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Chuck Cecil: Growing pains or growing concerns?

The winds of change blew tremendously during the offseason for the Tennessee Titans. While everyone focused upon the departure of Albert Haynesworth, former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz also left the building to coach the winless Detroit Lions.

With “The Schwartz” no longer with the Titans, former NFL badboy Chuck Cecil was named as the team’s new defensive coordinator. Lauded for his damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead approach to playing the game, many were hoping that Cecil would put his stamp on a Titans’ defense while not missing a beat in spite of Schwartz and Fat Albert vacating the premises.

Not so fast, as Lee Corso often says. Cecil’s troops are ranked dead-last defending the pass, as opposing receivers have often run wide-open like cheetahs in the wilderness.

Is Chuck merely experiencing growing pains, or should we be increasingly concerned about his ability to run the once-formidable Tennessee Titan defense? 

Chuck Cecil’s new career has got off to a rough start, to say the least. Despite some early success against the Steelers in Week One, he was criticized by many for his decision not to bring the heat against Ben Roethlisberger in the latter stages of the Titans’ opening-night loss.

The wheels totally fell off against the Texans last Sunday. The Titans’ defense made Matt Schaub look like Peyton Manning as the former Titan whipping boy passed for 357 yards and 4 touchdown passes. On far too many occasions, the likes of Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones and Owen Daniels made catch after catch with little resistance from Cecil’s defense.

Why is Chuck having so many problems despite the presence of numerous Pro Bowlers on the Titan D?

Some consider the aforementioned loss of Haynesworth as the reason behind the defense’s early struggles. While the team is doing a great job of stopping the run, some may come to the conclusion that Fat Albert’s presence is felt the most against the pass, as opposing signal-callers no longer have to stare in the teeth of the up-the-middle pass rush that Albert brought on a consistent basis.

If you listen to Nick Harper, it’s a lack of adjustments that’s sealed the fate of the Titans’ defense thus far. In his recent comments, he alluded to the Texans running successful routes on one side of the field and then doing the same thing on the other side, without the Titans making any kind of adjustments.

Here’s my take on the team’s defensive struggles…

Losing Albert hurts, but there is no way your going to convince me that a secondary that consists of Michael Griffin, Chris Hope and Cortland Finnegan should be looking this bad. On too many occasions, your seeing guys biting on play-fakes, covering the guy running the shorter pattern while leaving the receiver running deep wide-open, etc.

I’ll take Jeff Fisher’s word that contrary to Nick Harper’s beliefs, adjustments are being made on the defensive side of the football. However, all of the adjusting in the world isn’t going to make any difference if you fail to execute.

What I’m seeing with my set of eyes is a defense that is not executing, in particular, against the pass. There are too many mental errors being made by players who shouldn’t be making them this consistently. 

Of course, players should be blamed for mental mistakes but in the big picture, that’s a key indicator of a poorly coached unit. Either the guys are tuning Chuck Cecil out, they are poorly prepared or a combination of the two.

According to Keith Bulluck, the Titans defense will get things turned around, starting this week against the Jets:

“The defense that played last Sunday, I hope everybody got a good glimpse of them because they’ll never show up again this year I guarantee that,” linebacker Keith Bulluck(notes) said Wednesday. “We’re definitely going to get back to the basics, the defense that we’ve played here the last 10 years I’ve been here starting Sunday.”

For Cecil’s sake, let’s hope that #53 is right.