- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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If you're a run-stopping linebacker who's not a very good pass-rusher or vice versa, the Tennessee Titans don't have big plans for you.
Tennessee added free agents Shaun Phillips and Wesley Woodyard as they prepare to shift schemes. In an interview on The Midday 180 in Nashville, new Titans linebacker coach Lou Spanos talked about his expectation for a group that wasn't very good last year converting to a 3-4 front.
"One thing we demand here is, you've got to play everything," Spanos said. "You can't be, ‘I'm just a pass-rusher' or ‘I'm just a run defender.' You can't be limited. You've got to have a complete package or it's tough to play. If you're an inside backer, you do a great job getting off the block and going down hill and be disruptive.
"If you're an outside backer, you've got to defeat the guy right in front of you. Outside backers should manhandle tight ends. There are a lot of good blocking tight ends in the league. You've got to be physical, you have to use good hands to get off. Then also in coverage, we're asking them big guys, ‘All right, you've got to play the run, now if it's pass, you've got to cover the guys too, you have to cover a certain area to a certain extent. And that being set, OK now if you see a high hat, if you're rushing, now you've got to rush.
"They've got to be first of all smart, and football smart, knowing they've got three different jobs on each snap and realizing through repetitions and practice they'll get a good feel for it and then try to be a complete player, try not to be a pigeonhole. ...Try to be a complete football player."
The linebackers were probably the worst unit on the Titans last year. Part of that was a result of poor coaching.
Just how many complete linebackers the Titans have, I don't know. And while Spanos and defensive coordinator Ray Horton surely have a sense, they will learn a lot more after they get some time on the field with the group.
Also, I asked Spanos if Derrick Morgan, the 4-3 defensive end, would be in the linebackers meeting room.
"He'll be on the field," Spanos said, laughing.
At 6-foot-3 and 271 pounds, Morgan might make for a big outside linebacker or a small defensive end in a 3-4.
We don't know yet if they like him at that weight or where they intend for him to play, and I suspect he'll be a big part of why the Titans talk about being a hybrid front.