Tennessee Titans: Lou Spanos

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.
Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans ...

New Titans linebacker coach Lou Spanos is “a ball of energy,” according to UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, who talked to John Glennon of The Tennessean at Senior Bowl practice.

A look at Titans in line for big raises and the chances their scheduled salaries lead them to get cut, from Glennon.

Considering if Ken Whisenhunt was a good hire, with Daniel Reese of Music City Miracles.

Completion percentage and accuracy are not the same thing, says Josh Gunnels of Music City Miracles.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ken Whisenhunt is down to two position coaching vacancies.

While they are all important, these may be the two most important: The offensive and defensive lines.

Offensive line was supposed to be rebuilt into a strength last season as the Titans signed veteran guard Andy Levitre, drafted guard Chance Warmack 10th overall and drafted center Brian Schwenke in the fourth round.

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Ken Whisenhunt
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyOffensive line coach and defensive line coach will be two of Ken Whisenhunt's most critical hires.
But a rebuilt interior didn't jell quickly or play consistently even with mentoring from two Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive linemen, head coach Mike Munchak and line coach Bruce Matthews.

One of the criticism of Whisenhunt during his six years as head coach in Arizona was the Cardinals' failure to develop young offensive lineman. Another Hall of Famer, Russ Grimm, was Whisenhunt's line coach for his entire tenure in Arizona.

Grimm didn't coach in 2013, but I do not expect he will be joining the Titans' staff.

Offensive line was generally a strength for the Titans when Munchak was the position coach before he was elevated to the top job in 2011.

The Titans used to thrive on defense because they developed pass-rushers, Jevon Kearse and Albert Haynesworth, both first-round draft picks, head that list, but it also includes Kyle Vanden Bosch, a huge hit as a reclamation project.

Jim Washburn, recently retained by Detroit as the Lions' line coach, was a big part of that. Tracy Rocker followed him as Munchak's line coach, and for two years he had the assistance of Keith Millard, the team's pass-rushing coach.

The Titans really developed just one pass-rusher in that time, and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is the sort of player who I think would play well under anyone.

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton will run a hybrid front that will feature 3-4 and 4-3 elements. The Titans have been a 4-3 since before the franchise relocated to Tennessee in 1997.

Whisenhunt, Horton and a new line coach will have a voice in drafting a guy – or a couple – who fit what they are looking for up front. It's imperative the team adds a quality edge pass-rusher, and the line coach Whisenhunt hires will be largely responsible for developing him.

Ron Aiken was Whisenhunt's defensive line coach for all six years in Arizona. He is now coaching the line at Oregon.

Whisenhunt is at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where he is likely interviewing candidates for his remaining staff positions.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported Tuesday evening that the Titans will hire John McNulty as quarterbacks coach.

I reported early on that McNulty had an inside track on the offensive coordinator post, which wound up going to Jason Michael.

Whisenhunt's staff at this point, with holdovers in italics.

Offensive coordinator: Jason Michael
Quarterbacks: John McNulty
Running backs: Sylvester Croom
Tight ends: Mike Mularkey
Wide receivers: Shawn Jefferson

Defensive coordinator: Ray Horton
Linebackers: Lou Spanos
Secondary: Sigismondo “Louie” Cioffi
Assistant secondary: Steve Brown

Special teams: Nate Kaczor
Assistant special teams: Steve Hoffman

Strength and conditioning: Steve Watterson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Scouts Inc. ranks UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr third on its big board of collegiate players coming out in the 2014 draft.

It’s hard to predict in January where a guy’s getting drafted in May.

But the draft doesn’t align with a January big board, and the Titans could wind up with a shot at Barr 11th overall.

As John Glennon of The Tennessean pointed out to me Friday night when we took in a hockey game, the Titans now have a solid track to inside info on Barr. New Tennessee linebackers coach Lou Spanos has spent the past two years as UCLA’s defensive coordinator.

Here’s ESPN.com’s player card for Barr, which includes this with an “exceptional” rating in “third-down capabilities.”
“Possesses the tools to develop into an impact pass rusher. Excellent length, above-average initial get-off and explosiveness. Has a rare closing burst. Just average torso flexibility to bend the edge and needs to continue development with hands as counter puncher. Good range in underneath zone coverage and flashes the athleticism to match up with tight ends in man coverage when his technique improves.”

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