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Monday, December 9, 2013
On the Titans' use of backers in Denver

By Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans linebackers haven't done much to distinguish themselves as Tennessee has lost seven of its last nine games.

Sunday in Denver, coaches deployed five different linebackers on defense, looking to rookie Zaviar Gooden and veteran Colin McCarthy in addition to starters Moise Fokou, Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers.

The snap totals:
Fokou, 65 of 95
Brown, 38
Ayers, 33
Gooden, 31
McCarthy, 30

Here's Munchak's explanation at his Monday news conference:

“It was more about the reps. We didn't expect (95) reps, but we thought there would be a lot… on the field you can't substitute. If they're not substituting their guys, you're not substituting yours. You're going to have guys stuck out there for long periods of time, so we wanted all four linebackers (beyond Fokou) being comfortable playing so we could rest guys so that they couldn't take advantage of us maybe being tired. We did the same thing with the D-line. It had nothing to do with how the guys were playing. It was more about the amount of reps we knew they were probably going to have to play.”

A defensive line rotation is common. Some linemen are more run stoppers and some are more pass-rushers.

It's far less common to shuffle linebackers to the degree the Titans did.

Munchak said the Titans played five different guys at least 32 percent of the time because they wanted a fresh group and anticipated defending a lot of snaps.

Isn't the best formula for minimizing the snaps for Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense to field your best players and ask them to make third down stops or force turnovers?

I think so. Giving Gooden his first significant defensive snaps against Peyton Manning seems foolhardy. But Fokou, Brown and Ayers haven't done enough this season to make it ridiculous to rotate McCarthy and Gooden into the game.

Brown wondered about the rotation, too.

"I'm kind of wondering myself," Brown told John Glennon of The Tennessean. "You've got to keep your best players and playmakers on the field. That's what you do when you play defense. You look at all the good defenses right now. They keep their best players on the field."

The league's statisticians credited Fokou with eight tackles, Brown with five (one for a loss), McCarthy with four, Gooden with two and Ayers with none.

Based on that production, maybe minimizing Ayers' playing time actually does enhance the Titans' chances of minimizing an opponent's snaps.