Nothing to see here.
That's what the Titans seem to be saying as field questions about why the first-team defense has struggled early in both preseason games.
The Titans gave up touchdowns to both Green Bay and New Orleans on their opening series of both preseason games. The most alarming thing was that it was not Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees doing the damage, but career backups Matt Flynn and Luke McCown.
There have been the usual offerings that the Titans are not game-planning, which is fair, but the fact that Tennessee is not winning one-on-one matchups up front and missing tackles is enough of a concern that the ghosts of bad Titans defenses past has not been completely exorcised yet by Ken Whisenhunt and Ray Horton, who have switched the scheme to a 3-4.
Perhaps the biggest issue is pressure on the quarterback, something the Titans used to be known for with Jevon Kearse, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jason Babin.
Through two preseason games, the Titans have four sacks – not bad – but not good either, when you consider that none of those sacks are from the starting defense and that three of the four have been by third-stringers.
“It’s preseason. You’re looking at a lot of one-on-one matchups that you can get evaluations of guys. I think we’ve been close,” Whisenhunt offered. “I think we’ve played two offenses that have been in their system for a number of years, and they get the ball out pretty quickly. I know we were close a couple of times the last game. You’ve just got to keep working at it. Hopefully, we’ll start getting home and having some success there.”
Veteran Shawn Phillips, brought in at outside linebacker to help bolster that rush, said the sacks will come.
“That's the thing about sacks. They come in bunches. I know how hard we're working. We put a lot of work and a lot of emphasis on it in practice. I think it'll transfer over to the games,” Phillips said. “Obviously, depending on game plan and who you're playing, affects whether you get more opportunities to rush or not.”
Perhaps this will be the week it happens, as the Titans face Matt Ryan and the pass-happy Atlanta Falcons.
“Atlanta is a throwing team, so we should get opportunities. They have a pretty good offensive line. It should be a good test this week,” Phillips said.
Jurrell Casey, the Titans best defender a year ago with 10.5 sacks as a defensive tackle, is now a five-technique end in the 3-4. He said there is much work to be done, but expects the rush to be much better Saturday night in the Georgia Dome due in part to game-planning.
“We're doing the right things. We're getting there and allowing our DB's to get out of coverage much quicker. It's been going good, but it's nowhere close to what we expect. We've got a lot of work we still have to do to put together our true rush package,” Casey said. “This will actually be the first week where we've game-planned and see how everything that we've put together and see how it works out for us.”