Tennessee Titans: Louie Cioffi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Most days of camp I put myself in position to watch a new assistant coach work with his position group.

“I want them to be good teachers and set the right environment for our players, from a learning aspect,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

Saturday, I watched the defensive backs, and then specifically the cornerbacks, do drills under the watch of Louie Cioffi.

Cioffi was detailed, low-key and encouraging.

All the DBs worked together at the start, following zigzagging lines on the field intended to help with drop depth.

Assistant secondary coach Steve Brown was seeing them first and emphasizing eyes, while Cioffi was a bit further down the line and repeatedly encouraged them to stay down and concentrate on their feet.

His reviews were loaded with compliments. “Nice,” he said. “Good.”

Then Brown went to work with safeties while Cioffi stuck with corners. Corners were inside a small space where they stood on a line parallel to their feet while the guy working as a “receiver” went down a line on either side which tilted away at a 45 degree angle.

Cioffi hit on finer points. One corner let his hands go down and behind him and was reminded they needed to be up, in front of him.

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton stopped by and talked about how guys covering an X receiver close up on them like that needed to be a bit patient and slow to see what was going to unfold. The receiver wants the corner to make a move, and the Titans want the corner to stay square longer.

Against Z receivers who are further off the line of scrimmage, even more patience is needed.

Cioffi and Brown worked comfortably together, and Horton’s interjections helped the drills move and improve.

Players moved on to a segment where corners tracked a receiver who was repeatedly cutting to change directions.

As Cioffi told them to water up and be ready to compete in one-on-ones against real receivers, he reminded them to be sure to get two reps in press coverage and one rep of off coverage in what was about to unfold.

“He’s a good guy, if he wants something done a certain way he’ll tell you and he’ll explain why it needs to be done that way,” Tommie Campbell said. “There is not a lot of gray area. You listen to him, you can understand him. I haven’t heard him raise his voice, but if he says something he gets his point across. Once he explains something, if he’s talking to another corner, he’s talk to me as well.

“He says just be strong with what you’re strong at. If we need to be inside leverage on a certain route, a certain formation or whatever it is, and they throw an outside breaking route, then they just throw an outside breaking route.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans' secondary was the team's best position group in 2013.

Under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton and new defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi, the holdovers will play less zone and more man, less Cover 2 and more single-high and three-deep, Cioffi told The Midday 180 in Nashville on Thursday.

He said he’s excited about the size and speed throughout the group.

And while he will have technique he teaches, he’s not going to force good players to change things that have worked for them.

“Like everyone else, I have a starting point that I like, certain techniques that I like,” Cioffi said. “If it’s working for a player, I’m not someone that is going to make rigid, wholesale changes. You just try to tweak things, maybe get him that much better. But I’m not someone that’s going to come in and say ‘Hey, you have to do it exactly like this because that’s how I want it done.’ I have found that that did not work.”

Last year’s team had a very distinct free safety (Michael Griffin) and strong safety (Bernard Pollard).

Griffin said last week he’s been told he won’t play as far away from the ball at the snap as he did last season. Cioffi said that amounts to just a small technique critique.

Overall, he hopes his two safeties are able to do the things required of each position.

“In today’s game, these guys have got to be versatile,” Cioffi said. “The game has changed. Fullbacks are not as involved. You get a lot more one-back and three-wide receiver sets. So the safeties have to be able to adapt and cover and move around in space, so we like to have our guys do a little bit of both.

“We don’t like to pigeonhole guys and say, ‘Hey, you are the strong and you are the free’ because obviously [offenses] change with formation and motion. So we’ll try to get them in the best situations and try to implement what they do best. But there are going to be times when they are going to have to do a little bit of both.”