Stat to solve: Titans' rush D up the middle

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
11:08
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Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray put a bigger emphasis on bigger players.

Indications were they thought Jeff Fisher’s team had become too pass rush-centric, giving up some fundamentals of run-stopping in the process.

Trouble was, the Titans’ rush defense in 2011 was mediocre, giving up 4.5 yards per rush -- 22nd in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the unit’s struggles were magnified when opponents ran up the middle.

On runs up the middle, Tennessee yielded 4.5 yards per carry (ranking 28th), gave up six runs of 20 yards or more (tied for 28th), gave up 52 first downs (32nd) and allowed 338 yards after contact (23rd).

Two rookies factored into the Titans run defense: tackle Jurrell Casey and middle linebacker Colin McCarthy. They'll get better and play more. The big run-stuffing tackle the Titans brought in, Shaun Smith, wasn’t very effective and lost playing time as the season went on.

The focus is on the pass rush, but in a draft likely to be defense-heavy, the Titans need to be sure to continue to address run defense, too.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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