The Titans roster is chalked full of veteran talent. Jake Locker, Nate Washington, Wesley Woodyard, and Jason McCourty all spoke Friday about the importance of being leaders in the locker room. Here is some of what they had to say.
Jake Locker discussed his responsibility as the team’s quarterback:
“I think there’s a reason that the quarterback is asked to be the leader. That’s a role that I’m excited about the opportunity to embrace. It hasn’t changed how I approached the game. I feel at this point now going into my fourth year that I’ve earned the respect of the guys in the locker room. I feel like they’ll listen when I say things. I get the opportunity to pick and choose times to speak up a little more now and maybe be more vocal than I have been in the past.”
The Titans QB noted that the new coaching staff has pushed him as a player:
“I’ll give the coaching staff a lot of credit. They’ve pushed me and asked me to do some things that I wasn’t really comfortable doing at first, and now I love it. I’m really excited about it and I think it’s allowed me to have more ownership over the offense.”
Locker then went into detail about what some of those things were that he was uncomfortable with at first:
“More responsibility at the line of scrimmage with the protection calls and possible play changes and no huddle stuff we’ve been doing. There is a little bit more of a responsibility on the quarterback and I’ve really enjoyed it. I look forward to that being something that’s beneficial for us throughout the year.”
Wesley Woodyard spent his entire presser discussing that although it’s only his first year with the Titans, he wants to be a leader on defense. That includes wearing the helmet with the headset to the coaching staff:
“I plan on being on the field every down. I’m going to come out and say I’d love to have that green dot on my helmet.”
Woodyard continued to say that it’s up to all the veteran players to set the tone for the rest of the team:
“The big thing is that everyone has to do their part. Guys like me, Shaun Phillips, and Bernard Pollard all realize what it takes to get to the next level getting into the playoffs and getting to the Super Bowl.”
Jason McCourty discussed how coach Whisenhunt has already deferred to the opinions of the leaders in he locker room:
“He comes to us for a lot of things when making decisions. He’ll come ask guys ‘hey what’s your opinion on this, what’s your opinion on that?’ He does a great job of finding the pulse of the team and figuring out what’s best for us moving forward. That’s been real enjoyable.”
McCourty also said that with all the excitement there is right now, they will learn a lot about themselves when they face adversity for the first time:
“Adversity is going to build character. I always say this time of the year that everything is great. Everybody is loving the staff. All the players are getting along. We haven’t faced any problems yet. As camp goes on there are going to be injuries or different things that happen that are going to force us to come together or split apart as a team. That’s going to be big for us to continue to build our chemistry. That’s the fun part of this game – the challenges that come with it and not knowing each day what you’re going to face. I think it’s going to help us build as camp goes on and when we get to the end we’re going to see a finished product that we really like.”
Nate Washington spent a lot of time discussing coach Whisenhunt and how he understands the role of the leaders on the team:
“He makes a huge difference. His mentality and the way he treats us in the locker room has given guys a different focus toward the game. Coach has been around long enough to know that you have to let grown men be grown men. He allows us as players to coach ourselves in that locker room and get expectations out of ourselves first. That’s going to be a major thing for us.”
The two already know each other well after Washington and Whisenhunt spent time together in Pittsburgh. Washington said coach Whiz still has many of the same traits that he noticed with the Steelers:
“He’s a gutsy guy. He’s going to take some shots. He’s not afraid to let his playmakers go out and make plays. He expects greatness out of all of us, but at the same time he isn’t going to be the guy to criticize you or jump on you if you make a mistake. I think that’s going to boost us to not walk on pins and needles, but know there’s a guy behind us that expects greatness of us.”
Washington also gave the quote of the day in my opinion about coach Whisenhunt:
“He has put us in a position to expect greatness without telling us to expect greatness.”
Tags: Jake Locker, Jason McCourty, Nate Washington, Wesley Woodyard
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Jason McCourty’s forced fumble, recovery and 77-yard return for a touchdown was voted as the No. 89 play in NFL Network’s Top 100 Plays of 2013.
McCourty showed hustle, determination and speed on the final play of the first half during the Titans’ visit to Seattle last October.
The Seahawks lined up to attempt a short field goal with two seconds remaining, but backup holder Chris Maragos mishandled the hold, picked up the ball and tried to scramble.
As Titans safety Michael Griffin began tackling Maragos, McCourty attacked the ball, knocked it free and scooped it. He returned it 77 yards for a touchdown (the second score of his career) and a 10-7 halftime lead.
“When I saw (Michael Griffin) making the tackle, it was already fourth down, so the ball was going to be ours at the end of the half,” McCourty said after the game. “So I was just trying to get the ball out. Once the ball was on the ground, you try to get seven points out of it.”
Tags: Jason McCourty, Tennessee Titans
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Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton said during Wednesday morning radio interview that he is pleased the Titans re-signed Bernard Pollard to a multi-year contract.
Horton was a guest on The Wake Up Zone on 104.5-FM and elaborated on the retaining of Pollard, a 2013 Titans captain who led the team with 142 tackles in his first season in Tennessee. Click here for audio of the interview.
Horton, who was hired this offseason, said Pollard will provide “continuity for one, and I think leadership for two, and hopefully the fans will see a different style where we blitz him more and give him more freedom to disrupt.”The coordinator who appeared in two Super Bowls as a player and has coached in three said Pollard’s previous experience of winning Super Bowl XLVII with Baltimore will be helpful as the new coaching staff sets the tone of Tennessee’s defense.
Horton also discussed his initial thoughts on Michael Griffin, who is likely to play closer to the line of scrimmage this season than a year ago when he often lined up about 20 yards off the ball and patrolled the field.
“Not only do I want him to play closer to the line of scrimmage. I want him to play further behind the line of scrimmage, meaning go get the quarterback,” Horton said. “I think when you have an athletic player that is smart, do more things for me. Don’t always be the deep safety. Be up at the line of scrimmage, ‘are you coming (on a blitz)? Are you not? Are you dropping? Is it camouflage?’
“It’s all those things where I don’t want the quarterback to go, ‘33 is always going to be here.’ I want confusion,” Horton continued. “I want second-guessing from the quarterback. He’ll figure it out quickly, but I want him to go through his progression. The longer it takes him to figure it out, the more time we have to get to him.”
The Titans are able to begin their offseason program on April 7, which will allow the new staff an opportunity to meet with players. Horton said he’s the effort he’s seen during film study.
“The first thing I was most impressed with was their effort because if you can channel that effort in the right direction at the right time, you’ve got pieces there, and they did that. I keep using the example of Jason McCourty, who is one of the smaller guys on the team, but how violent a player he is with hitting, tackling, aggressiveness, and when the little guys will do that, you should have a pretty good team,” Horton said. “On the other end of the spectrum, you have the big guys that run to the ball. From a coaching standpoint, that’s what you want. I keep using the coaching mantra of little guys that hit and big guys that run. That’s really all you want, and the rest is just, you call the game.”
Tags: Bernard Pollard, Jason McCourty, Michael Griffin, Ray Horton, Tennessee Titans
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The Titans plan on fighting to the finish and showed that Sunday against the Cardinals.
Tennessee rallied with 17 points in the final 3:12 of regulation but lost 37-34 in overtime to Arizona. It was a “deflating” loss that eliminated the Titans (5-9) from playoff contention with two games remaining.
“Tough pill to swallow, to be going home in December,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “The only thing we’re promised is two more games and that’s it.”
Tennessee will try to avenge earlier losses to Jacksonville (29-27) with a road trip this week and at Houston (30-24 in overtime) by hosting the Texans in the season finale. Offensive and defensive players vowed to keep pushing.
“You have to show up and play your hardest and give everything you’ve got. We don’t know how long we’re going to be able to play this game,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “You don’t know when you’re next play is going to be your last play so every time we take the field we have the obligation to one another to make sure we’re going 100 percent.”
As in any NFL offseason, the Titans expect some changes to occur, so the final games will be included with the rest of the season as evaluation tools.
“Nobody gave up, and that’s a positive thing for this team,” safety Michael Griffin said. “We’ve got to continue to keep fighting and win these next two games. We’re playing division opponents and we’ve got to try to win these next two.”
It was the fifth straight game in which the Titans had been within a possession of an opponent at the start of the fourth quarter, but the fourth that’s ended with a loss. Six of Tennessee’s losses have been by eight points or less and the past three home losses have been decided by three or less points.
Griffin said players and fans are frustrated with being so close but will keep showing resiliency down the stretch and try to clear the various hurdles that have tripped the team.
“It shows the fans that we’re still fighting. Nobody gave up, even when we were down 17 points with six minutes left,” Griffin said. “We still continued to fight and play hard, but at the end of the day, it still hurts to lose. It’s another loss. We can’t get over that hump. It’s frustrating because we’ve got the talent, we’ve got the players, we’re right there. We just can’t get over that hump.”
Delanie Walker, who like Pollard, joined the Titans during free agency after appearing in Super Bowl XLVII said it is “very disappointing” to miss the playoffs.
“I hate sitting at home watching it on TV, knowing what type of team I had and what type of guys I played with, that we were capable of being there,” Walker said. “Every game, we go down to the last, to the fourth quarter and we don’t punch it in. That’s one thing we’ve got to fix. We’ve got to be better finishers. We’ve got to finish games. I feel like we hang with the best of them and at the end you’ve just got to finish. Until we do that, this is what you’re going to see, us sitting at home while other teams are in the playoffs.”
Tags: Bernard Pollard, Delanie Walker, Jason McCourty, National Football League, Tennessee Titans
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According to tallies from the team’s coaching staff, which awards statistics upon film review each week, Verner leads the club with 23 passes defensed, the most by a Titans defender in the last 15 seasons. (Verner is credited with a league-high 20 passes defensed according “press box statistics.”)
Meanwhile, McCourty ranks second on the team with 13 passes defensed, giving the tandem a total of 36 passes defensed through 13 games. With two more, they will surpass the total of 37 passes defensed by Cortland Finnegan (20) and Nick Harper (17) in 2008, which stands as the high mark in the Titans era.
Most passes defensed by a Titans cornerback duo, 1999–present:
1. 37 in 2008 – Cortland Finnegan (20), Nick Harper (17)
2. 36 in 2013 – Alterraun Verner (23), Jason McCourty (13) - Three games remaining
3. 35 in 1999 – Denard Walker (18), Samari Rolle (17)
4. 32 in 2003 – Samari Rolle (16), Andre Dyson (16)
4. 32 in 2000 – Denard Walker (18), Samari Rolle (14)
6. 30 in 2007 – Cortland Finnegan (16), Nick Harper (14)
7. 29 in 2001 – Andre Dyson (15), Samari Rolle (14)
8. 28 in 2010 – Alterraun Verner (15), Jason McCourty (13)
(28 S Michael Griffin ranked second with 14 PDs; CB Cortland Finnegan started every game and had 12 PDs)
8. 28 in 2002 – Samari Rolle (14), Andre Dyson (14)
10. 27 in 2012 – Jason McCourty (17), Alterraun Verner (10)
11. 25 in 2011 – Jason McCourty (13), Cortland Finnegan (12)
12. 21 in 2006 – Pacman Jones (14), Cortland Finnegan (7)
(S Chris Hope led team with 15 PDs)
12. 21 in 2005 – Pacman Jones (12), Reynaldo Hill (9)
12. 21 in 2004 – Andre Dyson (15), Samari Rolle (6)
(LB Keith Bulluck ranked second with 12 PDs)
15. 19 in 2009 – Cortland Finnegan (13), 13 Nick Harper (6)
(LB Keith Bulluck ranked second with 8 PDs)
Tags: Alterraun Verner, Jason McCourty
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The Titans know they did themselves a favor by getting a comeback victory Sunday against the Raiders but also know there’s more work to be done.
Tennessee (5-6) visits AFC South-leading Indianapolis at noon (CT) Sunday for its second matchup with the Colts in three weeks.
The 23-19 victory in Oakland put Tennessee in a six-way tie for the final spot in the AFC playoffs with five weeks left in the regular season. Players said they were more concerned about returning to the win column for the second time in a seven-game span than scenarios and tiebreakers.
“I don’t think anyone needs to concern themselves with what the Wild Card picture looks like, and playoffs, let’s just go out and win this one,” Jason McCourty said.
Alterraun Verner said after Sunday’s game that Titans players need to “remember this feeling, remember what it took to get here, both sides of the ball and special teams. We’ve got to realize what it takes to do what we did and go repeat it week-in and week-out, and we’re capable of doing it.”
After Indy, the Titans travel to Denver (9-2), host Arizona (7-4), visit Jacksonville (2-9) and host Houston (2-9).
“I don’t think it’s any questioning or anything wavering for us that we can’t come out and get these wins,” Verner said. “We’ve obviously got to focus on Indy, being the last time we played them, they beat us, so we’ve got to put our foot down and find a way to beat them and that’s a very good team, obviously, they’re ahead of our division, but we can do it.”
Here’s the remaining schedule for the five other 5-6 teams in the AFC:
New York Jets: Miami (5-6), Oakland (4-7), at Carolina (8-3), Cleveland (4-7), at Miami (5-6)
Miami: at New York Jets (5-6), at Pittsburgh (5-6), New England (8-3), at Buffalo (4-7), New York Jets (5-6)
Pittsburgh: at Baltimore (5-6), Miami (5-6), Cincinnati (7-4), at Green Bay (5-5-1), Cleveland (4-7)
Baltimore: Pittsburgh (5-6), Minnesota (2-8-1), at Detroit (6-5), New England (8-3), at Cincinnati (7-4)
San Diego: Cincinnati (7-4), New York Giants (4-7), at Denver (9-2), Oakland (4-7), Kansas City (9-2)
The jumbled standings show the parity across so many teams in the league and illustrate the “anything can happen” nature of the NFL.
After lamenting losses to Jacksonville and Indianapolis by a combined five points on Nov. 10 and 14, the Titans are in position to control their own destiny.
“We definitely haven’t had the season we’d like to but we control everything and live to fight another day,” McCourty said. “(We want to) take advantage of the moment that we have. That’s all we’re going to do, worry about the one in front of us.”
Tags: Alterraun Verner, Jason McCourty, NFL, Tennessee Titans
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The Titans aren’t quite where they wanted to be through seven games, but they believe they can still get to where they want to go.
After starting 3-1, Tennessee has lost its past three games to teams that are a combined 21-3 through eight weeks. The Titans (3-4) visit the St. Louis Rams (3-5) Sunday, starting a three-game span against opponents that are 8-15 through eight weeks.
By no means will the Titans expect an easy win in any of their nine remaining regular season games, but results suggest the road may be less difficult than it has been.
The Titans have played the third-toughest schedule in the NFL through eight weeks, with seven opponents combining for a total of 33 wins and 20 losses for a winning percentage of .623. Only AFC South foes Jacksonville (.705 win percentage) and Houston (.642 win percentage) have faced tougher slates this season.
“We knew coming into the season it wasn’t going to be easy and we’ve faced a little adversity with losing three weeks,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “Now, it’s time for us to turn it around. We’ve got a chance to go home, get our minds clear and now it’s all about football, so I’m excited to see what we do in this upcoming week.”
The Titans’ remaining opponents are 29-39, and only Indianapolis (5-2) and Denver (7-1) have winning records through eight weeks.
“Everything we planned to do this season is still out there so there’s no reason for our confidence to have waivered,” McCourty said. “We can still get done everything we want to get done so we just have to continue to come together as a team.”
After visiting the Rams, the Titans will host Jacksonville (0-8) on Nov. 10 and Indianapolis on Nov. 14 before three straight road games: Oakland on Nov. 24, Indy on Dec. 1 and Denver on Dec. 8. Tennessee will follow that by hosting Arizona (4-4) on Dec. 15, visiting Jacksonville Dec. 22 and hosting Houston (2-5) on Dec. 29. The Texans are trying to snap a five-game losing streak when they host the Colts Sunday night.
Titans QB Jake Locker, who returned to the lineup Oct. 20 after suffering hip and knee sprains on Sept. 29, said the team is encouraged by the upcoming opportunities.
“You look at where we sit in our division, and we’re not where we want to be,” Locker said. “We’re 3-4 and we think we could have a few more wins but we don’t, but in the grand scheme of things we’re two games back and we have an opportunity to play that team twice before the end of the year.”
Tags: AFC South, Jake Locker, Jason McCourty, NFL, Tennessee, Tennessee Titans
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An opportunistic play on special teams gave the Titans a 10-7 halftime lead on the Seahawks.
Jason McCourty forced and recovered a fumble by Chris Maragos and returned the ball 77 yards for a touchdown as the first half expired. McCourty received a key block from Bernard Pollard and picked up a convoy the rest of the way.
Maragos was filling in as a holder for punter/holder Jon Ryan, who was going to attempt the short field goal in place of Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka. Hauschka left the game with an injury after he was bulldozed while trying to tackle Tennessee’s Darius Reynaud on a 40-yard kickoff return late in the second quarter.
As Michael Griffin was tackling Maragos, McCourty stripped the ball before Maragos’ knee touched the ground. The play was reviewed by officials and stood.
It was the second career touchdown for McCourty, who recovered a blocked punt against Indianapolis in 2011.
Tags: Jason McCourty
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A wish list of some things the Titans’ defense wants to do against the Falcons:
1) Improve tackling — Titans defenders knew preseason games would be the best (and pretty much only opportunity) to tackle because of the limitations on full-contact during the offseason. They expected some mistakes and technical issues but also know that those won’t fly when they begin the regular season at Pittsburgh on Sept. 8. Tennessee put Cincinnati in multiple third-and-long situations last week but allowed the Bengals to convert 6 of 13 third downs. All six that were converted required at least five yards, and three required gains of at least 10. The first such mistake turned what appeared to be a stop on third-and-10 into a 24-yard gain that set up the Bengals’ first TD.
2) Manning up by next man up — Tennessee has encountered multiple injuries on defense but nothing that appears to threaten the season for any player. The Titans, however, will be without Sammie Hill (elbow), Ropati Pitoitua (hand), Akeem Ayers (ankle) and Zach Brown (foot) among its starting front seven defenders. Hill and Pitoitua were brought in to beef up the defensive line and stop the run on early downs in opponents’ possessions. Antonio Johnson will fill in for Hill, and the Titans will use a combo of rookie Lavar Edwards and smaller third-year pro Karl Klug in place of Pitoitua. Tennessee will likely use Patrick Bailey in Ayers’ place in its base defense and Kamerion Wimbley on passing situations, and is likely to start Tim Shaw in place of Brown. It will be interesting to see how Tennessee does against running back Stephen Jackson, the NFL’s active leading rusher, who was signed to accompany a strong passing attack.
3) Defend the Falcons’ passing attack — Although the Titans think the Falcons are unlikely to show much of its scheme, Atlanta is also likely to play most of its starters into the third quarter. Tennessee will need to blend pass rush and coverage by the secondary against 2012 Pro Bowl QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones and TE Tony Gonzalez. The Falcons also have Roddy White, who didn’t join those three in Honolulu but did have 92 receptions for 1,351 yards and seven TDs last season. The Falcons frequently incorporate three-receiver sets, so that should allow the Titans’ nickel and other sub packages a considerable amount of work.
4) Pick a corner — The Titans plan to start Alterraun Verner at right cornerback but also have Tommie Campbell play approximately a quarter with the first team. The two have competed for the starting job that is opposite Jason McCourty, and coaches would like to have that decision made after this game. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said right cornerback will have ample opportunities to make impact plays this season because he thinks teams will be more likely to throw to that side of the field than McCourty’s.
Tags: akeem ayers, Alterraun Verner, Antonio Johnson, Jason McCourty, nfl Preseason, Ropati Pitoitua, Sammie Hill, Tennessee, Tennessee Titans
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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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