Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray didn't mince words when asked how the Titans would have to try and stop the New Orleans Saints big receiving targets in Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston.
He said the Titans defense has to make them pay for coming over the middle to make receptions if Tennessee is going to slow down the Saints high-powered offense. Graham already has 75 catches for 1,046 yards this eason, while Colston has 51 receptions for 721 more yards.
“When they're 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-4 and they're throwing over little bitty guys, why wouldn't you?” Gray asked.
Gray says the Titans will have to have their safeties help the linebackers in coverage, by applying some physical reminders.
“The thing is, the safety has got to come down and hit him and help him out. The biggest thing I think in this league is you've got to put fear in guy's hearts from throwing the ball in the middle of the field,” Gray said. “And if that means getting a letter from the commissioner on Monday, that means getting a letter from the commissioner.
“But a lot of times, you've got to let these guys know you're not going to throw the ball in the middle of the football field. This is not a basketball game. It's a football game, so the ball doesn't go down the middle of our field. That's what safeties are supposed to do in this league.”
Asked if his safeties were doing enough of that, Gray replied, “ Of course not. They wouldn't be throwing the ball in the middle of the field if we'd been doing enough of it.”
Coach Mike Munchak agreed, as long as it doesn't skirt the rules.
"The rules are the rules, but that shouldn't turn you down from being as aggressive as you can be and making plays," Munchak said. "There's a lot of teams, a lot of secondaries, making great plays on the ball and great hits that are clean hits."
Gray said he isn't looking for dirty play, just a more physical nature from the safeties.
“I don't think you've got to volunteer to pay a fine. You just do a clean hit. Hit a guy clean. The good thing is, he's 6-foot-7, so you're not going to hit him in the head anyway,” Gray said. “We've got about four or five guys that can do that, and they've got to take it upon themselves to do that.”
Safety Chris Hope agrees with his coach's assessment.
“I think we have to play like that anyway. We have to play physical, no matter what. Sometimes the only way you can make it an even playing field is not to be dirty, but just to play physical,” Hope said. “When you play those high-scoring offenses, sometimes they're a little bit more finesse than other offenses that want to ground and pound you and beat you to sleep physically.”
Michael Griffin said it can be tough to pick your spots with big hits.
“If he says that's what we've got to do, then that's what we've got to do. If we've got a shot, we've got to take it, but I don't know how many shots there will actually be,” Griffin said. “… It's kind of hard to say what you're going to do, but whatever happens, you've got to do it.”