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New Defensive Scheme (Akeem Ayers)

  • Jerry Gray's vision for the defense is very GW style, with more 3-4 concepts incorporated in there. Akeem Ayers will be the starter at SAM due to his unique skillset. He'll be used to rush the passer with his hand down as well as from the two point. He will also be used in coverage and to set the edge in the run game. The SAM linebacker in this scheme will be playing closer to the line of scrimmage most of the time, with the MIKE and the WILL set deeper behind the LOS.

    Akeem Ayers is the only person on the roster that can play the SAM position in this scheme as of right now (Maybe Spoon could do it a little). But what I'm wondering is who is gonna start at MIKE and WILL. Under the RFA labor scenario, per 2010 rules, tulloch would remain a Titan. If this ends up being the case, it's probable that he will start at MIKE. Now, who would take over the WILL position, would McRath retain it or would Will Witherspoon move over to the WILL spot like he did for the Eagles?

    Another scenario, were a CBA to be struck, and Tulloch departed as a FA, would be for Spoon to take over the middle, with McRath at WILL...or for McCarthy to take over MIKE or WILL (which would entail starting two rookie linebackers). Whatever the case, I don't see McRath moving inside under any circumstance.

    Thoughts? And Terry or Darren, how does the new staff feel about McRath and Witherspoon?

  • Another interesting twist in this scheme, of course, is the defensive line. The philosophy of the defensive line will change from rushing the passer every down to stopping the run. Incorporating in this change, is not only getting bigger d-linemen (which we did in the draft and will continue to do in free agency), but changing up the scheme itself significant. While the defensive ends will play in 9 technique occasionally (as Gray has said), they will play more 7 technique and even 6 technique.

    Gray has mentioned playing Jason Jones and Karl Klug outside on run downs, and then possibly switching them inside for 3rd and long blatant passing situations. I think this is an excellent idea, and I also think Jason Jones could end up being penciled in as a starting defensive end, with Derrick Morgan on the other side. I think they'll likely go with 9 defensive linemen, keeping Klug and William Hayes as rotational DE's. Hayes is a big guy, but is also a good pass rusher, so I think he'll be important in the new scheme.

    What I'm concerned about is Tony Brown and Sen'derrick Marks fitting in the new scheme. I think probably they'll be used at the left defensive tackle spot and will be pass rushers from that spot. In 3-4 looks, we now have a couple guys (Jurrell Casey, in particular), who can play zero technique, with Klug and possibly Jason Jones or William Hayes play 5 technique DE's.

    What do you guys think about Jason Jones playing primarily at DE in base 4-3 looks? and Terry/Darren, have you heard any more specific info about this possibility?

  • I like the idea of mixing it up more. Our old defensive scheme worked great for the first 5 or 6 games of the season, but then the tiny DL got injured and worn out. A scheme that uses 9-technique DEs in it's base DL formation will be horribly inconsistent. It's a feast or fathom defense. The only reason it works for the Colts is because they are always playing to protect a lead, so teams are always throwing on them.

    As for the LBs, I think Ayers will most definitely be the SAM LB. There is an outside possibility that Spoon could do it since he's already on that side of the field, but I doubt it. I think Ayers will start at SAM from game one. That leaves Spoon, Tulloch, McRath, and McCarthy. I seriously doubt they'll start two rookie LBs, so McCarthy is out of the picture. He might be used situationally because of his size. If we do any 3-4 looks I'd say we would rotate either him or Shaw in. Regardless, I think Tulloch will start at MIKE LB. He's not particularly great in coverage or all that fast, but he's been very dependable against the run. With Gray's mindset on stopping the run, I think they'll make a big effort to retain Tulloch. Again, there is an outside chance of Spoon starting at MIKE, but it's doubtful. Spoon is too good to bench, so I say he gets moved over to WILL LB. The only real competition here would be McRath. I know the old coaching staff liked McRath a lot, but I haven't heard any of the new guys talk about him. I never really cared for him other than his leadership skills. He's a solid tackler, but seems to be caught way out of position in coverage. He's terrible at setting the edge on outside runs and takes horrible angles. I was never impressed with his speed. I guess we could retain him in a backup capacity, but I don't see him starting for us.

    As for DL, I think we'll be doing a lot of 7-technique. Our DEs are very well suited for it. JJ and Klug could definitely be used at 6-technique while Morgan and Hayes line up at 7 as the base DEs. I'd like to retain Ball because of his versatility. He could be the 9-technique pass-rusher or the 7 or 6-technique run stopper like the others. Whatever happens, we are definitely bulking up. DT seems to be the biggest problem now. Brown was perfectly suited for the old scheme, but I don't think he fits very well in Gray's defense. He's pretty small to be a run stopping DT, so I could see his role being diminished to passing downs. He's a great leader, so I don't want to see him go, but his knees aren't getting any better. I think he'll excel in a limited role. We could start Jurrell Casey at one spot since he's a good run stopper and just rotate Brown and Haye. I didn't care much for Haye before, but he did have 6 sacks in Tampa Bay when he was bulkier. If he bulks up he could be a decent run stopper. Then we could rotate him and Brown at the 2nd DT spot. I haven't been very impressed with Marks at all. I don't want to give up on that pick this soon, but I can't say I would be upset if we let him go. Regardless, that is a weak DT group. I think we need to target a good FA to help establish the unit.

    The secondary will get much more complex in my opinion. I think we'll shift back to the FS/SS system and put Griff at FS. I haven't heard the new coaches say anything about Hope, but I'm betting he'll start at SS. He looked bad last year, but I think that was a scheme issue. Hope shouldn't have been playing deep safety. He's skilled up close and in the box. He's a great run stopper and has good ball skills over the middle. Griff should be the free roaming safety. Hope can't be relied upon in deep coverage, so just keep him up close where he plays best. I think we'll see more man coverage since our CBs are well suited for it. I'm hoping we don't just stick Finny on the best WR any more. He got caught out of position a lot because he wasn't used to the side of the field he was on and he's too small to take on some of the bigger WRs. I'd rather just match up our three best CBs on the opponent's three best WRs according to how they fit. For instance, I would put McCourty on the bigger WRs because he has the speed and deep ball skills to defend against them. He's not a really physical guy, but he can keep the ball out of their hands. Finny would be better suited for the blocking type WRs like Hines Ward. He can match them physically and wear them down. AV would be better on the short range and intermediate WRs like Wes Welker. Verner is one of the best short range defenders in the NFL in my opinion. Essentially, I'd like to see us not have a number one, two, and three CB, but just have three great CBs who match up against their best rival on the opposite team. It think we'd be much more effective there, especially with the added bulk on the DL. This would prevent our DBs from needing to come up to help the run so much. Griffin shouldn't have over 100 tackles.

    Whatever happens, I'm excited for the change.

    This post was edited by Titans_Dynasty 3 years ago

  • I'm thinking I'd rather see Vincent Fuller return to his former role as nickel/backup safety. I agree about Michael Griffin and C. Hope, but I think we should just have Cort man one side of the field and AV man the other side, and we should play more cover two and less one on one. AV and Cort both don't seem like man corners, but McCourty could be. I think McCourty should just be the primary backup. Either way, I hope they don't switch up the secondary all the time, would like to see those guys get really proficient at one position instead of rotating between outside and nickel and all that jazz all the time.

  • I think you'll see Ayers start right away. For right now, Witherspoon and McRath are both in a fight to hold on to their spots. I would think that McRath probably holds on to a starting job since he is younger and has the upside. Witherspoon is a guy that might move to the middle if Tully doesn't re-sign. Don't count out McCarthy making a run at a starting spot either.

    The secondary is interesting in that this is rare that they didn't draft a lot here. Verner and Finny would appear to be locked in. Not sure what the new regime thinks of Fuller, but the Fisher/Cecil group had soured on him somewhat. At safety, Griffin is on the spot to step up and lead and play well. A veteran option could still be signed to challenge Hope, or they could pray that Robert Johnson finally steps up and shows why he was drafted.

    On the d-line, as for moving Jason Jones to end, the reason Wash never did much of that was because it neutralized his quickness. He could either be a fast DT or a slow DE and they liked him inside. Will be interesting to see if Rocker feels the same way. I got the indication that he will stay at DT but maybe bounce out to end at times. Guys like Babin and Ford might not have much future in Gray's system, and might not be re-signed except as situational players. Babin probably won't accept such a role and may go elsewhere for more money. Ford has already been in that role pretty much, so he might return to it.

    It's going to be an interesting off-season, if there is an off-season to be had.

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  • TerryMc13 said... (original post)

    I think you'll see Ayers start right away. For right now, Witherspoon and McRath are both in a fight to hold on to their spots. I would think that McRath probably holds on to a starting job since he is younger and has the upside. Witherspoon is a guy that might move to the middle if Tully doesn't re-sign. Don't count out McCarthy making a run at a starting spot either.

    The secondary is interesting in that this is rare that they didn't draft a lot here. Verner and Finny would appear to be locked in. Not sure what the new regime thinks of Fuller, but the Fisher/Cecil group had soured on him somewhat. At safety, Griffin is on the spot to step up and lead and play well. A veteran option could still be signed to challenge Hope, or they could pray that Robert Johnson finally steps up and shows why he was drafted.

    On the d-line, as for moving Jason Jones to end, the reason Wash never did much of that was because it neutralized his quickness. He could either be a fast DT or a slow DE and they liked him inside. Will be interesting to see if Rocker feels the same way. I got the indication that he will stay at DT but maybe bounce out to end at times. Guys like Babin and Ford might not have much future in Gray's system, and might not be re-signed except as situational players. Babin probably won't accept such a role and may go elsewhere for more money. Ford has already been in that role pretty much, so he might return to it.

    It's going to be an interesting off-season, if there is an off-season to be had.

    Terry, have you heard anything from the coaching staff about McRath? I haven't heard them say anything about him in any interviews, so I just assumed they weren't very high on him. He is a good tackler, so he would probably fit in the new scheme well. His coverage skills and angles just seemed really bad to me. Maybe the new staff likes him better than I thought, but in my opinion, Spoon would destroy him if they were to compete for a spot.

    I like that McCarthy might get a real shot. Our LBs would be totally inexperienced, but we'll probably suck with an old QB running the team anyways, so we might as well start the learning curve early.

    I was under the impression that JJ would be primarily a DE. I guess that changes things if they want to keep him at DT. That would give us a great inside pass rush with Brown and JJ, but they aren't much against the run. I definitely think we need to target a big DT regardless of what happens with JJ.

    This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by Titans_Dynasty 3 years ago

  • Titans_Dynasty said... (original post)

    I like the idea of mixing it up more. Our old defensive scheme worked great for the first 5 or 6 games of the season, but then the tiny DL got injured and worn out. A scheme that uses 9-technique DEs in it's base DL formation will be horribly inconsistent. It's a feast or fathom defense. The only reason it works for the Colts is because they are always playing to protect a lead, so teams are always throwing on them.

    As for the LBs, I think Ayers will most definitely be the SAM LB. There is an outside possibility that Spoon could do it since he's already on that side of the field, but I doubt it. I think Ayers will start at SAM from game one. That leaves Spoon, Tulloch, McRath, and McCarthy. I seriously doubt they'll start two rookie LBs, so McCarthy is out of the picture. He might be used situationally because of his size. If we do any 3-4 looks I'd say we would rotate either him or Shaw in. Regardless, I think Tulloch will start at MIKE LB. He's not particularly great in coverage or all that fast, but he's been very dependable against the run. With Gray's mindset on stopping the run, I think they'll make a big effort to retain Tulloch. Again, there is an outside chance of Spoon starting at MIKE, but it's doubtful. Spoon is too good to bench, so I say he gets moved over to WILL LB. The only real competition here would be McRath. I know the old coaching staff liked McRath a lot, but I haven't heard any of the new guys talk about him. I never really cared for him other than his leadership skills. He's a solid tackler, but seems to be caught way out of position in coverage. He's terrible at setting the edge on outside runs and takes horrible angles. I was never impressed with his speed. I guess we could retain him in a backup capacity, but I don't see him starting for us.

    As for DL, I think we'll be doing a lot of 7-technique. Our DEs are very well suited for it. JJ and Klug could definitely be used at 6-technique while Morgan and Hayes line up at 7 as the base DEs. I'd like to retain Ball because of his versatility. He could be the 9-technique pass-rusher or the 7 or 6-technique run stopper like the others. Whatever happens, we are definitely bulking up. DT seems to be the biggest problem now. Brown was perfectly suited for the old scheme, but I don't think he fits very well in Gray's defense. He's pretty small to be a run stopping DT, so I could see his role being diminished to passing downs. He's a great leader, so I don't want to see him go, but his knees aren't getting any better. I think he'll excel in a limited role. We could start Jurrell Casey at one spot since he's a good run stopper and just rotate Brown and Haye. I didn't care much for Haye before, but he did have 6 sacks in Tampa Bay when he was bulkier. If he bulks up he could be a decent run stopper. Then we could rotate him and Brown at the 2nd DT spot. I haven't been very impressed with Marks at all. I don't want to give up on that pick this soon, but I can't say I would be upset if we let him go. Regardless, that is a weak DT group. I think we need to target a good FA to help establish the unit.

    The secondary will get much more complex in my opinion. I think we'll shift back to the FS/SS system and put Griff at FS. I haven't heard the new coaches say anything about Hope, but I'm betting he'll start at SS. He looked bad last year, but I think that was a scheme issue. Hope shouldn't have been playing deep safety. He's skilled up close and in the box. He's a great run stopper and has good ball skills over the middle. Griff should be the free roaming safety. Hope can't be relied upon in deep coverage, so just keep him up close where he plays best. I think we'll see more man coverage since our CBs are well suited for it. I'm hoping we don't just stick Finny on the best WR any more. He got caught out of position a lot because he wasn't used to the side of the field he was on and he's too small to take on some of the bigger WRs. I'd rather just match up our three best CBs on the opponent's three best WRs according to how they fit. For instance, I would put McCourty on the bigger WRs because he has the speed and deep ball skills to defend against them. He's not a really physical guy, but he can keep the ball out of their hands. Finny would be better suited for the blocking type WRs like Hines Ward. He can match them physically and wear them down. AV would be better on the short range and intermediate WRs like Wes Welker. Verner is one of the best short range defenders in the NFL in my opinion. Essentially, I'd like to see us not have a number one, two, and three CB, but just have three great CBs who match up against their best rival on the opposite team. It think we'd be much more effective there, especially with the added bulk on the DL. This would prevent our DBs from needing to come up to help the run so much. Griffin shouldn't have over 100 tackles.

    Whatever happens, I'm excited for the change.

    welcome

    247Sports: Your team all the time.

  • Titans_Dynasty said... (original post)

    Terry, have you heard anything from the coaching staff about McRath? I haven't heard them say anything about him in any interviews, so I just assumed they weren't very high on him. He is a good tackler, so he would probably fit in the new scheme well. His coverage skills and angles just seemed really bad to me. Maybe the new staff likes him better than I thought, but in my opinion, Spoon would destroy him if they were to compete for a spot.

    I like that McCarthy might get a real shot. Our LBs would be totally inexperienced, but we'll probably suck with an old QB running the team anyways, so we might as well start the learning curve early.

    I was under the impression that JJ would be primarily a DE. I guess that changes things if they want to keep him at DT. That would give us a great inside pass rush with Brown and JJ, but they aren't much against the run. I definitely think we need to target a big DT regardless of what happens with JJ.

    The coaches have been very careful to say that there will be competition at the linebacker spots. That must mean they aren't real high on any of them. McRath didn't advance much after a solid rookie season. The late start from the suspension could be part of it, the scheme is probably partially to blame, but I think he will have to re-earn his starting job.

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  • I wouldn't be surprised if the starting MLB for the Titans ended up being a free agent addition. Unless the league implements 2010 rules with RFA I can't see Tulloch on the roster. He's at best a two down LB who will likely want to be paid like a nickel LB. And for being a two down LB he's not particularly strong at the point of attack when defending the run anyways (pursuit / effort guy who racked up tackles behind Washburns DLine).

    I imagine that Witherspoon, McRath and Curran will fight it out for the WLB position while McCarthy will back up all three positions. Unless Witherspoon can hold his starting job I could see him being cut as Curran and McRath are young and effective special teamers.

    There could be a scenario where they move Witherspoon inside but I have the impression that he may not exactly fit Grays plans.

  • I'd be surprised if they released Witherspoon. With the uncertainties and the youth of the LB corps, I would think that a vet with his experience would be more valuable than dispensable. Of course, that value might be surplanted by an experienced FA.

    I will be really interested in watching (or more accurately, reading about) the competition this year at LB and WR. So much rides on who gets the value in picking up FAs.

    BTW, many thanks to Terry and the rest of the group at TitansInsider for supporting what is now the only decent message board. I do a lot of reading and minimal posting, and this is now the only game in town for we avid boarders. Also, a cudo to Titans_Dynasty. Good material.

    pro

    This post was edited by prometheus 3 years ago

  • Your posting may be minimal pro but it's always quality. I would agree that the Titans would want/need a veteran presence in the linebacker corp and also couldn't see them moving Witherspoon unless they had a solid veteran to take his place (which may not happen). My main concern is that Witherspoon's greatest value is probably at the WLB position and unless he can takes that position in camp over McRath or Curran, I don't know what the team would do with him. Witherspoon played the MLB position in 2009 well enough to get released by the Eagles. That may or may not be indicative of his ability at that position but it certainly doesn't bode well for his future.

    I feel that the Colin McCarthy selection really devalued Witherspoon's stock with the team because McCarthy comes in as a key reserve who can play all three positions and a special teamer with the potential to develop into a starter in time.

    He may not make much in the Football world ($2.5m this year, $3.5m next) but between his and Hope's salary the Titans can free up almost $9m in 2011 by cutting an older potential reserve player and a declining vet. That gives the Titans some flexibility (along with eliminating VY and Collins contract) in addressing the MLB and Safety position in free agency.

    Ultimately it may come down to who's available and how much the Titans want to spend (probably not much). The MLB FA pool is awfully weak (if the RFA tenders stick) and unless the Titans target Ruud, they're probably likely to just give Witherspoon a chance at MLB. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    This post was edited by Cyrus 3 years ago

  • TerryMc13 said... (original post)

    The coaches have been very careful to say that there will be competition at the linebacker spots. That must mean they aren't real high on any of them. McRath didn't advance much after a solid rookie season. The late start from the suspension could be part of it, the scheme is probably partially to blame, but I think he will have to re-earn his starting job.

    Competition makes everyone better. Complacency leads to poor work habits. Think new staff will open things up at a lot of spots. Nobody will earn playing time based on seniority with this group.

    Your team. All the time.

  • Cyrus said... (original post)

    Your posting may be minimal pro but it's always quality. I would agree that the Titans would want/need a veteran presence in the linebacker corp and also couldn't see them moving Witherspoon unless they had a solid veteran to take his place (which may not happen). My main concern is that Witherspoon's greatest value is probably at the WLB position and unless he can takes that position in camp over McRath or Curran, I don't know what the team would do with him. Witherspoon played the MLB position in 2009 well enough to get released by the Eagles. That may or may not be indicative of his ability at that position but it certainly doesn't bode well for his future.

    I feel that the Colin McCarthy selection really devalued Witherspoon's stock with the team because McCarthy comes in as a key reserve who can play all three positions and a special teamer with the potential to develop into a starter in time.

    He may not make much in the Football world ($2.5m this year, $3.5m next) but between his and Hope's salary the Titans can free up almost $9m in 2011 by cutting an older potential reserve player and a declining vet. That gives the Titans some flexibility (along with eliminating VY and Collins contract) in addressing the MLB and Safety position in free agency.

    Ultimately it may come down to who's available and how much the Titans want to spend (probably not much). The MLB FA pool is awfully weak (if the RFA tenders stick) and unless the Titans target Ruud, they're probably likely to just give Witherspoon a chance at MLB. It will be interesting to see what happens.

    Know this about Witherspoon. There are some in the organization who have hinted to me that Witherspoon may have hit the "David Thornton wall" sometime last year and that he may be in a bit of decline. That is only natural for a 30-something player in the NFL. If there is a competition, don't discount McRath's youth and upside being a factor.

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  • TerryMc13 said... (original post)

    Know this about Witherspoon. There are some in the organization who have hinted to me that Witherspoon may have hit the "David Thornton wall" sometime last year and that he may be in a bit of decline. That is only natural for a 30-something player in the NFL. If there is a competition, don't discount McRath's youth and upside being a factor.

    With that being the case it's hard to see him taking the OLB position. Do you think that the Titans would hand the MLB position to McCarthy? (two rookie starters sounds awfully scary) I have a hard time believing that they'd be willing to bring back Tulloch with the money he'll be wanting and I'm not sure if they'll pay for Ruud or an equivalent FA MLB.

    It all comes down to money. Ruud and Weddle would be a little pricier than the Titans typical FA fare but they would likely be long-term solutions at the MLB and SS position for the next 5 years. (they're 27 and 26 respectively). I wonder if Adams will help Munchak out by helping him digging a little deeper into his pockets to solidify the defense.

  • Cyrus said... (original post)

    With that being the case it's hard to see him taking the OLB position. Do you think that the Titans would hand the MLB position to McCarthy? (two rookie starters sounds awfully scary) I have a hard time believing that they'd be willing to bring back Tulloch with the money he'll be wanting and I'm not sure if they'll pay for Ruud or an equivalent FA MLB.

    It all comes down to money. Ruud and Weddle would be a little pricier than the Titans typical FA fare but they would likely be long-term solutions at the MLB and SS position for the next 5 years. (they're 27 and 26 respectively). I wonder if Adams will help Munchak out by helping him digging a little deeper into his pockets to solidify the defense.

    I think it would depend on how much Jerry Gray values the LB positions. As you know, the Fisher regime didn't value the Mike spot very much, even though Tully stayed in in nickel situations and McRath came off the field. They ran a lot of nickel. But I would think that Gray would value linebackers who can pass cover. As for McCarthy, I wouldn't pencil him in as an immediate starter, but he will get a fair shot in camp and preseason. He is supposedly a smart guy in the Peter Sirmon mold who picks things up quickly. Plus, he is also older (had a sixth year of medical hardship granted) than most rookies coming into the NFL.

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  • Are we confident about Rennie Curran? I know they were high on him last year, but I haven't heard much about him since training camp.

  • missknowitall said... (original post)

    Are we confident about Rennie Curran? I know they were high on him last year, but I haven't heard much about him since training camp.

    Personally I think Curran could be a very solid WLB but it's hard to know whether the coaching staff sees his size as a serious limitation. He has deceptive speed, impressive instincts and can really lay the wood. He might have to come off the field on third down (if the Titans have a 3rd down MLB) but I could really see him holding down the weakside and limiting cutback lanes for running backs.

  • Cyrus said... (original post)

    Personally I think Curran could be a very solid WLB but it's hard to know whether the coaching staff sees his size as a serious limitation. He has deceptive speed, impressive instincts and can really lay the wood. He might have to come off the field on third down (if the Titans have a 3rd down MLB) but I could really see him holding down the weakside and limiting cutback lanes for running backs.

    With the move to get bigger in the front seven, I think Curran could face an uphill battle to be more than a special teams guy this year.

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