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Tuesday, May 17, 2011
On the Titans' potential for some 3-4

By Paul Kuharsky

The questions about the Tennessee Titans' willingness and ability to play a 3-4 front continue to trickle in, like this one from Stu in Virginia:

"The more and more I look at the Titans draft class, they took a lot of 3-4 caliber guys and Jerry Gray saying they'll try to mix it up a little. How often do you see them in a 3-4 set?"

I’m going to have to beg to differ, Stu. Second-round pick Akeem Ayers would be good in a 3-4. Third-rounder Jurrell Casey may also fit in a 3-4, though he’d be small for it and is actually better suited to be on the nose in a 4-3.

That doesn't make for “a lot of 3-4 caliber guys.”

Even with Ayers, I don’t see them with three solid 4-3 linebackers, so it would be a real stretch to find four guys suited to that different system. With what they added on the defensive line and the holdovers, they should have a decent group of 4-3 linemen and they’ve got a couple ends who would be candidates to be re-signed too.

They don’t have the personnel or coaches to run much 3-4.

They’ll jump into it occasionally as a surprise or against specific things just to make people think and to mess with less experienced quarterbacks. But even shifting into it periodically could mean taking guys out of more favorable positions.

Generally, you are lucky to be good at one or the other. If you're trying to be both, it probably means you're not good at either. So my answer is, I don't expect much that's identifiable as 3-4.

The more important distinction is it won’t be a very predictable 4-3 like Jeff Fisher’s defense often was, where the linebackers were rarely involved in the pass rush -- they mostly played the run or stayed behind the ball when it was thrown.

I think you’ll see the Titans move guys around more, and clearly the intention is for Ayers to be on the line often as a fifth guy, making it difficult for an opponent to run that way or for a tight end to get cleanly off the line of scrimmage.