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Friday, December 20, 2013
A look at the Titans' blitz numbers

By Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In their first four games, when they went 3-1, the Tennessee Titans' defense was changing up fronts, causing confusion and blitzing.

As the season flamed out from there, the Titans backed away from that.

When I think about it now, it feels like we saw the stamp of senior defensive assistant Gregg Williams early on but defensive coordinator Jerry Gray’s more passive philosophy gradually swallowed it up.

Per ESPN Stats & Information, the Titans blitzed over 40 percent of the time in three of their first four games. In the 10 games since, they've blitzed on 40 percent or more of an opponent's dropbacks just twice.

Certainly, they aren’t a blitz-crazy team that is going to throw numbers forward all the time. In some games, the numbers are understandably low.

The Titans rushed five or more players just 13 times in Peyton Manning's 59 dropbacks in Denver on Dec. 8 in a 51-28 loss. They don’t believe they can get to Manning with numbers, so they played coverage. They didn’t go too hard after Rams backup QB Kellen Clemens in a win at St. Louis, but they blitzed Oakland rookie Matt McGloin over half the time.

“I think it’s totally inaccurate [to say we’ve blitzed less],” Gray said. “We kind of got some guys nicked up .… You have to move other guys around. Every week you look at what can we take advantage of, who do we have that can win, who can win a one-on-one because everybody gets them.

Said safety George Wilson: “You don’t necessarily run the same schemes every week. Teams have different pass protections and matchups. You run what’s going to give you the best chance to get pressure on the opposing offense.”

The Titans sacked Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck five times on Dec. 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts' offensive line has been a major issue this season. In their four other most recent games, their sack totals have been poor: 1, 0, 0 and 2.

The pressure -- outside of defensive tackle Jurrell Casey -- has been insufficient. And the Titans haven’t sent as much extra pressure as I expected they would after Williams arrived.

I’m a fan of four-man pressure. Who isn’t? This team needs better edge rushers in order to get it.