Heading into the 2012 season,the Tennessee Titans defense is easily the weakest link on the team with no true play makers to speak of. Could this be the down fall of the team, or will Jerry put guys in place and ratchet up the defense to make plays?
Alright, we know the offense is set – barring injuries anyway – but the defense is young and inexperienced at some key positions. The defensive end position might be the biggest concern heading into this season, as well as the nickel back position. Heading into training camp, the safety position seems like the only unit on defense that won’t have many questions as to how they’ll play. The linebacking unit could be very young if Witherspoon is replaced by 2nd round pick Zach Brown. That would be a starting LB corp of McCarthy, Ayers, and Brown, with McCarthy and Ayers entering their second year and Brown being a rookie.
I’ll start with the ends.
The Titans signed Kamerion Wimbley as a FA and he may be exactly what they need, a speed rusher that can come off the edge and sack the QB. It’s funny though because we had that guy, his name was Jason Babin. I’m not down on Wimbley but the fact is he has only had one season in which he had double digit sacks and that was his rookie year. He has only forced one fumble in the past two years and collected 16 sacks in that same time as well, where as Babin has forced 5 fumbles and gotten 20.5 sacks in the same time. He was more expensive than if we would have kept Babin, but he is also younger (Wimbley is 28 and Babin is 32). Babin didn’t come into his own until two seasons ago after being a 1st round draft pick out of Western Michigan by the Houston Texans in the 2004 draft. Maybe the Titans thought we was a little long in the tooth. They also wanted to switch up philosophies and go with bigger DEs in Jerry Gray’s defense.
At 255 lbs, I hope Wimbley can stop the run because we ranked 24th in the league against the run. Last year Wimbley had seven sacks. That’s what our back up DT Karl Klug had. His bookend Derrick Morgan is finally healthy but once again is not considered a playmaker. He’s sturdy against the run and has a high motor. Most of your sacks as a defense running a 4-3 should come from your DEs and last year as a team, we finished with just 28 sacks which had us ranked 31st in the league. That has to change this year if we want to make the playoffs.
At LB, it looks like our 2nd round pick from last year Akeem Ayers will be let loose to rush the QB more this season and if he’s successful that could be a shot in the arm that the defense really needs. Jerry Gray will put him in position to succeed and flourish. If there is a player on this defense that could really turn into a play maker, I think Ayers can. In the middle, Colin McCarthy looks like a real find. He collected two forced fumbles and an int. If Zach Brown starts in place of Will Witherspoon he will dramatically increase our speed at LB and should do well in coverage.
The CB and Safety positions are solid yet unspectacular with the starting CBs of Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner and safeties Michael Griffin and Jason Babineaux. Now notice that I said SOLID, just not spectacular.
One of the best things about football is that in a half second you can go from having a sack to having a TD thrown against you. I hope that a healthy Morgan, a fierce Wimbley, an angry Ayers, and the rest of the defensive unit really forge an identity this year. In that half a second also, you can go from being burned in coverage to having the QB throwing a duck because he’s getting hit and it turns into a pick six. I think that Jerry Gray is going to do a wonderful job this year and I really think that the defense will show dramatic improvement, but until that happens all I can do is go by what I’ve seen.
Fortunately, I’ve seen a young defense with a lot of upside, with a lot of really talented players that just need to make more plays.
What say you?
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