BYE Week Review: Titans Defense

Wesley Hitt

Now lets take a look at how the Titans 2013 defense has stacked up against the pre-season expectations.

Defensive Tackle

This group may prove to be one of the league's deepest this year, with a marquee-type guy like Jurrell Casey leading the way, and explosive, consistent players behind him like Mike Martin, Antonio Johnson, Karl Klug, and Sammie Hill. All have impressed this season when on the field, and it has made world's of difference to this Titans defense, which was viewed as a basement-level squad coming off a historically bad campaign in 2012. Beyond simply shoring up the running game, the defensive tackles have shown the ability to create pressure in the interior pass rush, which has led to big plays for the rest of this defense. I think most here at MCM expected development from this young position group, and we should be happy with their advanced level of play so far this year.

Defensive End

While Morgan played at a very high level last year, he has not been able to get the numbers to back him up as much this season. Don't get me wrong, Morgan has played well (and we'll be keeping our fingers crossed as far as his injury is concerned) but he has been outshone by his counterpart on the opposite side of the line thus far. And no, as pre-season predications would have it, that person is not Kam Wimbley, but the towering Ropati Pitoitua, who has shown everyone why he earned the starting role. Pitoitua is having a career season thus far, playing well as usual against the run and flashing as a pass rusher as well. I would say, overall, this group is right where Titans fans and media outlets expected it to be, maybe with a little something extra.

Linebacker

Even in the midst of last year's breakdowns, you could see the extent of the young talent at OLB. Akeem Ayers has played well for most of this season after a slow start as he worked his way back from injury. His added versatility has been another bonus for this defense, and I feel he this coaching staff is on the right track into getting the most out of him as a player. The real star of the group has been Zach Brown, who is coming of age in only his second year. Brown has flashed big-play ability in almost every game he's played thus far; showing his innate talent to rush the passer and his incredible athleticism in shutting down league Tight Ends. The sky is the limit for him, and I only see him improving. Throw in the above-average "fill in" of Fokou, who has been steady and consistent in the middle, and you have a group playing above league expectations.

Cornerback

Most expected some growth at this position, not least from the more physical, man-coverage heavy scheme Gray and Williams had been talking all offseason about employing. Nobody could have expected the Titans corners to respond as they have. ATV is the best CB in football through almost half the year, and McCourty isn't far behind him, ranking at 8th overall and dissuading opposing QBs from throwing his direction all season long. In the slot, Coty Sensabaugh has been playing well for a second year guy, and with the talent behind them in the rookie Wreh-Wilson and Tommie Campbell, the group has far surpassed all expectations. If ATV and McCourty can keep up their play, they can make a case for the one of the top CB tandems in all of football. Who would have said that last year?

Safety

Now we come to the most maligned group on a league worst defense from a year ago. The expectations of this group were dismal, and not many counted Pollard and Wilson as real difference makers. So far this year Pollard is playing his best football ever, and Griffin seems to have returned to his rookie form. Wilson has proved an effective leader and an incredible talented backup/rotational player. While these guys are not the best safeties in the game, this Titans secondary as a whole may just be the NFL's most improved unit from a year ago to today. Who would've thought?

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