The Tennessee Titans came out fast and furious the first couple of days in free agency. They made a point to address their needs as they saw it and were aggressive in filling those needs. The Titans areas of deficit in order, were Safety, Guard, DE, CB, 2nd RB, etc. When Jared Cook played hardball on coming back, that through TE into the mix as a major need right after Guard. So where’s the DE?
The Titans did address the defensive end position, only in a round about way. Day two of free agency brought Lions DT Sammie Lee Hill through the door. Hill is a 6’4″ 330lb. beast of a man that is mostly attributed as a run stopper, but can also cave the pocket from the center. This is a huge benefit. Remember Albert Haynesworth?
If the QB is getting pressure up the middle, they can’t step up into the pocket in order to evade the outside pass rush. Derrick Morgan had many QB pressures from the outside that are easily evaded by a veteran QB and a well formed pocket.
The game that is played on the lines is 5 on 4, and in a pass protection scheme, someone is getting double teamed. The offensive line usually works from the center out and guards slide towards the outside to help the tackles if need be. If the defensive tackles are creating enough of a problem for the center and guards, that leaves the offensive tackles to play the defensive ends 1 on 1. Allowing the defensive ends to work their craft. This can create a huge advantage to the defensive ends and the defense in general. Now the offense leaves a RB in to protect, or forces their TE to “chip” on the way out into their route, taking more time for the play to develop.
The lack of movement at defensive end in the initial wave of free agency could also point to the Titans continued use of Akeem Ayers as a blitzing OLB or even rotating in at DE. Ayers showed a great knack for getting to the quarterback last year, something Jerry Gray had talked about since they drafted him. Greg Williams is also fond of dialing up different looks and schemes to blitz from. By fortifying the defensive line, the path to the QB just got a lot less crowded for Ayers
I’ve been big on Jurrell Casey after last year as well. He comes off the line with a burst and is also a huge plug to put in the center of the line. Throwing someone of Hill’s size in the mix seems almost unfair and I expect the two of them to create enough of a problem on the interior to free up our existing ends as well as linebackers. (Let’s not forget Mike Martin as well.)
Finally, the options at defensive end on the market this year just weren’t that great. There are a lot of names that everyone is familiar with, but their best days are behind them. The Titans had cap room, but not infinite amounts of money, and they were wise to spend it where they did.
Sammie Lee Hill may not get the sacks. But he could cause them.
You can argue with me on Twitter @gunnelsj