The Titans changed a lot of things from 2013 to 2014, and obviously things haven't gone their way. The new regime has presided over a total collapse, sending a 7-9 2013 squad to a 2-13 (soon to be 14?) disaster. We have already lamented on the struggles of Ken Whisenhunt and his inflexible approach to formulating game-plans, as well as his questionable use of player personnel. But behind the train-wreck of an offense, the defense has also rapidly declined.
This, more than anything, is a disappointing result. Ray Horton came to town with promises or turning around a defensive unit that had struggled under the previous regime, namely Jerry Gray. What we have seen, however; has been far from confidence-inducing.
Lost: Alterraun Verner
Added: Shaun Phillips (Released), Wesley Woodyard, Al Woods, Avery Williamson (R), MarQueston Huff (R)
With Ray Horton came his scheme, that being a multiple front "hybrid" 3-4. This transition demanded a lot from the 4-3 style roster he had to work with, but the FO took steps to add players that reputedly "fit" this scheme. All in all, the roster didn't change a whole lot from 2013 to 2014. Derrick Morgan received rave reviews from camp in regards to his transition to OLB. The Titans added some size up front with Al Woods, and a speedy "cover-LB" in Wesley Woodyard. The team also drafted a difference-making ILB (that mitigated the loss of Zach Brown early in the year). All this was going to come together to give Tennessee an edge, a back bone of strong defense that it's new-look offense could lean on when needed.
So much for that.
With a single game to go, the Titans have recorded 10 fewer turnovers than last season, and total defense has bottomed out, plummeting from 16th to 29th overall. The struggling run defense, something that has loomed over Tennessee all season, also regressed: from 20th overall to an embarrassing 31st. Surprisingly, Jerry Gray's 2013 Tennessee Titans allowed the least passing TD's in the NFL (15). This season that ranking dropped all the way to 18th.
Obviously evaluating a defense goes so much farther than simply looking at statistics. The Titans improved in sacks, for instance, going from 36 total to 38 this season with a game still to play. But as we know sacks aren't exactly a good measure of pass rush either. This season the Titans pass rush has been mostly feast or famine; with the entire group disappearing for stretches that can span several games.
The secondary has been mostly rudderless; unable to make impact plays or keep fundamental responsibilities in check. With another draft and Free Agency period on the horizon, the Titans need to make their investments count. A year like this usually results in firings. But with Whisenhunt and Webster reportedly safe for another season, these kind of results need to change quickly for them to retain their posts. Ray Horton will get another shot with this crew (more than likely). A high draft pick and a bevy of free agent money should put the Titans in a good position to remedy their defensive ills, and subsequently get the team back on track in the win/loss column.
Does 2015 bring better fortune on defense? Only time will tell.