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Wednesday, May 15, 2013
On the Titans' pass-rush expectations

By Paul Kuharsky

The Tennessee Titans could still add John Abraham or Israel Idonije to their group of defensive ends.

The issue is the same as it is for most free agents -- how much opportunity will one of them find in Tennessee, and for how much money?

Kamerion Wimbley and Akeem Ayers
The Titans expect to see more sack celebrations this season from Kamerion Wimbley, left, and Akeem Ayers.
Currently the Titans' top three pass-rushers are starting ends Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley and outside linebacker Akeem Ayers. Ayers began to blitz more at the end of his second season and can also shift forward to play as a fifth defensive linemen or a 4-3 end.

The Titans expect improvement from that trio.

Morgan will be in his second season after major knee surgery. Wimbley will be in his second season with the team. Ayers will get an expanded pass-rush role. All three should benefit from the Titans' determination to be more aggressive on defense and from the presence of Gregg Williams, the senior defensive assistant who has a pretty good history of helping players maximize their talents.

When the Titans hadn’t addressed defensive end through four rounds of the draft, coach Mike Munchak was asked about how satisfied the team was with what it had in terms of pass-rushers.

“I think we’ve been addressing all positions,” he said. "We always want to improve. We have been looking for a defensive lineman. Unfortunately, and I have been on the other side of this a lot of years, the right guy is not there when you pick. You can’t control the draft. There is still other ways to get players that we feel like we missed in the draft. We’re not going to reach for something that doesn’t fit for us and is a wasted pick.

“I think we’re happy with what we’ve developed. Last year, I think sack totals were in the top 10. You can break that down and figure out where it came from. But the bottom line is we think Akeem Ayers is going to be a guy that is going to have six to eight sacks a year like you saw last year. (Linebacker) Zach Brown is going to be the guy that is going to get the same way because of the way our scheme will be.

“I think our ends because of some things we will be doing will go from six to nine or 10. All of a sudden it’s a different story. I think from what we have, we will do better. We did better than we did last year with the guys we had. There is no doubt that we have to improve in certain areas.”

The Titans wound up drafting LSU’s Lavar Edwards the next round, and visited with Idonije and Abraham in short order after the draft.

The sticking point with Abraham is reportedly snaps. He’d like to play a lot. The Titans would use him as a situational pass-rusher.

They’ll be better with him than without him. But as Munchak spelled out, they expect to be a better pass-rushing team no matter what.

Improvements in other areas can help Morgan, Wimbley, Ayers and Brown.

A secondary that’s added safeties Bernard Pollard and George Wilson and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson should be able to force the quarterback to hold the ball a beat longer.

And defensive tackle Sammie Hill may be able to push the quarterback off his spot more often, flushing him towards one of those guys coming off the edge.