On Morgan, Egboh and roles for Titans' DEs

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
11:37
AM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Titans coaches might be serving Derrick Morgan very well by playing practice-squad journeyman Pannel Egboh ahead of him some and stoking his competitive fires.

I don’t think they served him well with their explanations of the move. Mike Munchak talked of it simply being part of seeing more guys in the mix. Funny how the Titans feel compelled to test the mix there, but not so much with right guard Leroy Harris or No. 2 cornerback Alterraun Verner?

[+] EnlargePannel Egboh
Mark LoMoglio/Icon SMIPannel Egboh, right, doesn't care what his role is, as long as he makes Tennessee's 53-man roster.
Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray went with a different kind of copout. He talked about how he had five starters at defensive end.

A 2010 first-round pick not qualifying as a clear-cut starter would amount to a negative development, no matter the spin. But Morgan started against Tampa Bay, played plenty on first-and-10 and notched a sack of Bucs backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, so maybe the mixing it up at his spot is over.

I’ve heard from someone who would know that Egboh against the run serves Gray’s theme of getting guys on the field for the situations they are best at, and that the Titans view Egboh as a guy who needs encouragement and Morgan as a guy who might need a kick in the backside.

To his credit, while complimenting Egboh, Morgan disagrees entirely with idea that they need different treatment to maximize their production.

“I don’t need extra motivation, I have enough motivation from within and my own expectations,” Morgan said. “I don’t know what they were doing, but I’m just worried about getting better. … I want to be on the field. I’m not here to be a specialist. I’m an all around player. I feel like I’m solid against the run.”

Said Egboh of my theory that there is psychology involved in what the Titans have done with him and Morgan: “You’re getting way too deep for me.”

Here’s another concern I have with the idea of Egboh as a first-down run-stuffer. The NFL ran the ball 52 percent of the time on first down last season, and 51.1 percent of the time on first-down against the Titans. (Thanks to Katie Sharp of ESPN Stats and Info for the numbers.)

If the Titans want Egboh to give Morgan a break on run downs, then maybe they ought to consider pulling Morgan when a second-and-short comes up.

Egboh did say his feedback from coaches has been all positive.

Asked if he thinks he’s the starter, he said “absolutely not.”

But he did allow for the possibility that he’s going to make the 53-man roster. He spent part of 2009 on Houston’s practice squad, and part of 2010 on the practice squad in Philadelphia. Then 2011 he worked the whole season on Tennessee’s practice squad.

If he breaks through this time …

“It’ll mean everything, but I’ve thought about it, and when I do it, it’s just the beginning,” he said. “It’s one little accomplishment, but I’ll have a whole season to play. My No. 1 goal right now is to make the 53. But after that I’ve got to celebrate it quickly and move on and get ready to play 16 games.”

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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