Tennessee Titans - The need for a pass rusher
Just about every analyst says that the Titans need a pass rusher and say they should target one early in the draft or find one in free agency. Outside of Clowney, Barr and Mack, I don’t see a whole lot of can’t miss defensive players in the 2014 draft that would be franchise-changing players for the Titans. Everyone thinks that you have to have a dominant pass rusher to be a great defense. Well that’s one way but another way and better way is to have many guys that can sack the QB. The Titans had 36 sacks on the season and got them from Casey, Brown, Ayers, Pitoitua, Morgan, A. Johnson, Wimbley, Martin and Klug. That’s not bad at all when you get sacks from a variety of positions (DT, DE & LB). 36 sacks is only 8 shy of Super bowl champs Legion of Boom Seattle Seahawks defense had on the season. I believe the Titans defense is less about lack of talent and more about scheme and playing towards the strengths of the current roster. I see far fewer holes on defense than most if they can resign Pollard and Verner. If Verner does leave in free agency, his replacement may already be on the roster in Blidi Wrey-Wilson or Coty Sensabaugh.
Also Klug has been underutilized and should be the starting DT next to Casey in the 4-3 front hands down. They have been looking for the next Albert Haynesworth to push the pocket but Hill and A. Johnson are not Haynesworth. Klug is the best DT on the team not named Jurrell Casey and even though he’s only 275lbs, he’s able to be disruptive and get into the backfield on a regular basis. He had 6 or 7 sacks his rookie season then Jerry Grey decided he wanted bigger guys and went out and overpaid for a big backup DT in Sammy Lee Hill. He did nothing to help stop the run. There are many ways to stop the run besides loading up with giant DT’s. A solid MLB can be the missing piece to being a run stuffing defense.
Another player I thought was misused was Kamerion Wimbley. Obviously he would be better as an OLB or even ILB in either scheme 3-4 or 4-3. He could be used in Horton’s hybrid defense as a stand up pass rusher from multiple spots. I imagine him standing up in the middle of the defense to allow him to come downhill against the run and punish running backs and blitz the QB on passing downs while Lavar Edwards mans the DE position on the right side and Morgan on the left.
If the Titans next season could get:
· 10 sacks from Casey
· 8 sacks from Morgan
· 5 sacks from Brown
· 7 sacks from Klug
· 5 sacks from Edwards
· 7 sacks from Wimbley
· 2 sacks from Martin
The total is 44 sacks, which would equal the number of sacks the Seahawks had this past season. They had 36 in 2013 and could possibly have more next season just by improving the scheme and coaching. The need for a dominant pass rusher is not as dire as most make it out to be and the draft isn’t loaded with great pass rushers outside of Clowney, Barr and Mack.
The strength of the draft is in OT and QB, which are needs the Titans have. I know QB is debatable with Jake Locker under contract and having played well briefly but his injury history is cause for concern and his accuracy is still an issue.
Consider that the AFC south division could be loaded after this draft with Luck already in place in Indianapolis, and with Jacksonville and Houston possibly picking QB’s. Bridgewater, Manziel and Carr all being possibilities, the Titans can’t afford to be complacent on the QB position. OT is really deep and could be had in the 2nd round or even the 4th. Remember Roos and Steward were 2nd and 4th round picks respectively in the same draft. I would consider taking a QB in the 1st or 2nd round. Zach Mettenberger would be an awesome pick but I doubt he last until the 2nd round. A.J. McCarron would also be a good pick but again it’s impossible to predict what round he’d go. Trading up for Teddy Bridgewater if he were to start to slide would huge for the Titans. His ability to read defenses, experience in a pro style offense and his accuracy would make the WR corps an elite group and the Titans will have secured their most dire need. While OT is a need, it isn’t as dire as they could easily continue to develop Byron Stingily for the position or sign someone in free agency. They could even take an OT in the 4th or 5th rounds. We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.