Player Spotlight: Derrick Morgan

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

How did the veteran 4-3 end perform last season?

Derrick Morgan might just be the most underrated player on the Titans roster. His play has steadily improved year to year, and he has become a very well-rounded end for Tennessee's defense, playing well in both pass and run situations. In fact, Morgan was on the field for 74.8% of the Titans defensive snaps, good for 6th on the team.

The 16th overall pick of the 2010 draft ranked as a top 6 4-3 defensive end in 2013 per PFF, following a strong season in 2012 where he was ranked even higher. Morgan contributed 6 sacks in 2013 along with maintaining his strong run-stopping ability. While fans bemoan the lack of sack production, Morgan has been a staple player for the Titans for years, and deservedly so.

The play from below, from the 2012 game against the Jaguars, illustrates Morgan's physicality at the point of attack. Morgan has improved in his ability to get off his block, and an increased awareness to track down ball carriers and maintain gap integrity.

Morganayers_medium

It is unfortunate to this point that Morgan has not had competent linebacker play behind him, because that deficiency masks a lot of good that he does.

At the time he was drafted, there were mixed reviews about Morgan's ability play as a 3-4 DE. While he will not be asked to do so in Horton new defensive scheme, I have little doubt that there will be some pure 3-4 looks incorporated on which Morgan will have to adapt his game.

New head coach Ken Whisenhunt remarked on how much Morgan impressed him when reviewing tape of the 2013 season, and I am inclined to agree. Horton's system should highlight Morgan's versatile skill set, and the revamping of the linebacker corps behind him under new Linebacker coach, Lou Spanos, should provide additional dividends.

While Morgan is not a pass rusher solely, and he is not a guy who is going to generate 10+ sacks a year, I don't think that is a huge knock on a 4-3 end who is asked to play a lot of run support as well. Yes, the Titans would certainly benefit from a shot in the arm as far as pass rushers are concerned, but sacks have always been an overrated statistic. Pressures are more accurate when judging a defensive front's effectiveness on passing downs, and Morgan is consistently in the top tier of that category league-wide. I think it is fair to expect Morgan to continue his good play in 2014, and perhaps, even to take another step forward with an improved staff and defensive skill group around him.

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