Forgive me if I'm the only one, but I think it's safe to say that the loss of Jim Washburn might have been wildly overblown in the offseason. I'm not trying to imply that without one of the more recognizable assistants in the NFL today that the Titans are significantly better off, but perhaps we all freaked out a little too much about losing a position coach, especially one with a big hole in his philosophy.
All I'm saying is that through the first couple of games, I haven't noticed his absence one bit.
The first game is really still a sore talking point in general, mostly because it was a terrible game. The more we see this defense in action, the more we'll give credence to the fact that Derrick Morgan and Jason Jones both missed this game. The whole team played a great game in week two, but the importance of these two just can't be repeated enough. I could bore you with stuff you already know about how the NFL is a passers game and that pass rush is key, but I'll take it a step further and say that the health of these two might just be the most important component to the success of the entire defense this year. Problem is, the health of at least one of these guys is about as fleeting and rare as a Houston Texans playoff appearance. This places even more pressure on Morgan to stay on the field and keep getting after the quarterback like he did last week. Without the two starting bookends, the defense goes boom, simple as that. It's not about assistant coaches, it's about the guys in charge putting the best players on the field period. While Albert Haynesworth has been one of the largest free agency busts in a long time, he showed flashes of the brilliance that made him such a hot commodity in the first place in week one for the Patriots. He was on the field often and he drove double teams back five yards on the reg. It looks like our old friend might be up to his old ways in the 4-3.
However, I think it's a little bit naive to say that Washburn had no effect on the defense whatsoever. The transformation of Jason Babin from a fringe special teams contributor to a pass rushing specialist in one year was one of the best stories in the NFL last year. Babin, when used correctly by Washburn, was an excellent pass rusher. One of the best in the business last year, anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. Washburn's super aggressive style suited Babin very well, and without being confined by certain schemes, he was free to wreak havoc on the outside. As we all know, Babin has followed Washburn to Philadelphia where they hope he'll continue to beat opposing tackles into submission every week.
What this new defensive line lacks in all out aggression, they make up for in steady discipline. It's one thing when your system of sending everybody to the backfield as fast as possible works well and players aren't jumping off sides every play, it's another thing entirely when they are. This pressure-oriented but still disciplined unit has the potential to play much better than the ones of yesteryear because of the fact that they play smart football up front. The reckless abandon approach has been trashed for the most part, or so it may seem. What remains is a still aggressive line that plays its assignments and looks to eliminate the "dumb penalties" aspect of their game.