A wish list of some things the Titans’ defense wants to do against the Bengals:
1) Measure up — The Titans are pleased that all four preseason opponents were playoff teams in 2012 because it gives them a chance to measure where they are at against where other teams have been. Rosters change from year to year, but Cincinnati has made it to the postseason in each of the past two seasons. Derrick Morgan said the defense looks forward to playing more this week than against Washington.
“It’s good because last week we were kind of getting in our groove and they pulled us, so we’re going to have more time to get comfortable, get in the flow of the game and make some plays,” Morgan said.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said the defense may have been a little tentative in its first action in eight months, so he wants to see a more intense start, and Morgan concurred.
“When you’re on the road it’s a hostile environment and it’s just us out there so we’ve got to bond and set the tone early,” Morgan said.
2) Press him? — Reports from bengals.com are that receiver A.J. Green looked sharp in his return to full action at practice this week. The 6-foot-4, 207-pound Green is a top young receiver and one that might be good to evaluate how shifting to playing more “press man” coverage at the line of scrimmage could work out for the Titans this season. Tennessee has been alternating between Alterraun Verner, who started against Washington, and Tommie Campbell, who is scheduled to start against Cincinnati, at the cornerback spot opposite Jason McCourty. The Titans have been playing Coty Sensabaugh at nickel, and the second-year pro was first in line to replace McCourty against the Redskins.
3) Force punts — It’s only one set of preseason games, but Cincinnati converted nine of 16 third downs against Atlanta in its opener, and Washington converted eight of 15 against Tennessee. The Titans allowed 10 opponents to convert at least 42 percent of third downs last season and five opponents to convert 50 percent or more. Tennessee was 4-6 in the 10 games and 1-4 in the five games in 2012.
4) Continue to jell — The Titans are planning to use multiple defensive packages this season but are likely to keep things relatively simple against Cincinnati. That should allow players to continue to adjust to new teammates throughout the defensive line, linebackers and secondary and as a total unit.
Tennessee brought in free agents Sammie Hill, Antonio Johnson and Ropati Pitoitua on the defensive line, linebacker Moise Fokou (who is likely to start in place of Colin McCarthy for the second week in a row), and safeties Bernard Pollard and George Wilson this offseason. The Titans are also playing Karl Klug more at defensive end and Scott Solomon at linebacker, although he’s in somewhat of a hybrid role. The game should provide further opportunity to evaluate strengths of different players and how best to combine them.
Tags: Alterraun Verner, colin mccarthy, Derrick Morgan, Jason McCourty, nfl Preseason, Sammie Hill, Tennessee Titans
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A wish list of some things the Titans’ defense wants to do against the Redskins:
1) Stop the run — The Titans made a substantiated effort to get larger on the defensive line to stop the run on early downs and force teams to face longer third downs. Tennessee added free agents Sammie Hill and Antonio Johnson at defensive tackle and Ropati Pitoitua at defensive end. The Titans want to see Hill work with Jurrell Casey, who’s had a strong training camp, to halt the run.
2) Evaluate cornerback challenges — Tennessee has indicated it wants to play more press man coverage at cornerback this season. Jason McCourty is the starter at left cornerback, but the right cornerback spot is open with Alterraun Verner and Tommie Campbell alternating snaps with the first team during training camp. After that, the Titans also want to see third-round pick Blidi Wreh-Wilson and sixth-rounder Khalid Wooten match up against receivers in a game setting. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said this week that Coty Sensabaugh is likely to replace McCourty fairly early against the Redskins.
3) Define new identity — The Titans also added experience in the secondary by signing free agents Bernard Pollard and George Wilson at safety. Wilson signed first and is capable of playing either safety position, and Pollard is likely to start at strong safety in partnership with free safety Michael Griffin, allowing Griffin to patrol the middle of the field for interceptions. Pollard, fresh off helping Baltimore win Super Bowl XLVII, has been incredibly vocal and a welcome voice in the locker room.
4) See linebackers continue to grow—Akeem Ayers is entering his third season as a strongside linebacker and Zach Brown is preparing for his second at the weakside. Ayers and Brown had strong seasons in 2012, but injuries forced the Titans to start four different players at middle linebacker. The Titans brought in Moise Fokou, who has played outside and inside linebacker, to add versatility and depth, and Fokou will start in place of Colin McCarthy, who was scratched from the game with a leg injury.
Tags: akeem ayers, Alterraun Verner, colin mccarthy, Jason McCourty, Jurrell Casey, Moise Fokou, Sammie Hill, Titans
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His second interception of the night went 31 yards for a touchdown, extending Tennessee’s lead to 23-10 early in the third quarter at LP Field.
So far McCarthy has been credited with seven tackles, including two for loss, and two interceptions.
He has been around the ball all night long.
“I think our D-line was getting a lot of pressure up front, causing them to make bad decisions with the football,” McCarthy later said. “We are out there running around, making plays. It’s the D-line. They were doing a great job getting pressure all night.”
McCarthy said Tennessee’s defense is shaping up for the start of the regular season.
“I think we had three or four sacks (tonight),” he said. “That’s the way our defense is. That’s the way we have been building through this preseason. We are excited for Week 1 to come around.”
As a rookie in 2011, McCarthy entered the starting lineup after midseason and made a significant impact on Tennessee’s defense, totaling 76 tackles, a team-high eight tackles for loss, one interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Although he started in less than half of the team’s games, his tackle total was the fourth-highest by a Titans rookie since 1999.
The second-year pro doubled his interception total from all of last season in just over two quarters of play tonight.
It’s become apparent throughout training camp and the preseason that McCarthy is ready to take his game to the next level in 2012.
By all indications tonight, he is well on his way.
Tags: colin mccarthy
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The success of Tennessee’s 2011 draft class is well documented, and no rookie shined more last season than fourth-round draft pick Colin McCarthy.
After receiving considerable playing time while filling in for injured starter Barrett Rudd down the stretch, McCarthy appears poised to take over the starting middle linebacker job for the Titans heading into the 2012 season.
“We thought he came on in a big way last year,” head coach Mike Munchak told reporters at last week’s NFL scouting combine.
As a rookie, McCarthy tallied 76 tackles, a team-leading eight tackles for loss, one quarterback pressure, one interception, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in just 13 games (seven starts).
Not bad for a player who was initially projected to primarily help out on special teams his first season.
“When he came in we thought he would be more of a special teamer for sure and maybe help us with some depth at the inside positions — at the “Will” and the “Mike” linebacker — but we had some injuries and he came in and played very well,” Munchak said. “You saw he made plays. He found a way to knock the ball loose, create some fumbles and make some interceptions. He took control and didn’t act like a rookie out there.”
That was never more evident than in Week 13 at Buffalo when McCarthy notched 11 tackles, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and a pass defensed in a 23-17 victory. He was named both the AFC Defensive Player of the Week and NFL Rookie of the Week for his performance.
“There’s always room to improve,” McCarthy said. “I tried to take advantage of the opportunities I had to make plays. As a middle linebacker, you’ve got to get everybody lined up, you’ve got to make the calls and I tried to do that this year.”
With Ruud set to become a free agent, Munchak seems confident in the abilities of his second-year linebacker.
“He has some learning to do – he’s a young man – but we’re excited about his progression, the way he finished the season and the energy he brings to the defense,” Munchak said. “Everything is a plus with him. He is the kind of player you love to have on your football team, and we’re excited about what he’s going to be able to do in the future.”
Even Munchak was surprised by how much McCarthy was able to stay on the field. But the more he and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray saw McCarthy produce, the more comfortable they felt having him on the field for all three downs.
“He runs the nickel defense very well and we used him in that role,” Munchak said. “You never know how a young rookie is going to respond, but his first start was in Carolina and he came in and did a great job for us on the road getting us in position. I think it was probably one of the best defensive games we played all year against a very explosive offense, and Colin handled it very well.”
McCarthy said he’s looking forward to building off his rookie campaign, both personally and as a team.
“I just need to continue to work on everything — studying the playbook, studying offenses and defenses,” he said. “I still have a lot to prove. Every week you have to prove yourself.”
And he’ll do so on a team he believes is on the rise under Munchak.
“The attitude coach Munchak brings to the players, you see results. You see guys working, guys pushing each other throughout the locker room it gets exciting,” McCarthy said. “9-7 was a good start for our first year, but we want to improve on that next season.”
Tags: colin mccarthy
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Players were busy on Titans Tuesday, with defensive tackle Shaun Smith visiting students at Jere Baxter Middle School, along with Titans community relations staffers Tresa Halbrooks and Joshua Love. Meanwhile, offensive linemen Jake Scott and Kevin Matthews joined rookie linebackers Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy visiting patients at Baptist Hospital with Jerry Blessing of the team’s community relations staff.
Here’s a complete slideshow from Smith’s school visit.
Tags: akeem ayers, colin mccarthy, jake scott, kevin matthews, shaun smith
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