Oct 28, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans defensive back Jason McCourty (30) leaps for a pass in the end zone as Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donnie Avery (11) looks on during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
The Tennessee Titans defense was not spectacular last year. They were the complete opposite. Tennessee was dead last in the NFL in scoring defense. The safety play was atrocious, Colin McCarthy was hampered by an ankle injury all year long and Kamerion Wimbley didn’t quite live up to expectations. That being said, the Titans have a lot of young talent on the defensive side of the ball and added some veteran leadership through free agency. Tennessee filled all the glaring holes on defense over the offseason and should be much better on that side of the ball. Who will be the best players on this revamped defense? Let’s take a look:
Derrick Morgan – Morgan was one of the best 4-3 defensive ends during the last part of the 2012 season. He had a career year in tackles, sacks, and quarterback hurries. Morgan has a great combination of size and speed. He’s strong enough to bull-rush his way to the QB but has enough acceleration off the line that he can beat his man and get to the QB with pure speed. If Morgan can carry his high level of play into the 2013 season and beyond, Tennessee will be set at left DE for years to come.
Jason McCourty – McCourty is far and away the best defensive back on the Titans. He’s tall, strong, fast—he’s everything you want in an NFL cornerback. According to Pro Football Focus, McCourty graded out as the sixth-best cornerback in 2012 and he’s making the sting of losing Cortland Finnegan a little less painful. McCourty had a team-leading and career-best four interceptions to go along with his 92 tackles last season. With McCourty being in the prime of his career and with what should be better safety play behind him, look for the former sixth-round pick out of Rutgers to have another career year in 2013.
The Linebackers – In my extremely biased opinion, the Tennessee Titans have the best young group of linebackers in the NFL. Colin McCarthy missed most of the season with a nagging ankle injury but he has more than proved he’s capable of making game-changing plays. Akeem Ayers was the leading tackler on the Titans this past season with 104 total tackles. Jerry Gray, the Titans defensive coordinator, had Ayers getting after the opposing QB more often with great results. Ayers racked up six sacks on the season and should really help the Titans pass-rush in 2013. Zach Brown played out of his mind his rookie season. He recorded 93 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and two touchdowns. If these young linebackers can stay healthy all year the Titans defense will look much better.
Bernard Pollard – Pollard is one of two strong safeties, George Wilson being the other, that Tennessee added through free agency. Safety was clearly a need for the team heading into the offseason so this was a great addition for the Titans. Pollard is a hard-hitting safety who is great in run support. He will never have many interceptions but he’s a tackling machine. He also brings an attitude to a defense that has lacked it for a few years now.
Jurrell Casey – Casey is a run-stuffing defensive tackle and he’s spectacular at his job. He’s not very big for a DT but he’s strong enough to overpower opposing offensive lineman. He’s not a sack expert by any means but is able to collapse the pocket and get his hands on the QB from time to time. I believe Casey’s best trait as a player is his ability to draw multiple blockers and open things up for the linebackers to make a play on the ball-carrier. Casey should be a staple on the Titans’ defensive line for years to come.
Give praise to the Titans front office for making the appropriate moves to fix this defense. The personnel they added will do wonders to improve the defense. The addition of Gregg Williams as “senior assistant/defense” will also help make this defense more aggressive. Look for the Titans defense to get after opposing quarterbacks more often and create more turnovers. They should be able to limit opposing offenses to less points than they did last year, putting the Titans in contention to win more games.
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