AFC South: Dave McGinnis

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams are longtime friends.

Or perhaps they were longtime friends.

[+] EnlargeGregg Williams
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyGregg Williams, a new senior assistant/defense for the Titans, and Jeff Fisher have a distant friendship at this point in time.
Fisher, the coach of the St. Louis Rams, said at the combine that he has not spoken to Williams since the NFL reinstated him. The former defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, Williams recently completed a yearlong suspension for his role in the Saints' pay-for-injury program, as judged by commissioner Roger Goodell.

Williams is now senior assistant/defense with the Tennessee Titans, for whom he previously worked, with Fisher as the head coach.

Fisher fired Blake Williams, Gregg’s son, after the season; Blake had been the Rams' linebackers coach. Fisher made it clear he had moved on from Gregg Williams, the man he brought to St. Louis in 2012 to be his defensive coordinator.

On Friday, Fisher said that decision didn’t come after the season, but during it.

“I made that decision well before the season ended, that we wanted to go a different direction,” Fisher said. “It probably wouldn’t have been as easy had we not had the assistants that we did on the staff. But when you’re talking about Dave McGinnis and Chuck Cecil, then coach [Mike] Waufle, you’ve got guys who have coordinated. I’m very fortunate to have gotten Frank Bush, who has also coordinated.

“We just felt like we wanted this to be the Ram defense, so we’re moving a little different direction than from what Gregg’s philosophies are.”

That’s a tidy answer. But if all that defensive coordinator experience helped make Williams expendable, it seems a bit odd none of those coaches were named defensive coordinator. Instead, Fisher recently hired Tim Walton as his new coordinator. Walton previously coached defensive backs for Detroit under another former Fisher assistant, Jim Schwartz.

Fisher expressed no ill will toward Williams. And I wouldn't expect him to publicly.

“I’m very happy that it worked out the way it did,” Fisher said. “I believe Gregg can help the Titans and help coach [Mike] Munchak and, of course, Jerry Gray. The other side of that is that they can help him to re-establish himself back in the league.”

We have no idea how Williams feels about Fisher at this point, either.

But when the Titans introduced Williams, he trumpeted how important it was for him to work with people he knows, like Munchak and Gray.

Well, he knows Fisher, too.

A quick round of catch up ...

January, 25, 2012
A quick zip around the division to catch up on some things that have happened while I had a few days off.

The trio of coaches charged with shaping Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville is in place: coach Mike Mularkey, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski and quarterback coach Greg Olsen. Olsen comes to the Jaguars from the Buccaneers where he worked with Josh Freeman, who regressed badly last season. Everyone’s got a clean slate now, and these coaches will be judged largely on what they are able to make of Gabbert in his second season.

The Colts' list of candidates to be the new head coach is not going to excite the general population. There seems to be a lot of buzz about Jim Tressel, and it appears he’s met with the team twice, but we don’t know who else has and it may be a mistake to label him the front-runner. It’s funny: When the team brought him aboard as a meager replay consultant, we tried to find a connection and label him as a Bill Polian guy, a Chris Polian guy or a Jim Caldwell guy. Whether he’s the next coach or not, it turns out he was a Jim Irsay guy.

Dave McGinnis has been a valuable member of the Titans' coaching staff for years. He’s left to re-join Jeff Fisher in St. Louis. While Mike Munchak will miss McGinnis as a sounding board, the addition of Keith Millard as a pass-rushing coach looks like a smart one. The Titans have not traditionally rushed the passer well from beyond the defensive line. The league is specializing, and having a coach who goes beyond positions to teach a set of skills is a fresh approach in Tennessee.

Texans center Chris Myers, Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith and Jaguars special-teamer Montell Owens were added to the AFC Pro Bowl roster. Wade Phillips was named assistant coach of the year by the Pro Football Writers of America and Pro Football Weekly. Congrats to all.

If the Titans lose Jerry Gray

January, 4, 2012
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hire Jerry Gray as their next head coach, Mike Munchak will be in a real jam.

Munchak lured Gray to Tennessee from the University of Texas to be his defensive coordinator. While the Titans' defense lacked the pieces to be a consistent unit, it was moving in the right direction in 2011. Players respond to Gray and respect him.

If he leaves, there is no clear replacement on staff. Linebackers coach Frank Bush had a disastrous term as the Texans coordinator. Senior assistant Dave McGinnis lost his position job to Bush as the staff took shape and has been passed over the last two times the post opened.

Munchak would likely have to hire from the outside. That’s not always a bad thing. The Titans will have a lot of new players on defense next season. But if they have a new coordinator and a new or modified system it could slow the unit's progress.
Jerry Gray is a far different guy and different coach as he comes to Nashville to be Mike Munchak’s defensive coordinator than he was when he left the franchise in 2000 after four years coaching as an assistant.

To what degree that’s a good thing is something we’ll find out in time.

He had a talented group in his two years as a position coach with the Titans. The franchise played strong safety Blaine Bishop as a hybrid corner/linebacker while asking its corners, keyed by Samari Rolle, to survive on an island in a high pressure 46.

Even if Munchak is looking for a defense to return to those roots, it’ll take time to find that sort of talent, something not easily done these days. Tennessee has evolved into much more of a cover-2 team since Williams and Gray left and Bishop’s time with the team ended.

In the team’s announcement of the hire, Gray said his scheme will fit his talent.

“I am looking forward to really getting to know our personnel on defense and creating a defense that takes advantage of our strengths,” he said. “I am an old school guy that likes to get after the opponent, but you also have to have the players to that -- you can’t force those things. Our defense will fit what we can do well. I also want to thank Coach Brown and University of Texas. I know the timing of this isn’t ideal, but this was something that I couldn’t turn down.”

Gray went with Gregg Williams to Buffalo in 2000, when the Titans’ coordinator got the head coaching gig and Gray became his defensive coordinator.

He outlasted Williams in Buffalo, serving as coordinator through 2005 and then reuniting with Williams, who was coordinating in Washington and coaching the Redskins secondary through 2009.

Last year he oversaw the secondary in Seattle but he had moved on to work for Mack Brown at his alma mater as the head of the University of Texas’ defense.

He was a four-time Pro Bowler as a player, including in his one season with the Houston Oilers in 1992.

“Jerry has a number of qualities that I think are assets for this role: he played the game, he coached a position group and he has coordinating experience,” said Titans head coach Mike Munchak. “I respected him as a player and coach and he was someone that I knew right away that I wanted to talk to about the position. It was evident to me during interview process that he will fit well with us – he is familiar with our system and the type of players that we have on the roster. He is a great teacher and a great person, and I think the players will respond well to his style.”

One side effect I anticipate is that Marcus Robertson, the current secondary coach who was Gray’s free safety in 1999 and 2000, is more likely to remain on the staff.

Gray will have a strong voice in choosing a replacement for defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who left to take the same job with the Eagles, and decided if linebackers coach Dave McGinnis will remain. Munchak has interviewed former Houston defensive coordinator Frank Bush, who could take over linebackers.
Titans executive vice president Steve Underwood went out of his way Monday to say new coach Mike Munchak has broad leeway with regard to his staff, so long as it fits a budget.

But the man who’s boss to both of them didn’t exactly echo the sentiment.

"I told Mike just get who you want and I'll pay the bill," Bud Adams told Mark Berman.

Adams said the idea of Bruce Matthews, an offensive line assistant with the Texans who could be named Munchak’s replacement as Tennessee’s offensive line coach as early as Wednesday, “would be kind of great.”

Munchak and Matthews are the closest of friends and presented each other when they were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"Mike told me he wanted Bruce badly,” Adams said.

Berman also reports that former defensive coordinator Frank Bush will interview with Munchak for the Titans linebacker coach job.

Dave McGinnis is still in the post under a one-year deal he got from Jeff Fisher before Fisher and the Titans parted ways.

Munchak fired offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and two low-ranking assistantsTuesday and is clearly considering further moves.

There is a scenario where Bush is hired to coach linebackers and McGinnis is retained as assistant head coach/defense, Jim Wyatt reports.
The Titans are broadening their pool of coaching candidates.

Chris Mortensen reports one-time Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will interview on Friday and that the Titans have been granted permission to talk with Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.

Look, it’s a parade of former Buffalo Bills’ head coaches!

Both will fare far better in their second stints as head coaches if and when those chances arrive.

Williams would return the franchise to the sort of super-aggressive defense it played back when it made a run to the 1999 Super Bowl and posted the league’s best record in 2000. He spent 11 years with the organization.

His son Blake, an assistant with the Saints, could become an issue for the Titans if Williams is determined to bring him along. The team has a long-standing rule against hiring the children of employees in supervisory roles. Adams can make an exception, but did not two years ago when Williams was in play for the defensive coordinator job.

Mularkey has a good history with young quarterbacks and helped Matt Ryan make an instant impact once the Falcons spent their top pick on him in 2008.

Bud Adams recently used the number five in talking about coaching candidates with Jim Wyatt. Too many people have pounced on the numerical memory of the 88-year old owner as gospel.

Two members of Jeff Fisher’s staff, Mike Munchak and Mike Heimerdinger, have already interviewed and a third, Dave McGinnis could be interviewing today.

Those two plus Williams and Mularkey would make five, and unless Adams wants to pay a hefty fine, the team will still need to speak to a minority to address the Rooney Rule.

Schefter tweeted early this week that Mortensen reported that Ray Sherman will fill that interview slot. The most recent indications, however, still say Sherman has still not been contacted.

I don't believe the Titans would be wasting the time of veteran coaches like Williams and Mularkey if Munchak's hiring is as as mush a certaintly as we've been hearing. And I don't think either would travel to Nashville if he did not think he had a legitimate chance at the post.

The Titans are announcing interviews at the end of the day on which they are conducted.

UPDATE: 4:42 pm: Several sources now say Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has been given permission to talk to the Titans. The Titans will meet the Rooney Rule requirement by interviewing him.

Like Williams and Mularkey, Fewell has served as head coach of the Bills -- he coached seven games in 2009 after Dick Jauron was fired.

UPDATE II: 5:25 pm: Schefter now says Gregg Williams has withdrawn. Jim Wyatt said it's unclear if, while the Titans received permission to talk to him, Williams ever agreed to an interview.

I reached Williams around 6:15 and he said: "Yes, I withdrew. The timing is just not right. I love the organization, I love the city of Nashville."

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans will take their time and they will be thorough in searching for Jeff Fisher’s replacement.

But incumbent offensive line coach Mike Munchak’s candidacy has one major thing going for it.

[+] EnlargeMike Munchak
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellHall of Famer Mike Munchak has been an assistant with the Oilers/Titans since 1994.
Regarded as the top in-house candidate, Munchak’s been an assistant with the Oilers/Titans since 1994. The Pro Football Hall of Famer has strong relationships with the staff, and he’s one of 14 remaining assistants from Fisher’s staff who is under contract.

Bud Adams hates to pay people who are no longer working for him. But he’s paying Jeff Fisher $4 million and paying former defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil an unknown amount for the 2010 season.

The Titans will also be paying those assistants -- whether those coaches remain in Nashville or not.

But the new coach will have the discretion to choose who to keep.

Munchak -- or offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger or linebacker coach Dave McGinnis, also likely candidates -- would be more apt to retain holdovers.

And that would save Adams money at a time when he could lose revenue because of a lockout. He’d rather pay one coach per position than two, and an outsider is more likely to want to infuse the staff with his own people.

Fisher didn’t offer an endorsement of Munchak when asked, leaning on his regular stance of not getting into hypotheticals.

Instead, he encouraged confidence in the two men with whom he could not move forward, the team’s top Nashville official, Steve Underwood, and GM Mike Reinfeldt.

“You should have all the confidence in the world in Mike and Steve and the decisions they make going forward,” Fisher said. “That allowed me to be successful here, the confidence they had in me and vice versa.”

Munchak is an Adams favorite. He's dealt with him as a player and as an assistant. He’s made the owner proud by gaining football immortality with a bronze bust in Canton and a yellow jacket. He’s reasonable and measured, and while I think it would take time for him to become comfortable as the face of the franchise, he could surely work well with Reinfeldt to achieve the sort of consensus the team wants to have key the center of its operation.

I looked at the three current assistants on Thursday, here.

To me, it’s still wise to be thorough and allow for the possibility that you encounter the next Mike Tomlin.

But if you follow the money, it says place your early bets on Munchak.
Here is what we know definitively about the Tennessee Titans' coaching staff:

  • Mike Heimerdinger is the offensive coordinator.
  • Incumbents at defensive line coach and running back coach have moved on.
  • Defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil, who signed a one-year extension late in the season, was fired.
[+] EnlargeHeimerdinger
Kyle Terada/US PresswireTitans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger is signed through next season.
Heimerdinger signed a one-year deal late in 2010 that lined him up with Jeff Fisher’s contract.

Otherwise, we have no idea whether other staff members have signed one-year offers to remain with the Titans or managed to get a longer offer to stay, such as the one defensive line coach Jim Washburn was offered before he left for Philadelphia.

Three members of Fisher’s old staff could be considered as his replacement, though I tend to believe the franchise is best served making a bigger change now that Fisher is gone:

  • Heimerdinger is a strong, no-nonsense offensive coach, but he was diagnosed with cancer late during the season and started treatments. I presumed Fisher’s plans moving forward would include a contingency in case Heimerdinger were unable to work, or work completely. He's healthy enough to apply, but who knows what will happen going forward? It’s incredibly unfortunate that his health could get in the way of his candidacy as I think he could change the culture and would make things more interesting offensively.
  • Offensive line coach Mike Munchak is a Houston Oilers Hall of Famer who’s a favorite of owner Bud Adams. But he hasn't worked as a coordinator, let alone a head coach. He would command the players’ respect, but would need a strong defensive coordinator to manage the other side of the ball. I’ve known him since 1996, and don’t know that he would covet or be good at the face-of-the-franchise, daily media responsibilities.
  • Linebackers coach Dave McGinnis was head coach in Arizona from 2000 through 2003. But Fisher chose to bypass him for Cecil two years ago when Jim Schwartz left to become coach of the Detroit Lions. All indications were that McGinnis was fine with a young guy getting his chance while he continued to work hands-on with a position. It’s a position that was revamped in 2010 and was very unproductive.
Reading the coverage … and getting takes on the championship games from some AFC South perspective.

Houston Texans

The AFC Championship Game coaches are successful and popular, says Jerome Solomon.

John McClain likes the Steelers and Packers.

Indianapolis Colts

Jay Cutler is Santa Claus’ gift to the NFL, writes Jeff Rabjohns.

Who to root for Sunday, from a Colts’ fan perspective.

Jacksonville Jaguars

When to select a quarterback in the draft is a big question for Gene Smith, says Gene Frenette.

Tennessee Titans

Eric Mangini has emerged as a candidate for the Titans defensive coordinator job, says Jim Wyatt. Jim Mora, Clancy Pendergast and Dave McGinnis appear to be other possibilities.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher either completely butchered the Chuck Cecil situation or completely manipulated it.

Whichever it was, Fisher looks horrible today and has some very tough questions to answer when he finally has his staff together.

[+] EnlargeTennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliJeff Fisher has vacancies to fill at defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.
Fisher fired Cecil, his defensive coordinator the past two seasons, Thursday.

Originally we thought Fisher merely declined to retain Cecil. But Jim Wyatt reports that Cecil was offered and signed a one-year extension late in the season. That means he’s getting paid by Bud Adams in 2011 while not working for the team. And Adams is an owner who absolutely hates to pay people who are no longer around. It likely takes money from the pool Fisher has available to pay other assistants as he signs them to one-year deals that line up with his.

I believe one of two scenarios panned out regarding Cecil:

  • Fisher finally realized the extent of the team’s discontent with Cecil after hearing from Jim Washburn, the defensive line coach who bolted for Philadelphia Wednesday. Though several players had told the head coach they would be disinclined to return if Cecil remained, Fisher didn’t take such talk as seriously as he should have. Thursday, the switch finally flipped.
  • Fisher knew he was going to have to part ways with his good friend even as he gave him the extension. Leaving Cecil out of the loop, Fisher put as large a time period between a new contract and the firing as he could, ensuring his pal has a 2011 salary if not a job.

It's a sad development, either way. Cecil deserves blame, but he didn’t draft underachieving players such as Gerald McRath or Sen’Derrick Marks and he didn’t underperform like Will Witherspoon and Tony Brown did.

Who can Fisher get? Dave McGinnis could be promoted from linebackers coach. Maybe Dick Jauron or Jim Mora would buy into a year with Fisher providing a payoff. Or maybe we see something David Climer smartly proposed: Fisher captaining the defense himself.

If the ship is sinking, the top guy might as well be at the wheel.
Chuck Cecil will not return as the Titans defensive coordinator, Jim Wyatt reports.

[+] EnlargeChuck Cecil
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyChuck Cecil was hired as a quality control coach by Titans head coach Jeff Fisher in 2001.
Cecil was promoted by Jeff Fisher two years ago to replace Jim Schwartz when Schwartz got the top job in Detroit. But the defense underachieved under Cecil and players grumbled about the lack of adjustments he made and his unwillingness to take their input.

It’s a big move for Fisher, who’s heading into the final year of his deal and was close friends with Cecil, whom he hired as a quality control coach in 2001.

“Nothing surprises you in this business,” Cecil told Wyatt. “You just have to move on. That's life in the NFL. As good a friends as we are, sometimes you have to put the professional things first and it is a profession….

“He felt like he needed a fresh start, so that’s what we’re doing.’’

Fisher’s been fiercely loyal to players and staff throughout his 17-year tenure. He has control over his coaching staff. So admitting a change was needed at the head of the defense was a real concession for a captain that many assumed would stubbornly go down with his ship if his ship was going down.

I had heard about a potential for creatively restructuring Cecil’s responsibilities, but didn’t think such a demotion could work.

It does seem odd that Fisher waited as some other staffs were filled out, but he likely couldn’t draw the same guys that have landed with new head coaches who had long-term deals to offer. It’s also highly unlikely he’s made the move without having his contingency in motion.

Linebackers coach Dave McGinnis has extensive experience and is a quality coach. But his group was at the root of the defense’s issues this season, making very few plays.

Fresh perspective from an outsider seems called for now.

Only one Fisher assistant, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, is under contract for 2011.

Two have left for other jobs. Highly regarded defensive line coach Jim Washburn went to Philadelphia despite what Wyatt reported was a three-year offer from the Titans. Running backs coach Craig Johnson, who worked with quarterbacks before 2010, took the quarterback coach position on the staff of old friend Leslie Frazier in Minnesota.

Part of why Washburn left was his unhappiness over the direction of the overall defense. Surely Fisher made the Cecil decision in time to use it in his case to retain Washburn and still came up short. If Fisher actually decided to let Cecil go a day after Washburn left, the lame duck coach really botched things.

Fisher cannot offer long-term job security, but is now in the market for a defensive coordinator, a defensive line coach and a running backs coach.

The patience he had with Gregg Williams and Schwartz early in their tenures as the Titans' defensive coordinator is a luxury he was unable to offer Cecil any longer.
Fisher/YoungKirby Lee/US PresswireFor Bud Adams, the choice won't be as simple as picking Vince Young or Jeff Fisher.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Vince Young-Jeff Fisher showdown and its spillover has many observers thinking Bud Adams will ultimately have to choose one or the other.

But the math in the equation is off, and this is not a simple, one-against-one situation.

If the love-struck Adams chooses his favorite quarterback, he’s not only going to lose Fisher, he’s going to lose all, or most, of Fisher’s staff.

While Adams would be making a poor choice, even he’d have to admit that Young at his best isn’t going to do much to offset the loss of some excellent assistant coaches.

All but one Titans assistant coach is working with an expiring contract, according to a Titans source. Fisher’s contract runs through 2011.

In a typical scenario, Fisher would get an extension and then line up his assistants with deals of the same length.

“We are in the process of extending contracts for the entire staff," Fisher said after practice Friday. “I don’t comment on negotiations other than to say we’re in the process.”

But there has been no word on any talks about a new deal for Fisher, and now it’s a safe bet there will not be one before the Young issues are resolved. If they come to fruition, those staff extensions could be for only one season.

And the uncertain labor situation gives Adams the potential to hold off on anything new until after things are settled between the league and the players, in case he has to withstand a lockout.

Whenever it comes around, the staff issue is more significant now given the battle between Fisher and Young and Adams’ comments to The Tennessean saying he expects the two to find a way to co-exist next season.

I think we’re past the point where that’s a possibility and Adams is going to have to make a choice. Hopefully it’s a well-reasoned one.

[+] EnlargeMike Munchak
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellThe Titans' solid pass protection and good run blocking are due to efforts by coach Mike Munchak.
Pick Young, and you probably sacrifice Mike Munchak.

Munchak is one of eight members of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s a steady teacher who recognizes talent and has consistently groomed quality guys. The Titans have regularly had good pass protection and solid run blocking in large part because of Munchak’s exhaustive work.

Pick Young, and you probably sacrifice Jim Washburn.

The Titans’ defense is tied for second in the NFL with 30 sacks. They’ve come from players Washburn has rebuilt such as Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Tony Brown or guys he encouraged the front office to draft, such as Jason Jones. A large number of franchises in the league would love to add a high-energy defensive line coach who can get production from such reclamation projects and draft picks.

Those two are key coaches on a staff that’s widely regarded around the league as one of the best. A staff Fisher has been able to shape and hold onto because of his stability and the loyalty he shows -- occasionally to a fault.

His staff also includes offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who has been mentioned as a candidate for head-coaching jobs and once interviewed with San Francisco for its top post; defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil; veteran linebackers coach Dave McGinnis, who has been head coach of two teams; defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson, who had an excellent career as a safety for the franchise; special teams coach Alan Lowry, who scripted the Music City Miracle; strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson; receivers coach Fred Graves; tight ends coach John Zernhelt; running backs coach Craig Johnson; and quarterback coach Dowell Loggains.

They are not all irreplaceable superstars, of course. And with expiring contracts, some of them could be moving on even if Fisher is firmly in place.

Washburn is a Nashville fixture who appreciates the second-chance Fisher gave him in 1999. But if he becomes a coaching free agent, perhaps a team with a bad defensive line would make him an offer too good to refuse.

Still, the chances he stays in Tennessee are far higher if Fisher is in the big office. I'd be willing to bet the same would be true for all the assistants.

If Adams chooses to stick with Young and Fisher negotiates out of his contract, or if another team strikes a deal to give the Titans picks to get Fisher out of his last year, I predict all the assistants would be totally turned off by Adams’ choice.

Some might have to stay if they could to ensure themselves of a job. But given any sort of choice, I believe they’d be unlikely to sign new deals with Tennessee to work under Fisher’ replacement.

More likely, these assistants would rejoin Fisher with a new team if he is able to move on for 2011. If not, they would find jobs elsewhere. The older guys might ponder retirement or take a year off with assurances from Fisher that they’d have a job with him once he re-enters the league.

The top in-house candidate to replace Fisher with the Titans would have to be Heimerdinger, and I believe his loyalty to Fisher would mean he wouldn’t even allow his representative to talk to Adams about the post.

Even Fisher’s harshest critics have to appreciate assistants like Munchak and Washburn and acknowledge they’d be difficult to replace. (You can make a case against Fisher, sure. But in a head-to-head against Young there is no way not to choose the coach.)

If Adams makes his move against Fisher, Fisher could have solidarity from his staff of 16.

If Young is the one shown the door, he’d be walking through it alone.

Will Texans, Titans play extra nickel?

September, 10, 2010
The Texans and Titans face similar circumstances for the first month of the season, as they both will be missing a strong presence at outside linebacker.

Both Houston’s Brian Cushing, the reigning defensive rookie of the year, and Tennessee’s Gerald McRath, a second-year player expected to be a big factor for the defense, are suspended for the first four games for violations of the league’s policy against performance enhancers.

Their first-choice replacements both have durability issues.

The Texans' Xavier Adibi and the Titans' Colin Allred are constantly nicked up. Adibi’s healthy at the right time and will start Sunday against Indianapolis. Allred’s been limited this week with an ankle injury but practiced Friday. The Titans could go with Jamie Winborn instead, but linebackers coach Dave McGinnis said Allred is ahead because he's been around longer and knows the defense better.

The drop-off at both spots is significant -- certainly more so in Houston than in Tennessee as McRath hasn’t proven much yet.

But both defenses might be quicker to go to nickel packages and take that extra backer off the field. Houston would be kicking Glover Quin inside with Brice McCain taking his spot. Tennessee would be pulling Allred or Winborn in favor of Vincent Fuller, a safety who covers slot receivers.

Against the Colts, the Texans are going to play plenty of five-defensive back sets. How much the Raiders will go three-wide with new quarterback Jason Campbell under center remains to be seen.

But for both teams, it’s something we’ll be monitoring.

Maybe after the weekend, the Titans will talk against with Oakland about trading for Thomas Howard.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans defensive backs shined early in the team’s Sunday practice. Go ahead and respond to my tweets about it with commentary, telling me that with that quarterback and those receivers, how could it be different?

But one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills are, by their nature, to the offense’s advantage. While there were drops -- most noticeably four by Justin Gage -- there was a lot of tight coverage and breakups from a group of DBs that is already thinned out.

Tye Hill is out with a hamstring injury and Nick Schommer and Jamar Love are on PUP, so nickelback and safety Vincent Fuller played some outside cornerback in team drills with the twos and threes.

Among the top playmakers in the secondary was Jason McCourty, the corner who was back with the first team after Ryan Mouton was in the spot the first day. A couple of them were not against Jerry Rice, they were against Paul Williams. But with opportunity to make plays he made them, and he doesn’t rank highly enough to be choosing his matchups. On his knees, he also picked off a Kerry Collins pass meant for Lavelle Hawkins in the end zone during red-zone work.

Gage had a lot of trouble pulling in the ball, several times against rookie Alterraun Verner.

But it wasn’t all about the defensive backs. Marc Mariani had a nice afternoon with slithery slot work, including an excellent diving catch down the right sideline over Verner for a gain of more than 40 yards on a throw by Chris Simms.

A couple other notes:
  • Derrick Morgan did very little, aggravated his left calf which was an issue during OTAs. He will be monitored, but sure seems likely to miss at least a couple days. Saturday night, just before the first-round pick signed his contract, he tweeted a picture of himself in the room where he waited at team headquarters. It was filled with boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts. My natural follow-up question to that was did he have any? He said he limited himself to one, original style.
  • I was a bit surprised when Jim Washburn, the notoriously loud and outspoken defensive line coach, got on safety Donnie Nickey about not attempting to get the ball out when an offensive player broke into the secondary. Is there protocol about yelling at a guy who you don’t coach? Nickey said he’s absolutely fine with it and that Washburn had a good point.
  • Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks benched 315 pounds, the measuring standard for a Titans defensive lineman, zero times when he joined the team as a second-round pick out of Auburn last year. “I didn’t even want to get up under it,” he said. Before 2009 training camp, also zero. In recent days, twice. It might not sound like a lot, but he and coaches regard it as a great improvement that shows the strength gains that will pay off for him this year.
  • Nice camp moment: Rookie safety Myron Rolle introduced his mom, Beverley, his dad, Whitney, and his brother, McKinley, to defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil and linebackers coach Dave McGinnis. Minutes later at his locker, Rolle was checking text messages McKinley sent him during practice about particular plays.

How you can help Nashville

May, 5, 2010
This piece is a day old, and some things have changed for the better, with waters receding in flooded part of Nashville.

But Don Banks did a nice job providing a lot of descriptions of how bad things have been from a lot of names you know. Nashville is still marveling at the lack of national attention the flood’s gotten, and if the relatively minor problems the Titans’ facility and stadium had helped get more eyes on it, Music City will take it.

Here is a snippet of the piece quoting veteran linebackers coach Dave McGinnis.
"It was crazy. Just an unprecedented amount of water. I've been through a storm or two, but nothing like this. Jeff [Fisher] and I were in there [Sunday or Monday], and there were fish swimming in the team parking lot. Some pretty good sized carp, too. We walked across the street to look at that levee, and it was scary how fast that river was running. It was definitely a force of nature not to be fooled with.''

Nashville officials are steering people who can help with donations for Nashville or Middle Tennessee to The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Here's one more link of interest that's been getting talked up on sports talk radio: Nashville Predators' die-hard Patten Fuqua's take on how the city has come together.