss at home to the Colts, the Titans' defense again is looking like a train wreck and the team continues to rank last in the NFL in scoring defense at 34.2 points per game. With a 3-6 mark entering Sunday's game at surprising Miami (4-4), the season could really get away from the Titans with another loss as quarterback Jake Locker appears ready to make his first start in six weeks following a shoulder injury. Whatever Locker might be able to do, he will need the defense to perform functionally, something the Titans' has rarely done this season. Yes, the Titans raised some eyebrows when they took wide receiver Kendall Wright in the first round of the draft when the need for a pass-rusher was glaring. To Wright's credit, he has performed well, but that has not helped the pass rush. With the draft in the rearview mirror, the Titans seemed prepared to address the need in free agency, but then owner Bud Adams had his front office executives chase quarterback Peyton Manning -- a quixotic quest that ultimately failed. By then, a number of top free-agent pass-rushers were off the market. Mario Williams had signed in Buffalo and John Abraham re-upped in Atlanta. Last week Abraham told this correspondent that he was poised to get on a plane for Tennessee, then suddenly changed his mind. He said the reason was the presence of Mike Nolan as Falcons' defensive coordinator. That could be true, but Nolan had been hired months before so it's hard to explain exactly why Abraham underwent his change of heart. Abraham, by the way, has seven sacks, making him one of the league's most productive pass-rushers. So the Titans settled for Kamerion Wimbley, a player more suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme but whom the Titans elected to play at defensive end full-time in their 4-2. Wimbley has 3.5 sacks, which puts him on pace roughly for his career average of 7.0 per season. Not bad, but not exactly the game-wrecker that the Titans' defense seems to have cried out for. The Titans also beefed up the position by hiring Keith Millard as defensive assistantpass rush specialist. The result? The Titans have 14 sacks, putting them on pace for fewer (25) than they totaled last season (28) when they ranked No. 31 in the NFL. As coaches often like to say, the pass rush is only one phase of the game. The defensive backfield and linebackers have to be able to cover to help force sacks. But that's part of the problem with the Titans' unit -- inconsistency plagues it. One thing that can help consistency is keeping veteran players around, which -- whether because of age, pricey free-agent contracts of simply internal evaluations -- the Titans have elected not to do. Older players can help school younger players in meeting rooms, on the field and act as a liaison between coaches. But on the defensive side the Titans have parted ways with numerous veteran starters -- many of them productive -- in recent years such as cornerback Cortland Finnegan, safety Chris Hope and defensive tackle Jason Jones in 2011; linebacker Stephen Tulloch and defensive end Jason Babin in 2010; and linebacker Keith Bulluck (now retired) and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch in 2009. That's a lot of turnover for a defense to sustain. Then there is Gray himself. If his strident communication style with the media is any indication, then players might find themselves more bewildered than educated about his schemes. Earlier this season, he nearly got himself in hot water with the league for suggesting that his players were too afraid to deliver hard hits, fearing fines or discipline from the commissioner's office. The next week safety Michael Griffin was fined 21,000 for a hit, but then seemed to be confused about how he should play in his public comments to the media. It's a telling sign when a player who is supposed to be one of the defense's stars finds himself in such a quandary. Head coach Mike Munchak has already said he doesn't plan on making any changes in his staff until after the season ends. With Adams' comments last Sunday that no one's job was safe, Munchak could have a difficult time sticking to that pledge if the unit continues to yield such points at such an alarming rate. Whatever the outcome, the defense's problems might be more than one mid-season coaching change can fix.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Mike Munchak might be able to save his job in Tennessee

According to Arthur Arkush of ProFootballWeekly..com, Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak has a chance to save his job, but his coordinators may not. Our sources indicate that, prior to the Bears’ 51-20 evisceration of the Titans Sunday, coordinators Jerry Gray (defense) and Chris Palmer (offense) were already feeling the heat. But after another humiliating defeat — the...

Titans QB Locker likely to return

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak said quarterback Jake Locker will start against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday barring any setbacks. Locker worked with the starters on Wednesday, and Munchak said the Titans will see how he responds to practicing with the first-team offense. Matt Hasselbeck also took snaps during Wednesday's practice. ''If we think he's ready to...

Report: NFL fines Titans QB Hasselbeck for tackle

Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck reportedly has been fined for a horse-collar tackle Sunday on Chicago Bears cornerback Kelvin Hayden. A source told ESPN.com that the NFL fined Hasselbeck $15,750 for bringing down Hayden after he recovered a fubmle by Titans tight end Jared Cook at the 4-yard line in the fourth quarter with the Bears leading 44-12. In roster moves...

Titans QB Jake Locker Expected To Start Sunday

According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, Titans QB Jake Locker is expected to start on Sunday. Head Coach Mike Munchak stated that Locker would start barring any sort of “mental or physical setback“. Munchak also mentioned that Locker is “as healthy as he’s going to be” and that there would be “no difference in Locker physically” if he were to sit out another week...

Locker to start against Dolphins

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jake Locker will start for the Tennessee Titans on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins -- the young quarterback's first game in more than a month. Titans coach Mike Munchak said Friday that Locker looks good and is ready to go unless something comes up between now and kickoff. "He moved around well, his reactions were good, just things you look for...

QB Locker will start vs Dolphins barring setback

Tennessee coach Mike Munchak says quarterback Jake Locker will start against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday barring any setbacks. Locker worked with the starters on Wednesday, and Munchak says the Titans will see how he responds to practicing with the first-team offense. Matt Hasselbeck also took snaps during Wednesday's practice. Locker has missed five straight games after injuring...

Jake Locker Being Prepped To Start Week 10

All signs point to quarterback Jack Locker returning to the Titans starting lineup Sunday versus the Dolphins.Fantasy Spin:Locker hasn't played in over a month while recovering from a separated shoulder. Backup QB Matt Hasselbeck can be dropped now that Locker is healthy again.

Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins: Week 10 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (3-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-4) Jake Locker returns this week for the Titans. It’s amazing. It’s almost as if his shoulder magically healed as soon as veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck had a bad game. Locker has more upside definitely and is the right quarterback for this team right now, because they’re not going anywhere fast and need to get the young former 1st...

Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins: Three Bold Predictions

Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams is an old-school owner in the twenty-first century's "new-school" National Football League. He has been the only owner the Titans have ever known, all the way back to 1960 when they were the Houston Oilers. Sufficed to say, during those fifty-two years, Adams has seen a lot of football.The wild card game against the Bills that saw the...

Phins Phocus answers questions from Total Titans

  We thank Daniel Eliesen of Phins Phocus for joining us in this week's question and answer exchange with a blogger from the other side.  My answers to his questions are here.  Following are his answers to my questions.   Total Titans:  After eight games, what can you tell us about Ryan Tannehill?  Can he be the franchise quarterback the Dolphins have been looking...

The Titans need to keep feeding CJ if they want any chance of winning. Week 10 preview.

Chris Johnson is the Titans best player.  They need to get him active in the running and passing game if they have any chance of winning. I'm sitting at 84-49 heading into the weekend.  I need to have a huge run to get over .750 for the season. NY Giants @ Cincinnati - The Giants are coming off a tough home loss last week to the Steelers. ...

Tennessee Titans: Week 10 NFL Power Rankings (#27)

Last week: 25 (-2) Record: 3-6 The Titans have won 3 games by a combined 7 points and lost 6 by a combined 133 points, giving them a league worst points differential of -126. After allowing 317 points all of last year, 8th best in the league, they’ve allowed 308 through 9 games this year, by far the worst. However, last week it wasn’t really their defense’s problem. The Bears...
NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.