Friend and fellow blogger Jamal Black covers the Tennessee Titans for Titans Report. In advance of the Raiders/Titans game on Sunday, I asked him some questions about what the Raiders can expect from the also-inconsistent Titans on Sunday.
Question 2: Tennessee has 26 sacks on the season (one behind the Raiders 27). Where does the pressure primarily come from: the defensive line, linebacker corps or secondary (blitzes)? Does the defensive coordinator commonly blitz or rely more on natural pressure?
Answer: The Titans’ defensive coordinator is Jerry Gray. He is from more of a conservative mold. Greg Williams, (of trumped up, NFL misdirection Bounty Gate infamy), is the senior defensive assistant. He is from more of an aggressive mold.
There was much speculation during preseason as to the exact balance of power between the two. In practice, Gray is allegedly calling plays from the box and Williams relays them to the defense on the field. Since the season started, the general consensus is that Jerry Gray is personally responsible for anything bad, (especially a lack of aggression), and Greg Williams is the smartest man in the world and responsible for all successes, (especially if resulting from a blitz).
The Titans are overall more aggressive than they were last year. I’d wager that’s due to influence from Greg, whether or not he has the reigns. According to my eye test, the Titans were more aggressive before the bye than they have been since, however, so the recent trend wouldn’t speak to creative or risky blitzing schemes.
Probably the best player on the Titans’ line is defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. He is disruptive and underrated outside of Nashville. He has seven sacks on the year and his play has resulted in sacks for others as the QB tries to escape a collapsed pocket.
Derrick Morgan also gets pressure for the Titans. Though he rarely nabs sacks, he often gets pressure on the QB. Morgan has four sacks on the year and only fourteen and a half in his career, but a QB forced to get off his spot is a QB outside his comfort zone.
Defensive End Ropati Pitoitua has four sacks on the year, but many of his are the result of pressure from elsewhere.
Linebacker Zach Brown has three sacks on the year, though two came in week one and the other in week four.
I think the Titans would like to get more pressure from their linebackers Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers (only one sack). Why that doesn’t tend to work out is a question for the offseason.
Whether or not it comes from the linebackers, or not – I expect to see the Titans blitz early and often this week. A young QB is the perfect target for creative blitzing. With that said, the gameplan could be on the conservative side and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong. I think the Titans as a whole will be refocusing on run defense because it has been truly terrible. They may sacrifice pressure for run stopping, assuming that the QB will make his mistakes on his own.