The Tennessee Titans are going to need leadership for a young defense this season, especially in the secondary.
So with the leadership void there waiting to be filled, count Jason McCourty as a volunteer willing to take on that role.
“It's definitely been a change of pace without guys like Cort and Hope. They've kind of been the leaders the first three years I've been here,” said McCourty, who now enters his fourth season and takes over the role as Tennessee's top cover corner.
While safeties Michael Griffin and Jason Babineaux have been in the league longer than McCourty, the former Rutgers star is now the senior member among the Titans' cornerbacks. And that added responsibility is just fine with him.
“That feels natural for me I was the captain in college, guys looked up to me,” McCourty said. “I've always talked to Hope about it. I think it's kind of a progression type thing. You come into the league as a young guy you watch the older guys, you learn from them and as they move on you kind of continue to step up. I think gradually the younger guys, myself and other guys in this building will step up.”
So now, McCourty will be charged with helping to show youngsters like rookie Coty Sensabaugh and Markelle Martin the ropes, as well as being there for second-year cornerbacks Chris Hawkins and Tommie Campbell.
Currently, McCourty says he is simply reminding the younger players about things such as proper technique, but as the season goes on, he will impart more things to them.
“I think as the season progresses you kind of just tell them some of the stories you heard when you were a rookie and kind of just keep them focused on the responsibilities that you have to do as far as showing up on time, making sure that coaches know you're willing to be coached and adapt to whatever they're trying to teach some of those smaller things just like getting in and understanding what it takes to be a pro on a daily basis,” he said.
Being more of a leader isn't the only adjustment McCourty will have to make. First, he has a new position coach in Brett Maxie.
“There's some differences I think each coach has their own way of teaching certain things, different technique things and just the way the room is conducted is a little bit different,” McCourty said. “I think like Coach (Jerry) Gray said sometimes change can be good. I think guys are just getting used to it and getting an understanding of what Coach Maxie and Coach (Steve) Brown are bringing to the table. I think so far guys are adjusting to it and a lot of guys like the new things that they're bringing.”
Plus, defensive coordinator Gray has pledged to make the defense more sophisticated now that he has an off-season with which to install his own concepts.
“I know last year he said there were certain things we couldn't run because we needed an offseason to teach it so that we could master it before we could go out there on Sundays and get a chance to run it,” McCourty said. “I'm excited about that just to see the different nuances that he's going to add to the defense and let guys use their athletic ability and make plays. I think the new things he's bringing in to actually let us learn it and master it we'll be able to execute that on Sunday.”