Tennessee Titans second preseason game review: Defense

I’ve covered Jake Locker and the rest of the offense, which means it’s time for me to turn my attention to how the Titans’ defense performed in the second preseason game against the Buccaneers.

As was the case with the offense, the numbers on the statsheet are impressive: six first downs and only 81 net yards of offense, with 33 of those coming on the Bucs’ final possession in garbage time. Just seven points, and those on a drive that started at the Titans’ 2 following an interception. The rest of the time, the Bucs had to drive the length of the field and manifestly failed to do so. More advanced metrics bear this out, as the Bucs’ success rate was only 27%, roughly half what it was both halves against the Seahawks last week.

As with last week’s analysis, I’ll start with player participation, as best as I could tell.

Player Participation
Ritual reminder: These numbers are unofficial and you should not trust them. This was a difficult enough exercise off the Seahawks’ broadcast that aired on NFL Network last week; the Bucs’ broadcast on NFL Network this week was reminiscent of the worst of network broadcasts, plus a leavening of preseason nonsense. The result, too many shots where defensive players were hardly visible if at all, unhelpful camera angles, few replays helpful in figuring out what really happened, and closeups on semi-random Bucs’ players until (or after) the ball was snapped. Even more than last week, these are educated guesses.

I charted 49 snaps for the Bucs offense this week. The Titans lined up in Ruby (3-2-6) once, goalline 5-3-3 once, 4-2-5 nickel 15 times, and the other 32 snaps in base 4-3. I have yet to see the Titans run a snap of 3-3-5 this preseason. Like with the offense, players are listed by first appearance.

Defensive ends: Derrick Morgan 20 snaps, Kamerion Wimbley 23 snaps, Pannel Egboh 10 snaps (11 total), Leger Douzable 5 snaps (12 total), Keyunta Dawson 20 snaps, Scott Solomon 14 snaps, Malcolm Sheppard 6 snaps

Defensive tackles: Sen’Derrick Marks 16 snaps, Jurrell Casey 25 snaps, Karl Klug 9 snaps, Zach Clayton 10 snaps, Leger Douzable 7 snaps, Mike Martin 13 snaps, Shaun Smith 2 snaps, DaJohn Harris 9 snaps, Lamar Divens 6 snaps, Pannel Egboh 1 snap

Linebackers: Akeem Ayers 25 snaps, Colin McCarthy 25 snaps, Will Witherspoon 13 snaps, Zach Brown 29 snaps, Tim Shaw 15 snaps, Zac Diles 16 snaps, Kevin Malast 8 snaps. With Patrick Bailey out this week, Shaw played SLB and Diles played MLB on the second unit.  Malast was the third-team MLB. Mike Munchak at a press conference indicated Zach Brown played in the first quarter this week, but I didn’t see him. Your nickel linebacker combinations were Ayers-McCarthy, Diles-Brown, and one snap of Malast-Brown (after Diles left the game).

Cornerbacks: Alterraun Verner 22 snaps, Jason McCourty 18 snaps, Tommie Campbell 13 snaps, Chris Hawkins 23 snaps, Ryan Mouton 19 snaps, and Coty Sensabaugh 18 snaps. When the Titans went to nickel or Ruby, they used these slot corners (snaps included in total snaps): Verner 5 snaps, Mouton 8, Sensabaugh 3. Your slot combinations were Campbell+McCourty Verner in slot, Campbell+Hawkins Mouton in slot, Sensabaugh+Hawkins Mouton in slot, and Mouton+Hawkins Sensabaugh in slot. McCourty was the only cornerback in the game on the goalline play.

Safeties: Michael Griffin 23 snaps, Robert Johnson 36 snaps, Al Afalava 20 snaps, Aaron Francisco 6 snaps, Tracy Wilson 7 snaps, and Christian Scott 7 snaps. Afalava joined Griffin and Johnson on the one Ruby snap.

Miscellaneous Notes a

  • Nice spin move by Casey to get pressure on Freeman on the third down that ended the Bucs’ first drive. Wimbley also got some pressure, when the LT overplayed his outside shoulder dip move, but note that was backup Dotson, not starter Penn.
  • Doug Martin’s first run-oof. Morgan (sealed by FB) & possibly Ayers as well blow backside contain, Griffin whiffs when he comes down for the tackle, Martin gets 9.
  • Nice play by Marks to continue working after the initial punch by Nicks and get in on a stop on 3&1.
  • Tommie Campbell was probably happy to see Verner get beat by a jump ball on a TD. Expect to see that happen this year.
  • Witherspoon and Robert Johnson both missed tackles on Doug Martin’s 16 yard run that was called back for a hold. Witherspoon got kind of caught up in trash, but that’s the kind of play coming down that the Titans need a safety to make and now both Griffin and Johnson have missed it. Granted, Martin’s a nice back, but a guy like Chris Hope, whatever his other flaws, made that play pretty reliably. I believe the hold was on Sen’Derrick Marks, who stood out to be as being very active even before he forced a fumble with a sack.
  • Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky entered the game early in the second quarter. At that point, Jason McCourty went to the bench in favor of Chris Hawkins, and the nickel set was Campbell and Hawkins on the outside with Mouton in the slot.
  • Just for the record, Akeem Ayers had the tackle on Doug Martin’s 3&1 run early in the second quarter, not Kevin Malast (who wasn’t in the game at the time). This was not the only error in the Gamebook.
  • I haven’t noticed Zach Brown playing soft. It was evident in college, but that’s the sort of thing I think is fixed easily or not at all, and it doesn’t seem to be an issue. One play, he got blocked by an offensive lineman, but engaged the block, didn’t let himself get knocked back, and reached out with an arm and still made the play. He wasn’t perfect-bit on a play-fake later in the game and let his man get open, then came in aggressively and whiffed a tackle the next play. He wasn’t the only Titans linebacker to do either of those things (McCarthy had a similar sequence in the second quarter), but overall I’ve liked his play more than I thought he would.
  • With all the trouble the Bucs had moving the ball, I had a hard time getting a read on things. I really need the end zone angle to do a good job of evaluating line play, but the Titans’ defensive line dominated the Bucs’ offensive line this game. That also made it harder to evaluate how the guys behind them. I’m skeptical of the Titans’ ability to do that starters v starters (or even backups against another team’s backups), but we shall see.

We’ll get another look against the Cardinals, including what should be more first-team action, and what’s likely to be a really lousy offensive line. 

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