Now that free agency and the draft have ended, we can start to take a look at the 2009 version of the Tennessee Titans. Today we will look at the five biggest defensive questions for 2009.
1. How will the rotation replace the loss of Albert Haynesworth?
No one player is going to be expected to replace Albert. It will be done by the rotation. The question is how good is the rotation?
They know what they have in Tony Brown. He is a space eater that can get after the quarterback a little. Jason Jones excited us last year with his solid play early and stand-out game against the Towel Boys. He played defensive end in college so he is more of a pass rusher. Sen'Derrick Marks is probably the most athletic of the bunch and should be able to get after the passer. Jovan Haye is the wild card. He had 6 sacks in 2007 but 0 in 2008. Let's hope we get the '07 version. Kevin Vickerson, at the back end of the rotation, is a space eater that seemed to make huge strides last season (minus the performance enhancing drug suspension).
Obviously the Titans are hoping for the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. The odds are it will be with Jim Washburn guiding the ship.
2. Who will step up to be the #3 corner?
Most of us would have liked the Titans to take a corner before the end of the 3rd round in this draft after losing so many corners in the offseason. They didn't, so that leaves a huge question in my mind. The Titans did sign DeMarcus Faggins in the offseason, and he is a nice player for depth purposes, but I am not going to feel really good if he has to be on the field for any extended period of time.
They obviously saw a lot of potential in Ryan Mouton, but he appears to be a project at best. I doubt he will be ready to step in and play if Cortland Finnegan or Nick Harper go down.
Cary Williams? Jason McCourty? That just isn't change I can believe in yet.
3. How much different will the defensive scheme look with Chuck Cecil at the helm?
The honest answer here is no one really knows. Jim Schwartz took a very statistical approach to the scheme (Think Moneyball meets the NFL). There weren't a lot of "risky" blitzes, and the secondary sat in zone coverage for the most part. I expect things to be different with Cecil calling the shots. We all know he played hard nosed football 100% of the time, so I just don't see him sitting around waiting for the other team to make a mistake like Schwartzy did. Of course we won't know how he will call games until they take the field at Towel Boy Stadium on opening night.
4. Is there a quality linebacker on the roster behind Keith Bulluck and David Thornton?
Bulluck will be 32 and Thornton will be 30 when the season starts, so the odds of both of them staying healthy for the whole season are not very good. (Not to mention the looming free agency for Bulluck) The Titans have not spent a high pick on a LB since they took Bulluck in the first round in 2000. This could be the year we find out if any of them are going to be quality NFL players.
5. Will the defensive ends hold up for the whole season?
Just as with the linebackers, the starting defensive ends on this team aren't getting any younger. Add to that the fact that Kyle Vanden Bosch missed most of last season with a groin injury and Jevon Kearse isn't exactly the Cal Ripken Jr. of football, and you can see why the depth question is important here. The front office obviously felt good about the sport since they didn't spend a draft pick on an end for the first time since the Lincoln Administration. It is easy to see why the would be comfortable with the depth when you look at the production they got from Dave Ball and Jacob Ford last season. Combine that with the portential they see in William Hayes, and they seem pretty set. The question then becomes how well those depth guys would play in expanded roles.