Tight ends continue to baffle the Tennessee Titans.
Back in 2010, the problem became apparent when not only Antonio Gates and Owen Daniels hurt them with big games, but so did unheralded types like Anthony Fasano of the Miami Dolphins.
There has been a change in coordinators, with Jerry Gray replacing Chuck Cecil when Mike Munchak became head coach last year, but the problems covering opposing tight ends has not been solved.
Through two games – both lopsided losses – opposing tight ends have caught 20 of 22 passes thrown in their direction, and have scored five touchdowns against Tennessee.
Last week in San Diego, the situation may have cratered when Danta Rosario, subbing for an injured Gates, caught three touchdown passes after not having been in the end zone since 2009.
If you have Detroit's Brandon Pettigrew or Tony Scheffler, you probably can't wait to get them in your fantasy team's lineup against the Titans on Sunday.
But all kidding aside, why can't the Titans cover tight ends, who are becoming an increasingly potent weapon all over the NFL?
“That's a good question,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “If there was a simple answer, we probably would have figured it out by now. Sometimes you blow a coverage, sometimes you play against a good tight end and they make a play. It's a combination of sometimes not doing your job and sometimes a guy making a play. Whatever the reason is, we definitely have to shore it up. It's becoming a league where every Sunday we're going against a quality tight end.”
McCourty said the Titans have tried some man coverage and some zone, but neither has had much success.
“These last two weeks, we've done probably a little bit of both. I think Coach Gray has been looking for us to do something well,” McCourty said. “As a defense, we just haven't done a good job of executing the calls, whether they've been man or zone. I think he's trying to call things to figure out what the heck we're gonna do the right way. As a defensive, we've got to know our assignments and know what the offense is trying to do to us.”
Gray said matchups against players like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the opener vs. New England made for problems for the defense.
“You've got a guy like Tom Brady, and you've got two good wide receivers or three good wide receivers. Basically what people are doing is matching up. If you can match up with the wide receivers, you can't match up with the tight ends,” Gray said. “If you can match up with the tight ends, you probably can't match up with the wide receivers. You're playing a matchup game. I think it's a little bit more like basketball these days rather than football. They're spreading you out, trying to make you use all 54-whatever yards and all 110. They not lining up and playing tough man football, and that's what a lot of people are not doing.”
That explains the top tier tight ends, but what about Rosario, who is nobody's Kellen Winslow, scoring three times.
“Last week, it was blown assignments here and there, and that killed us. Blown assignments. If you're guarding somebody with outside leverage, somebody is supposed to be inside, and they bite (on a play fake). Guys in a zone coverage, get out of their zone,” safety Michael Griffin said. “The last couple of weeks, it's been on just, just blown assignments. It think it all goes hand-in-hand, getting pressure on the quarterback and getting him off his read. If linebackers are dropping if they're covering with the right leverage. It all works hand-in-hand, and as a team you've got to put the blame on the whole team.”