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Tennessee Titans first preseason game review: Defense

I covered the offense a couple days ago, and now it’s time for the other side of the ball. I went through and re-watched in great but not obsessive detail all of the Titans’ defensive plays against the Seahawks. I kept track of player participation (as best I could off the Seahawks broadcast aired on NFL Network), plus took my usual smattering of notes.

Details, details, details after the jump.

Participation Information
Let me stress that these numbers are unofficial and you should not rely on them. I kept track to the best of my ability, but this is my first time getting a look at some guys and I may have missed substitutions, especially for a single play. Heck, there was one series where I never got a trustworthy positive identification of one of the Titans’ safeties.

I counted 61 offensive plays for the Seahawks plus two pre-snap penalties for which I also recorded personnel information. By my count, the Titans lined up in the Ruby package (3-2-6) 2 times, 4-2-5 nickel 17 times, and the other 44 times in base 4-3 personnel. Players are listed in order by first appearance in the game.

Defensive ends: Pannel Egboh 13 snaps (14 total), Kamerion Wimbley 19 snaps, Derrick Morgan 12 snaps, Keyunta Dawson 40 snaps, Leger Douzable 24 snaps (31 total), Scott Solomon 13 snaps, and Malcolm Sheppard 3 snaps.

Defensive tackle: Jurrell Casey 24 snaps, Sen’Derrick Marks 14 snaps, Karl Klug 10 snaps, Zach Clayton 11 snaps, Mike Martin 25 snaps, Pannel Egboh 1 snap, Shaun Smith 12 snaps, Leger Douzable 7 snaps, Lamar Divens 4 snaps, and DaJohn Harris 14 snaps.

By total snaps, here’s how the linebackers broke down: Akeem Ayers 25 snaps, Colin McCarthy 25 snaps, Will Witherspoon 10 snaps, Zach Brown 29 snaps, Patrick Bailey 26 snaps, Tim Shaw 15 snaps, Zac Diles 14 snaps, Gerald McRath 14 snaps, and Kevin Malast 8 snaps.

In nickel or Ruby, when the Titans had more than four defensive backs on the field, the linebackers pairings were Akeem Ayers-Colin McCarthy (9 times) and Zac Diles-Zach Brown (10 times). Even after Brown had left the game, he would come in to play nickel. He overlapped with Ayers and McCarthy, but came out of the field in nickel then.

By total snaps, here’s how the cornerbacks broke down: Alterraun Verner 25 snaps, Jason McCourty 25 snaps, Tommie Campbell 30 snaps, Ryan Mouton 25 snaps, Chris Hawkins 26 snaps, and Coty Sensabaugh 12 snaps.

In nickel or Ruby, the Titans used the following conerbacks in the slot: Alterraun Verner (4 times), Ryan Mouton (14 times), and Coty Sensabaugh (1 time). When the first defense was on the field, first Verner played in the slot with Campbell entering in the game, then Mouton came in to play the slot (four examples of this as well).

Safeties were the hardest position to spot, because the Titans lined them up off-screen most of the time. Here’s my best guess: Michael Griffin 25 snaps, Jordan Babineaux 16 snaps, Robert Johnson 36 snaps (possibly 3 too many), Al Afalava 25 snaps, Christian Scott 12 snaps, and Aaron Francisco 12 snaps.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • First series, first-team DL got manhandled by a Seahawks line that isn’t very highly regarded. One-on-one blocks were won, and linebackers were blocked a lot of the time.
  • Nice hustle by Kam Wimbley to tackle a runner 9 yards downfield on the opposite side.
  • Colin McCarthy did not have a particularly good first couple plays, then beat a block to pick up a tackle and played better.
  • First defensive substitutions beyond nickel package and rotating Egboh and Morgan were Zach Brown in for Will Witherspoon and Robert Johnson on for Jordan Babineaux.
  • Klug on run defense is a boom-or-bust type. He can get driven four yards downfield or, as he did one play in the second quarter, avoid a block and pick up a tackle in the backfield.
  • The Titans spent much of the first half in a two-deep shell, making it hard to identify the safeties and even harder for them to do anything interesting.
  • They did not really rotate their defensive linemen. For the most part, a player played for a while, then sat. This may have contributed to the struggles in run defense as drives went on (or it may not have).
  • Russell Wilson is not a functional pocket passer, nor did he really try to be, so it’s hard to judge the pass rush in the second half. In a game, you’d play contain and force him to stay in the pocket. Guys like Mike Martin and Zach Clayton got pressure, but he just escaped and played outside the pocket.
  • On Braylon Edwards’ TD over Tommie Campbell, the Titans ran one of their relatively few zone blitzes of the evening. Without outside vertical routes on both sides of the field, deep safety Robert Johnson seemed to be stuck in the middle, doomed to make a wrong decision.
  • Rough play by Zach Brown in space on Russell Wilson’s big 23-yard scramble, getting caught flat-footed.
  • Shaun Smith first played just over seven minutes into the third quarter. He was still the seventh player to take a snap at DT for the Titans, including Egboh’s one appearance there.
  • Neither team ran a play at or inside the opponent’s 10 yard line.
  • I don’t know whether backside defensive end Keyunta Dawson or safety Aaron Francisco, who came down in the box late on that side, had contain on Russell Wilson’s bootleg run. I do know it looked an awful lot like neither player had any awareness of the playfake until well after Wilson was on the other side of the field. I think safety Christian Scott also could have done a better job of preventing the TD.

That is all.