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Titans Defensive Review- Preseason Week 3

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 1:41 pm    Post subject: Titans Defensive Review- Preseason Week 3 Reply with quote

Wow, can we say dominant or what? This one's going to be a quickie, so let's get it started.

Dline- Still fantastic. Casey looks better every single game and he was already lights out. If he keeps up his level of play, he may be a all-pro contender come year end. His runstuffing is absolutely fantastic, and he just keeps making impact plays. His pass rushing seems to have taken a leap forward from last year. I always called him a pusher- he didn't get the sacks, but he always pushed his man back, forcing the QB into the arms of a DE.
And that he is- but the last two games we're seeing more and more Klug style rushing from Casey. He's tossing his guy to the side, he's using his hands well. What a steal for a 3rd round pick. He is, without a doubt, the linchpin of our defense. At his current rate of progression, he's on track to be Haynesworth (when Haynesworth was great).

Everyone else at DT is continuing to be great. Marks clearly took a leap forward this offseason. His stats didn't pop like the last two games, but he was just as good. Klug is still a terror, especially for bigger, slower guards. He may never be a run stuffer, but his ability to get past his man and into the backfield is going to get him a lot of TFLs and sacks. Arizona's guards aren't even that bad. Martin looked good- he's clearly the 4th best DT right now, but he is already a good rotational guy and we'll see how far he climbs. Zach Clayton appears to be a Klug-lite.

We have the best rotation in the league at DT. After 3 games I can say that with no hesitation.

Our Defensive Ends really looked good this week. Granted, the Cards have absolutely awful tackles, but Wimbley looks like a speed mismatch against anyone but the most proficient lineman (he put a nice smackdown last week against Tampa). His technical skills are still lacking though. Both of his big sacks came off of outside speed rushes- he ran around Young. Of course, why change what was clearly working, but hopefully Klug will wash off on him like he seems to on all our DTs and his technical skills will improve.

Morgan had another well played game and has now solidified that starting spot. Looks like the competition lit a fire under him- his intensity is clearly higher than it was before, and it looks like he can still become an impact player. He'll never rack up the sacks like JPP, but his run play is really solid and he's fully capable of being a 10 sack per year guy. He actually seems more technically proficient than Wimbley, but his burst is't nearly as big. Looking back at his rookie year and final year of college, you can tell the surgery has hurt his burst. If he can regain that over the course of the year, he might even be better than a 10 per year guy. As many point out, it really takes two years to fully recover from ACL surgery. Right now, he looks good. Hopefully, by the end of the year, he'll look great.

I'm still worried about depth at DE. We have Egboh, but he can't rush that well. Ball might retire/injury settled because of all his concussions, and he's terrible against the run but a good pass rusher. Douzable can split wide, as could Klug and others, but we don't really have any sack artists behind our first two (I like Klug way more inside than I do outside, his penetration is all about winning close quarters battles). I wouldn't be surprised if we go out on the waiver wire to pick up an undersized rush guy and make him fourth behind Egboh.

Linebackers- Still fantastic. Ayers had another solid game- he made a few big plays, didn't get caught out of position, and basically had 0 mistakes. I know we all want Ayers to become a much bigger player, but right now I think he's already a very good linebacker.

McCarthy for all-pro, let's start the campaign now. Granted, one of his interceptions was a total freebie, but the other, again, was McCarthy staying low and dropping right to where he could screw the QB. He smashed people in the run game again (although he still hits the wrong lane completely once or twice a game). His fast penetration style worries me because it does, occasionally, give up a big run, but it's offset by the fact that he also scores a TFL or a no gain like 40% of the time. Still, he's a second year guy. I'm betting the longer he plays, the better he'll get at predicting the right lane to slice through. After Casey, he is definitely our most important player. Him v. Tulloch is like night and day- Tulloch was the exact opposite style. He ranged behind the LOS and tackled the runner at 3 yards. He never made possible huge runs, but he also never made any impact stops. And because of his size, Tulloch got swallowed or stuck behind the lineman too much.

Brown looks good over and over. It's going to be a tough job for Witherspoon to hold onto that spot this year. And if he gets injured once, I think Brown is coming in and never going back out. Witherspoon did play well too.

Our secondary looked good on every drive but that two minute drill. Griffin really seems to be back to 08-09 form. He's actually hitting people. And he's never been out of position, as far as I can see, these two games. McCourty is invisibile (in the good way). It looks like short passes are consistently going to McCourty side because offenses know how good Verner is in tight space and at breaking on balls, while anything beyond 10 yards is going to Verner's side because they know McCourty is much faster, taller, and stronger than Verner. I like that- it allows up to push the safety up on McCourty's side and drop the safety back on Verner's. I think Verner will end the year with better "stats" than McCourty, but when football outsiders and any deep statistical groups look, we'll see McCourty having one of the best years in the league.

RJ and Babs seem like a good platoon- Babs is clearly a wily veteran, and better in the box (because of instincts, RJ can hit like a train). I think we'll see RJ in a lot more against athletic Tight-ends- he's got FS like speed but his like a SS, and is better suited to covering the Gronks and Cooks of the league.

Scheme- Vince Gray looks like a fantastic hire. Our defense played well last year, and even though we gave up plenty of yards and didn't get a lot of sacks, we finished at #8 in points allowed. This year should be similar, but with a lot more big plays. Gray seems to really scheme around the players, rather than forcing them into his scheme- he's taking advantage of those differences between McCourty and Verner really well, and you can see that in pre-play safety placement and how the linebackers shade their coverage. We showed a lot of different blitz looks this past game; I counted at least two zone blitzes, with Wimbley dropping into coverage, two 7 man rushes, one or two safety rushes, MLB spy-rushes (watch the run and then break in late), shifting Dline setups (tight sets with one DE split wide, all wide sets, etc). This is not going to be a vanilla 4-3 defense.

I'm only concerned about 3 things
1. 3rd corner- we don't seem to have completely settled on a choice. I still think Campbell is far and away the highest reward choice. His athleticism is superior to every corner on our roster, and he brings a different skills set than the two starters. He's also riskier. Hawkins seems a lot more consistent- like a worse Verner, but still a good player. But when we go nickel, I'd much rather have the fast, tall corner on the outside. Hawkins seems better suited to Verner's role.
2. DE- I already said the depth isn't good. But we also haven't faced a team with all pro/pro bowl level Tackles. I trust Casey/Klug/Marks against any set of interior lineman, but I really can't say the same for Wimbley/Morgan/Egboh. Tampa Bay has two above average tackles. The Cardinals have a train wreck at LT and just average at RT. The Saints would be a good test, except I don't expect the first team to be out on the field for a long time.
3. Def vs. TEs. Last year we got eaten alive by high level TEs. We haven't faced one in the preseason yet. But week one we face the best pair of TEs in the league in NE. Again, the Saints would be a good test, except they won't be playing starters for long. If RJ turns out to be as good as his athleticism allows him to be, I'd be more comfortable. If Brown turns out as good as his athleticism allows him to be, I'd be more comfortable. But right now I'm worried. NE's WRs are good, but they don't scare me too much. Lloyd is a worse VIncent Jackson, and he got nothing. I trust Verner and our linebacking group against Welker, and other than a few Fitzgerald catch and runs, our tackling has been excellent (and the angles our tacklers take).

Hopefully NE's offensive line will still be playing terrible come week 1. That would make things a lot easier (Witherspoon and Ayers both looked great so far in short and mid zones). But if Brady has time to throw, I'm not sure we can truly stop Gronk and Hernandez. Our deep pass defense hasn't been tested much, mainly because the teams we're playing haven't had enough time to chuck it deep. Can Griffin return to ballhawk status and break up those deep passes before Gronk and Hernandez get their hands on it? Babineaux just isn't fast enough to keep up with them, and RJ is still raw. We'll see.

That's my key to the week 1 game. Can we get enough pressure to keep Brady from throwing those seams and deep routes to the TEs, and can our Safeties break them up.

Ok, defensive review finished.

Here's my predictions for this year's defense- top 10 points allowed, top 15 sacks, top 10 rush defense, top 20 pass defense. Interception total looks like it could be top 10, top 15 at worst. Casey will make the pro-bowl, and should make all pro. Same for McCarthy. Morgan will finish with 7-10 sacks, Wimbley with 10-12. Klug will have at least 8, Marks 2-5, Casey 4-6. I think we'll hold opposing running backs to less than 3.5 yards a carry. Our int leader will be Griffin or Verner, with McCarthy coming in close behind. Zach Brown will, at some point, win the starting position. If any linebacker goes down, Witherspoon will shift into their spot and Brown will take WLB. Ayers will continue to disappoint those looking for stats, but I think he'll end with 4-6 sacks and become a top 10 4-3 OLB. Tommie Campbell will solidify the 3rd spot, but he'll be the weak link at the beginning of the season. Griffin won't be his All-Pro form, but he'll earn his contract. Same for McCourty.

An injury to Casey or McCarthy will really hurt the team. Our corner depth looks good, RJ could be a good FS if Griffin goes down. DE has the least solid depth right now- an injury to Wimbley would hurt our sack total a lot, although our pass defense won't be too much worse. Vince Gray will get some head coach looks at the end of the season.

Next year, the talking heads will be predicting us to be a top 5 defense. And we probably will be. According to my notes, every starter other than Witherspoon should be back, and it would be better if Brown can win that spot (although I hope we keep Witherspoon for depth, he can play all 3 spots). I'm predicting DE to be our highest pick on defense next year. 1st round if Morgan doesn't get into good form, 3rd round at the latest if he does. If we keep Witherspoon, linebacker won't be drafted, if we don't, rounds 4-6. If RJ seizes the starting position, we'll draft a strong safety late for depth. If he doesn't, that might be our #1 pick.

I think we'll go into next years draft looking for 1 starter at most (either DE or SS), and depth at LB and DE. I don't think we'll draft a single DT next year (because all the DTs we've drafted in the past 3 years are outplaying their draft positions).

Last edited by ThatTitansFan on Mon Aug 27, 2012 10:14 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good writeup. I agree that the depth at DE is a little worrisome.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Who's Vince Gray?
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="TitanSS"]Who's Vince Gray?[/quote]

Lol. Jerry Gray. I don't know why I keep calling him Vince. This is not the first time.
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