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Titans-Falcons: What to Watch for Defensively

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Dick LeBeau's Titans' debut will take place against the Falcons on Friday.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A new era of defense will begin in the Georgia Dome on Friday night.  Dick LeBeau will be calling the shots for the Titans' retooled defense, a unit that ranked 27th overall last season.  LeBeau -- the mastermind behind so many successful Steelers' defenses -- will get a fresh start in Nashville, but has a tall task ahead of him.

Ruston Webster focused his attention on the defense during the early portion of free agency.  Brian Orakpo, Perish Cox and Da'Norris Searcy will all play huge roles in their first seasons as Titans, but will those three additions alone be enough to turn the defense around? We will get our first glimpse on Friday.  Here is what I will be watching for.

Zach Brown

Brown was a bit of a wildcard heading into last season's switch to a 3-4 scheme.  He proved he belonged in the two seasons previous, flourishing in a 4-3 look.  Brown suffered a torn pectoral in the first snaps of last year's win in Kansas City, so we really didn't get an extended look at Brown's ability within the 3-4.  He remains a bit of a question mark, but he should be able to fill in nicely alongside Avery Williamson.

Backup pass rushers

What happens if Brian Orakpo goes down for an extended amount of time? As I've said before, with his history it's hard to believe that Ruston Webster didn't bring in more bodies for depth at edge.  Jonathan Massaquoi figures to be the third man in rotation, simply from an experience standpoint.

Guys like Deiontrez Mount, Chaz Sutton, JR Tavai, Dezmond Johnson and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil will get their shot on Friday.  Mount has to have the inside track, but a strong performance from any of the others could put him on the bubble.

New look secondary

Last year's secondary was a disaster.  Blidi Wreh-Wilson was given every opportunity to win the job, but simply didn't perform.  Now it's Perish Cox's job to lose.  Cox took a big step forward last year as a 49er, proving to be a capable number two cornerback in the league.

Da'Norris Searcy will take over at strong safety, giving the Titans more insurance on the back half of the defense. Searcy was rated as one of the top pure coverage safeties in the NFL last season by PFF.  In theory, Searcy and Cox along with Griffin and McCourty should bring some much needed stability to the secondary.  We'll see how they gel initially on Friday night against an explosive Atlanta offense.

Defensive line rotation

The top three defensive lineman are cut and dry.  Jurrell Casey, Sammie Lee-Hill and DaQuan Jones will be the starters week one in Tampa Bay.  Behind them, it's a crowded room.  There are four spots up for grabs between Karl Klug, Angelo Blackson, Al Woods, Ropati Pitoitua, Mike Martin and Derrick Lott.

Blackson has gotten a bit of buzz lately and looks to be a lock. I'll be interested to see how LeBeau uses him, considering he has the size to push for snaps at nose tackle. Klug signed a two year extension this off season and offers a nice rotational pass rushing option; he is most likely safe. This leaves Woods, Pitoitua, Martin and  Lott to battle it out in the preseason snaps, starting Friday night.