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Tennessee Titans Defensive Line: Odd Man Out?

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Is there an odd man out on Tennessee's defensive line?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Horton's Scheme

We have talked some about the positional likelihoods and function of Horton's Hybrid 3-4 defense. Before we go any further however; I would like to impress upon our readers that despite what the talking heads may say on the TV and radio, the Titans have no plans to move toward a "pure" 3-4 defense, with two-gapping defensive linemen. Horton's scheme, often called the Hybrid 3-4, is a scheme all it's own, not simply a transitional fixture put in place when team rosters are ill-suited to a full jump from 4-3 to 3-4 due to personnel. Most all teams run a variety of the two, with thousands of alternate alignments and packages in between to make each unique. For all intensive purposes, there is no such thing as a pure 3-4 or 4-3 in today's NFL, it's antiquated nomenclature.

For reference, the image below is a classic balanced 3-4 front.

1_medium

Compared with the hybrid 3-4 Horton will run in Tennessee (more akin to the 4-3 under.)

3-4_under_medium

With that out of the way, here is how I view the alignment in Tennessee's defensive trenches for 2014.

3 Tech "DE"

Jurrel Casey, Karl Klug, (DaQuan Jones)

0/1 Tech "NT"

Mike Martin, DaQuan Jones, Sammie Hill, Antonio Johnson, Al Woods

5 Tech "DE"

Ropati Pitoitua, Derrick Morgan, Lavar Edwards

Is There An Odd Man Out?

When I look at this depth chart, even after taking into account Ray Horton's tendency to heavily rotate personnel situationally, I see an overcrowding problem in the middle. While the talent level there overall may not be ideal, the Titans are hoping that a mixture of DaQuan Jones, Mike Martin, etc, can hold down the spot effectively.

The overcrowding issue at NT is compounded by the fact that Sammie Hill is currently the highest paid player at the spot ($3.3 million in 2014, $3.8 million in 2015), and thus far the team haven't seen the return on that investment. With his only real history coming as a backup DT in the Lions scheme, his injuries last season made it difficult to evaluate him. Needless to say, I think he will need a strong camp to have a chance of locking down that starter job, because if not he's at risk of being jettisoned. Both Ken Whisenhunt and Ruston Webster won't likely be keen to keep an expensive backup when they've added cheap talent at the same spot in rookie DaQuan Jones and Al Woods.

As of right now, Sammie Hill may be an odd man out in Tennessee.