Tennessee Titans: Moises Fokou

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.

On calls Munchak was told were wrong

December, 2, 2013
Mike Munchak talked to the league office, then spilled details of conversations that are typically kept private.

I’m happy to learn what the NFL told him, and what he said it told him was that three plays that were called against the Titans in Sunday's 22-14 loss in Indianapolis were called incorrectly.

Let’s review them:

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Mike Munchak
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsCoach Mike Munchak on a questionanble call that went against the Titans: "It doesnt matter the day after."
1) Titans’ ball, 1st-and-10 from the TEN 30 with 1:13 remaining in the first quarter: Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass over the short middle for Delanie Walker is ruled incomplete. Munchak challenges the call, feeling the Titans had a 10- or 11-yard gain.

Munchak says: "They said it was a catch."

My review: I thought it was a catch as I saw it live and looked at the replays in the Lucas Oil Stadium press box. Looking at it now on NFL Game Review, there was a bit of a bobble, but he still gained control of it before he was taken down by Erik Walden, tackled over the body of LaRon Landry. The play ended Walker’s day because of the resulting concussion.

2) Colts’ ball, 3rd-and-17 from the IND 46 with :07 remaining in the second quarter: Andrew Luck completes a 20 yard pass to T.Y. Hilton up the right side. The clock is stopped with a second left because of a penalty flag. Titans linebacker Moise Fokou is called for an unnecessary roughness penalty for a hit on fullback Stanley Havili on the other side of the field.

Munchak says: “(Fokou) saw Luck was staring over there initially, looking off where he was going to throw it. He saw that, he broke to make a play on his guy so he wouldn’t be able to make a play if he threw it to him and get out of bounds quickly for a second play and hit him. The problem with the play was he hit him in the back, he hit him from behind. He was in the five-yard area when he hit him, so that part was OK. You can’t hit a player in the back. I talked to them in New York today, and they said it should have been a five-yard penalty for illegal contact. It was unnecessary to hit him probably as hard as he hit him in that area in that time in the game -- not a good decision.”

My review: The ball is coming out of Luck’s hand right as Fokou is hitting Havili. I could see it called either way. Either way, I agree with Munchak on this -- it’s a situation where I’m not sure why Fokou feels it was necessary to level Havili as he did rather than getting hands on him and controlling him. Havili is at the line of scrimmage, facing the quarterback and is not a risk for gaining 17 yards on what should have been the last play from scrimmage. Fokou would have been able to prevent a completion or at least keep him in bounds based on where he was.

3) Titans’ ball, 1st-and-10 from midfield with 13:10 remaining in the third quarter: Shonn Greene carries up the middle for an 8-yard gain, then jaws with his tackler, LaRon Landry and makes hand gestures in the safety’s face, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Green and Landry used to be teammates on the Jets.

Munchak says: “It doesn’t matter the day after. Shonn Greene got up, two guys that know each other on a big hit after an 8-yard gain get up and jaw back and forth. They threw a penalty. (Greene) clapped I think, and they threw a flag. They told me that there was no reason to do that, no reason to throw a flag.”

My review: We don’t know what was said, but Greene put himself in a situation where the judgment of the crew was put in play. If he followed Munchak’s mantras of “know what to do and do it” and “be a pro” then it wouldn’t have been an issue at all. It’s frustrating, I’m sure, to be told the crew over-officiated the play. But there is an easy way to not give the officials any reason to do so. Head back to the huddle.


Overall, learning from the league that three calls that went against him should have been two calls that went for him and one call that resulted in a smaller penalty has to be brutal for Munchak and the struggling Titans.

Officiating seems to be getting increasingly inconsistent, and the Titans, like all teams, deserve a better work product from the guys wearing stripes on Sunday.

Munchak is honest in news sessions, and there is no reason to doubt he was told what he says he was told. I reached out to the NFL to see if it would confirm the conversation about the three calls.

The response: "By league policy, those conversations between our officiating department and teams are confidential."