Tennessee Titans: Ray Horton

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Neither Coty Sensabaugh nor Blidi Wreh-Wilson has stood out in a way that suggests one is the clear leader as the Tennessee Titans sort out the pecking order at cornerback opposite Jason McCourty.

Both will play, as both will be part of the nickel package and the Titans will field five defensive backs plenty.

I suspect Sensabaugh will play the nickel. He has experience there and seems to have a feel for playing the spot, which is a lot different than playing outside.

Sensabaugh
But playing inside in sets with five defensive backs doesn’t mean he couldn’t play outside in base. (And it's possible it could go the same way for BWW.)

“I would actually love that; I actually prefer it to a nickel coming in off the bench,” Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton said. “What it means is the guy is pretty smart and pretty athletic. Not only can he run with the Megatrons and the A.J. Greens and all these big wide receivers, but they can also get down and run with the Wes Welkers and the smaller guys.”

Sensabaugh said he likes the idea of shifting inside to nickel from a corner spot, as he’d already be in the flow when he moved to the slot.

“If you have a guy who’s capable of that, I think it’s a really good thing,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind doing that because I like playing both positions. …

“It was tough for me my rookie year, because normally the first snap I would come in would be third down. I’d normally be in the slot receiver and they would normally go to him on that first play.”

Versatility remains a big theme for corners in the system Horton has brought to the Titans.

“We have a couple corners, maybe three, maybe four, that can play corner, that can play nickel, that can play safety,” Horton said. “That is ideal to me. When they want to go multiple wide receivers, I can bring a corner inside or I can put him back at safety.

"That’s my dream corner, that he’s smart enough and agile enough to play inside, outside or deep. We have that right now. We have three of them in training (Sensabaugh, Wreh-Wilson and fourth-rounder Marqueston Huff) and Tommie Campbell is coming along where he may be the fourth.”

Ken Whisenhunt said there is no deadline for when the staff will decide who will play which role.

Sensabaugh said he doesn’t really see an end to the competition for spots, roles and playing time.

“Both players are talented and we have some other guys that can play,” he said. “It’s going to be a season-long thing.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Karl Klug has proved he can play in the NFL.

He’s not an every-down guy, but the Titans have underutilized him at times since drafting him out of Iowa in the fifth round in 2011.

He's played in 48 games, starting five and he’s got 12.5 sacks in limited snaps. He’s got a knack for knifing through the line and causing problems.

Now he's trying to prove he can play in the NFL in a 3-4 front.

Klug
He’s not necessarily a great fit. At 6-foot-3 and 278 pounds, he is the Titans lightest defensive end along with Lavar Edwards.

As he looks to dive into his fourth season, he knows he's not a lock for Ray Horton's new defense.

How's he been doing?

“I don’t know, we’ll find out in a couple weeks how I did,” he said. “Really it’s not that different from what we did before, and I feel like I’ve been able to adjust to it fairly decent.”

The biggest chance to Klug’s approach is a fairly minor one, though it entails changing a long-standing technique that had become habit.

“The only difference for me is the first step,” he said. “I had to change my stance a little bit, make it less staggered a little bit. Before it was staggered, my inside foot was back farther in the 4-3. Now, we have to step with either foot depending on where the ball is going. Last year it was always my back foot going first, that was my first step.”

I’ve had Klug on the roster from the start. He may not be a great scheme fit. But he is one of the team’s best 53 players. He has pass-rushing skills, which the Titans hardly have in abundance.

Horton is likely to want to keep Klug and try to find ways to use him.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For the bulk of the time since the franchise was invented as the Titans, Tennessee was willing to accept an occasional offside penalty from its defense.

The thinking -- predominantly from long-time defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who's now in Detroit -- was that a super quick get-off involved some anticipation. In exchange for anticipating well, there would be times when linemen anticipated poorly and got flagged. A good pass rush with a very fast get-off would make an offensive line a bit jumpy, and an offside here and there wouldn't necessarily hurt that cause either.

I asked new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt if there was any degree of acceptable offside calls on his watch, and he asked me to take the question to his pass-rushers.

"The tolerance level? No, it's a different philosophy," end-turned-outside linebacker Derrick Morgan said. "We've got to play smart. Our D-coordinator (Ray Horton) is always stressing the importance of being smart and wants smart players on the defense.

"Offside will kill you. There are a lot of statistics about the success of offensive drives when you get called for it. It's an important factor we need to be smart about. It's not an acceptable thing where, ‘OK, we're trying to get a good jump, so every once and a while we're going to go offside.' It's going to happen, but the tolerance isn't there for it."

Marty Callinan of ESPN Stats & Info looked into the correlation between sack totals and defensive offside penalties. Over the last 10 seasons, league-wide, it's 0.04. Negligible. Add in encroachment and neutral zone infractions and it's still weak, just 0.13.

Under Washburn, who left after 2010, the Titans consistently ranked high in offside penalties. Over the last 10 years only periodically has the team's sack rank come close to matching its rank for offside.



The top two teams in terms of sacks over the last 10 seasons (Steelers and Dolphins) rank 31st and 27th in defensive offside penalties during that time.

The top two teams in terms of defensive offside penalties (Cardinals and Titans) rank 12th and 16th in sacks over the last 10 seasons.

The strongest correlation between sacks and defensive offside penalties for the Titans in the last 10 years came in 2007 and 2008. Those were Albert Haynesworth's final seasons in Tennessee.

While Haynesworth was piling up the sacks, he wasn't the one drawing the penalties. Fellow defensive linemen Tony Brown, Antwan Odom and Kyle Vanden Bosch were responsible for 13 of the team's 27 defensive offside penalties during that two-year span, while Haynesworth accounted for just one.

Tracy Rocker coached the defensive line from 2011-13. Giff Smith is in his first year with the team now, with Lou Spanos new on linebackers as the team moves to a 3-4.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans worked some in Thursday’s practice with a scout team running plays off cards.

It was unusual that the scout team –- an offense or defense running someone else’s scheme and plays -- was often composed of first-teamers working against first-teamers. Scout work is usually done by low-ranking roster members, not starters.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said it keeps players engaged.

The cards used Wednesday weren’t New Orleans-specific, though some might apply to the Saints. Whisenhunt said they were to give both sides looks they aren’t seeing from the Titans' own schemes. The offense, for example, worked against some 4-3 defense by the scout team.

Of more interest was which coach was taking the cards into and out of the defensive huddle.

While assistant tight ends coach Arthur Smith handled the often-tedious task for the offense, on the other side it was defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

Horton said it’s a time management tool that lets him use what would be a down period to keep up with other defenses.

“When we’re getting ready to play New Orleans, I know what Sean Payton does because I look at it all the time,” Horton said. “But I may want to know what Rob Ryan does; I don’t have the time to watch his defense. So by me running the scout team, I see what he’s running. ‘Oh, he’s running this. Wow, he’s running that.’ Then, as I sit up and watch the game, I know what’s happening in the whole game.”

During an NFL season, it’s typically fruitless to ask a defensive coach about another team's defense or an offensive coach about another team's offense. An offensive line coach will be engrossed in defensive-front study, not in other offensive lines.

So Horton has found a way to pay at least a little attention to the same side of the ball.

“It’s a way of being tutored by or learning something from somebody else without wasting my time,” he said. “They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I sit and I watch. ‘Wow, this is a pretty good blitz. This is a pretty good coverage. Why is he running so much of this defense?’

“I learn a lot from it. I can tell you what they are all running. I’m learning from all the other coordinators in the league and what they do. Whether it’s something I’m doing and it validates what I’m doing or it’s something I’ve never thought about doing. It’s all about learning.”

W2W4: Tennessee Titans

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
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The Tennessee Titans (0-0) and Green Bay Packers (0-0) open the preseason Saturday night at LP Field.

1. Utilizing Locker: Quarterback Jake Locker plays in a game for the first time since he injured his foot on Nov. 10 against Jacksonville. He’s said getting hit will be the final hurdle in being all the way back. We get our first real look at how the new Titans staff might use him and what he’ll be asked to do. Don’t look for much designed movement; Tennessee will save most of that for the regular season. Poise, command, chemistry and all the typical preseason buzzwords for a quarterback trying to solidify his standing will be the things we evaluate after Locker comes out of the game.

2. Situational play from the 3-4. Ray Horton’s new scheme will be unveiled, though we don’t know how many wrinkles we'll see. Throughout recent practices, going to the nickel has meant nose tackle Sammie Hill leaves the field, ends Jurrell Casey and Ropati Pitoitua pinch toward the middle and outside linebackers Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley work as if they are stand-up ends. I’m curious to see how base vs. nickel looks and what, if any, confusion the Titans' defense can cause, particularly for Aaron Rodgers for however long he plays.

3. Kicker competition. Ken Whisenhunt has consistently minimized what the kickers in competition have done so far, but it has to start making positive or negative impressions starting here. Maikon Bonani has the superior leg, but he’s been less consistent and accurate than Travis Coons. This game will include extra points snapped from the 25-yard line, and that should increase the film the Titans get on these two. They’ve alternated kicks in practices, so I’d expect that is how they will be used tonight, though Whisenhunt couldn’t yet say the plan on Thursday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Every team in every training camp talks optimistically. Every team with a new coaching staff talks about how things are different for the better.

The Tennessee Titans are lowly regarded by plenty of fans and media nationally. But they have a lot going on that they feel those people have not paid attention to.

With Ken Whisenhunt and his staff at the helm, new schemes on both sides of the ball, a schedule that doesn’t include some of the powers they faced a year ago and a division with two other rebuilding franchises, they might have a chance to surprise.

."You say each and every year, 'Feels different, feels different, feels different,'" safety Michael Griffin said. "Just, you can see every day, people out there talking, we always have guys picking people up. Each and every day there is competition. There are little side bets here and there -- who’s going to win this period and things of that nature. The whole time we’re all trying to get each other better.

"Again, it just feels so much different in this locker room, and everybody has the same goals in mind, and that’s a positive around here."

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeKen Whisenhunt
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsNew coach Ken Whisenhunt brings a solid résumé and a strong coaching staff to the Titans.
1. Whisenhunt isn’t Vince Lombardi or Don Shula, but the Titans' new coach is a significant upgrade from Mike Munchak, who was unsteady in his first three years as an NFL head coach. Whisenhunt had success in the role during his six seasons in Arizona, and he is a well-regarded offensive mind who will do more with what the Titans have than his predecessors.

Whisenhunt had the connections and the interviewing skills to hire a staff that appears to be filled with strong teachers, including a few quality holdovers. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is turning the Titans into a less predictable 3-4 and comfortably works his way into different sections of practice when position work is unfolding. I've watched these coaches teach and I've seen them connect with players.

Whisenhunt may field a complex offense that's hard to defend, but he's good at keeping things simple. I don't see any changes in how the Titans function that aren't for the better at this point.

2. The Titans don’t have players the fans are going to pick to captain their fantasy squads, but Tennessee should have a good array of quality weapons on offense. Kendall Wright topped 1,000 yards in his second season, and now the team’s best receiver will be sent on a wider variety of routes, not just inside slot stuff. He's been excellent so far in camp. Justin Hunter is doing better getting his legs under him and is catching the ball more comfortably. He got behind Atlanta's defense a few times in the recent joint practice and should be a constant deep threat. Nate Washington is showing he remains a versatile, productive guy.

Beyond the receivers, tight end Delanie Walker and running backs Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey will be good pass-catching options. When the Falcons gave the Titans a lot of room underneath, Jake Locker hit McCluster with a pass over the middle, and he had a ton of space to take. The Titans have invested a great deal in their offensive line over the past two seasons. They have one more tackle than they need after signing Michael Oher and drafting Taylor Lewan. There should be better protection for the quarterback and better holes for the running backs.

3. The 4-3 defense in recent years lacked a star pass-rusher on the edge who an offense had to fear every snap. The Titans still don’t seem to have that guy. They have to find him, but even if he doesn’t emerge from this group, the overall production out of the pass rush should be better. Who is rushing and who is dropping into coverage? In the 4-3, opponents pretty much knew. In this 3-4, it won’t be nearly as clear on a regular basis. Jurrell Casey, who notched 10.5 sacks as a tackle last season, will work as an end now. He's worked on speed rushes off the edge as well as his bread-and-butter quick power stuff in camp.

Sure, some good quarterbacks can diagnose who is rushing and who isn’t, no matter the front. But outside of Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck (twice), the Titans don’t face any A-list quarterbacks coming off big 2013 seasons this time around. They don’t see Seattle and San Francisco this season either.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. Locker is a really likable guy who works hard, says the right things and desperately wants to prove he is the long-term answer for the Titans at quarterback. But in two seasons as the starter, he's missed 14 games while dealing with shoulder, hip, knee and foot injuries. He's practiced pretty well, but there are plays splashed in that can be killers on a Sunday afternoon.

Getting 16 games out of him is hardly a certainty for the Titans. Even if they do and he fits well with what Whisenhunt is asking him to do, he has not been accurate or poised enough when he has played. He sometimes tries to do too much and isn’t poised under pressure. Though he moves well and is very fast, putting him on the move puts him at more risk of another injury. Behind him are more question marks. Charlie Whitehurst has had no real success in just 13 games in eight seasons and often fails to step into his throws. Rookie Zach Mettenberger has a great arm but slipped to the sixth round for several reasons and is rotating with Tyler Wilson as the third-team QB. (Update: Wilson was released Wednesday.)

2. The offensive weaponry looks good, but for those five pass-catchers to give the Titans the nice smorgasbord of options, they need to stay healthy. Also, guys like Hunter (second year), Sankey (a rookie) and McCluster (first year with the Titans and Whisenhunt) need to show that their potential and practice play translate into NFL Sundays in a Tennessee uniform. Wright was the best player on offense last season and should grow more. Can the others become known quantities?

Who is the star of the defense? DT-turned-DE Casey is a strong, quick rusher who was healthy and productive in 2013. He is going to land a big-money contract -- either soon from Tennessee or on the market next spring. There are some nice pieces around him, but the Titans need veterans to have their best seasons and youngsters to emerge, all simultaneously. In Georgia, no defender stood out and regularly gave the Falcons more than they could handle.

3. Forty-seven percent of the current 90-man roster has been in the league for two years or less. Youth is generally good, but it needs to be quality youth and it needs to be surrounded by quality veterans. The Titans lack experience in a lot of spots. There aren't kids in camp who weren't high picks but have forced their way up the depth chart to this point.

Maybe it’s a great mix of players and a good share of the inexperienced people can blossom together. But with new coaches and new schemes, it could be asking a lot for all that to happen in the first season.

OBSERVATION DECK
    [+] EnlargeJake Locker
    Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsJake Locker needs a healthy season if he hopes to become the long-term answer at QB for the Titans.

  • Locker said he feels more comfortable speaking up and being vocal, and he has shown himself to be more confident in how he carries himself. After one throw that looked to be too long for an undrafted rookie, Locker pointed to tell Julian Horton where he should have gone. He still has bad moments in practice, but the preseason has not started, and he is progressing.
  • The Titans have moved running back Jackie Battle to fullback, where he can offer some needed versatility. He appears to have a sizable lead on incumbent Collin Mooney, who has had, at most, a handful of first-team snaps.
  • Among long-shot late additions, veteran receiver Derek Hagan has been consistently good and Brian Robiskie is also gaining notice. He's competing for the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots with Marc Mariani and Michael Preston. Maybe they'll keep six.
  • Sankey is learning quickly how to be a pro, and he has shown a bit of everything the Titans said they expected when they made him the first running back selected in the draft. His first day in pads he looked like an experienced NFL-caliber pass protector. He has good vision and makes good decisions on when to go and when to cut. He also catches the ball well, can run inside and outside.
  • Weakside outside linebacker Shaun Phillips has not worked at all with the first team when Kamerion Wimbley has been practicing.
  • Tommie Campbell was politely mentioned with Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson as a contender for the starting right cornerback spot that opened when Alterraun Verner signed with Tampa Bay. But it’s a two-man competition, and Campbell has struggled horribly.
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. -- A new scheme is being installed and a lot of guys have altered responsibilities.

Horton
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has not given the Tennessee Titans new stuff in small doses. Like the offense, players have been put under stress this offseason by being given a great deal.

So as players sort through a lot of new information, it would seem likely they would botch things and need corrections, reminders, reinforcement.

“There have been very few mental mistakes which is amazing for putting in a brand new defense,” Horton said. “The 'buying in' part comes when you have some adversity, and how do they react to that? But I am very happy with where we are."

Very few mental mistakes has to be very encouraging.

Horton wants smart guys, and that he was able to offer that assessment at the end of organized team activities suggests he has them.

Titans offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Tennessee Titans' offseason moves.

Best move: You might call it a cop-out, but the biggest and most significant upgrade the Titans made is the new coaching staff. With head coach Ken Whisenhunt and Ray Horton as the offensive and defensive playcallers, respectively, this team is going to have smarter plans on Sundays than it did during the past three seasons. It will also adjust better as a game unfolds. It’s hard to rate some of the talent until we see how those guys and their deputies assess and deploy it.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
AP Photo/Patric SchneiderThe Titans will take their chances with Jake Locker as the starting quarterback again this season.
Riskiest move: Sticking with Jake Locker as the quarterback and not at least creating a situation where he has to win the job. I know it’s not like there was an obvious alternative, and just three seasons after they overreached on Locker in the draft it would have been a big mistake to overreach again. But I like to think that if they had seen a good alternative, they would have made a move. It's hard to have much faith in Locker, given his injury history, and there is no assurance he will be able to grasp the new offense quickly.

Most surprising move: We knew they were thinking about the left tackle situation beyond 2014, and their rationale for picking Taylor Lewan 11th overall is sound. Still, he’s not guaranteed to be in position to contribute in 2014. If he does, then a well-paid veteran tackle -- free-agent addition Michael Oher or nine-year stalwart Michael Roos -- won’t be playing. It is easy to argue that a team that was 7-9 and has a new staff and systems could have found a guy guaranteed to have first-year impact in the first round.

I’m not arguing: The Titans survived the Pacman Jones disaster thanks to seventh-round pick Cortland Finnegan. They replaced Finnegan with fourth-round pick Alterraun Verner. Now they will replace Verner with either 2013 third-round pick Blidi Wreh-Wilson or 2012 fourth-round pick Coty Sensabaugh. The franchise's cornerback succession plans have been sound. It should be able to have a third- or fourth-round pick be a better-than-functional starter as it moves forward.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With D'Qwell Jackson's visit to the Tennessee Titans on Friday will come all sort of speculation.

So I take the occasion to urge us all to emphasize the word at the heart of what’s going on: visiting.

Jackson
Jackson is presumably chatting with coach Ken Whisenhunt, with defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and with linebacker coach Lou Spanos. They will talk scheme and role and expectations. Perhaps they will watch some film as the Titans sell their situation.

Presumably Jackson will take a physical.

Perhaps as it wraps up, Ruston Webster or contract guru Vin Marino will talk contract parameters with Brian Mackler, Jackson’s agent.

I don’t think this is a scenario where the Titans, no matter how good they feel about Jackson, attempt to keep him from leaving town without signing.

Jackson is to visit the Broncos on Sunday, and is also reportedly fielding interest from Arizona. The Cardinals could be prepping to lose Karlos Dansby as a free agent, and Dansby is a player Whisenhunt knows well from time together in Arizona.

The Titans might love Jackson, who at 30 is two years younger than Dansby.

They might love Dansby more.

Maybe the Titans will wind up with Jackson. Maybe they’ll wind up with Dansby and create an opportunity for Jackson in Arizona. Maybe he’ll wind up with the Broncos. Maybe the Titans won't end up with either.

Maybe something happens fast for Jackson.

I suspect it’ll take a bit of time.
 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- D'Qwell Jackson, the linebacker released by the Cleveland Browns, is likely to be a guy the Tennessee Titans look at closely.

Tennessee defensive coordinator Ray Horton coached Jackson in 2013.

“D’Qwell has been a coach’s dream as far as leadership, intelligence,'' Horton said last season per this article from Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "He demands a lot from himself and his teammates. He really is a locker room coach [with] some of the things he says after the game and at halftime.”

The Titans could use that in the middle of a defense that needs more leaders. Strong safety Bernard Pollard, who could be leaving as a free agent, was the singular leader of the 2013 defense.

I talked to one executive who couldn’t predict what sort of deal Jackson might command because he believes everyone is waiting to see what the market will offer when free agency opens March 11. That executive said while Jackson has been productive in both 4-3 and 3-4 fronts, he’s probably better in a 4-3.

The numbers from Pro Football Focus suggest it’s more than a bit better.

ESPN.com’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, is a bit skeptical of Jackson.

“He’s highly productive when he’s right [physically], but I also have always seen that as a bit of an aberration, as he is often making plays downfield, rather than 'impact tackles,' Williamson said. “He has experience in both schemes, but never was a great take-on linebacker and need protection, which I would think Jurrell Casey and company could do rather well. He’s an every down LB, but his name value is greater than what he truly is in my opinion.”

Williamson said another player connected to Horton, Arizona free-agent-to-be Karlos Dansby is a superior option: “Dansby had a much better year than Jackson in all areas and is more versatile ... would clearly prefer Dansby.”

Odds are Jackson fares well on the open market, though as indicated in Cabot’s piece, just two months ago he never imagined he would be moving on from Cleveland.

Horton will certainly have a strong voice in how seriously the Titans look into Jackson.

Video: Coaches assess Titans' D

January, 31, 2014
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Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans from Radio Row in New York…

According to David Climer of The Tennessean, Ray Horton believes his Titans defense is more about attitude than alignment. Writes Climer: “Elaborate defensive schemes are fine, he says, but it doesn’t matter how you line up unless you commit yourself. You don’t win games with Xs and Os. You win games with effort and execution.”

Nick Eason is the Titans new assistant defensive line coach, says John Glennon of The Tennessean. Earlier they hired Mike Sullivan as offensive line assistant.

Delanie Walker said he was never shy talking about team cancers, says Jim Wyatt.

To which I say: Which is why we asked a follow up this week on Radio Row. I thought he certainly put more meat on the bone with his comments this week.
NEW YORK -- A good share of Tennessee Titans devotees latched on to Gregg Williams in 2013.

The team’s senior assistant/defense helped change Tennessee’s defense for the better.

But the degree of public support for Williams as a defensive coordinator candidate once Mike Munchak was fired surprised me.

Now Williams is heading back to St. Louis for the reunion with Jeff Fisher that was slated for 2012, before Williams was sidetracked by his Bountygate suspension.

[+] EnlargeRay Horton
AP Photo/Mark DuncanRay Horton likes the speed and effort he's seen on tape from the Titans' 2013 defense.
In the meantime, the Titans have fresh defensive leadership in Ray Horton.

And Horton has the one big quality people like so much in Williams: Swagger.

He was formally introduced by the Titans on Wednesday and visited with us on the Midday 180, too.

He said he’s excited to be reunited with Ken Whisenhunt, who he called “a dynamic, proven, play-calling, winning coach” and he told us something I suspect will become a sound byte with staying power: “We’re going to get the damn job done.”

He likes the speed and effort he’s seen on tape from the 2013 defense, and said it’s the staff’s job to turn those things into wins.

“I want my players to be very disciplined, to be in the right place at the right time, and never, never, never let your teammates down,” he said. “...You better have good technique, you better be fundamentally sound, you better know how to take care of your responsibility.”

Horton’s played in and coached in a total of five Super Bowls.

He’s won three times -- Super Bowl XXVII as a player for Dallas, and Super Bowls XL and XLIII as a coach with Pittsburgh. But it’s the two losses he was part of that he says are most memorable.

He lists Super Bowl XXIII when San Francisco’s John Taylor caught the game-winning touchdown against his Bengals, and the Green Bay Packers win in Dallas against Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV.

“I remember the losses not the wins,” he said. “The wins are easy. You just take your hardware, your ring, you go home and you wear it ... The losses, they haunt you.”

We were on Radio Row at the Super Bowl and Horton was in Nashville when we spoke.

“I truly believe this with all my heart,” he said. “What players want is to be where you guys are right now. The first week of February, they want to be in that city where you guys are.”

By Friday night, Horton will have watched every snap of every player.

Next week he and the staff will begin to discuss how to maximize what they have, accentuating strengths, hiding weaknesses and determining needs.

Fans should be energized by the reviews Whisenhunt has received for getting Horton, and about what Horton has said so far.

I anticipate that while fans will remember Williams’ contribution fondly, they will be quite happy with the man who got the job.

RTC: New coordinators introduced

January, 30, 2014
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Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans ...

The complete interview with Delanie Walker on The Midday 180, where he talked about the team’s cancers and more. Walker was promoting MADD on Radio Row.

Titans who played in Super Bowl XXXIV recount the experience with Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. Four offensive linemen rolled down their rental car windows and took off their shirts, playing Freeze-Out in too-cold Atlanta after a dinner out.

It’s hard to know at this stage just how differently the Titans defense will look under coordinator Ray Horton in 2014, says John Glennon of The Tennessean. Ken Whisenhunt said it won’t be a complete overhaul.

Horton is impressed by the Titans' speed, says David Boclair of the Nashville Post.

Here’s video from the team of the press conference introducing Horton and offensive coordinator Jason Michael.

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