Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray visited with The Wake Up Zone this morning, and I was struck by two things he said.
On run-stopping defensive end Ropati Pitoitua: “You’re talking about a 6-foot-8, 300-pound guy, who No. 1… you can’t single block. And when you try to double team he splits them and he made a couple tackles that way. And that shows up in linebacker play when Zach Brown and (Akeem) Ayers and (Moise) Fokou come thorugh to scrape, that guard isn’t that fast up on them cats or that tackle isn’t as fast up on the next level. So when you’ve got a guy who can hold a double team and hold his own, the linebackers thank him and trust me, we really thank him and a defense. Because we know some guys have to do the dirty work and those are guys that have been picked and chosen to do that job.”
I thought Pitoitua was quite good, though he played just 19 snaps.
On Brown’s rushing against the Steelers based on running back LaRod Stephens-Howling’s role in protection: “If the running back, most of the time, nine out of 10 times, is protecting in the passing game, if we figure that this back is going to block before he checks out, why not keep him in if you just go ahead and rush? So that way, you get the best of both worlds. You get a fifth rusher and a lot of one-on-ones across the board with your defensive line. ...And hopefully, like we got the other day, Zach Brown was able to overpower No. 34 (Stephens-Howling), who’s a smaller guy. He’s quicker out of the backfield, but when you have to put him in protection, that’s where you get the mismatch that you want.”
That’s some interesting insight there, credit to Frank Wycheck for asking the question. The Steelers lost Stephens-Howling for the season to a torn ACL. Whoever is in the backfield for the Steelers going forward, they need to be less predictable.
You can hear the whole interview with Gray, here.