Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has been scrutinized for his defense's poor play during the 2012-13 NFL season. The Titans' 1-3 start is largely due to a defense that has surrendered 151 points through four games. That's an average of 37.75 points per game. To be fair, 14 of those points occurred when Matt Hasselbeck threw pick-6s against the Houston Texans.
How does Gray intend to change this? A simpler schedule with weaker quarterbacks should help. However, his first priority is to install a more-physical defense. How physical? Think "Players getting carted off on the Gator truck" physical. Gray reportedly made the following comments to The Tennessean
If you are worrying about that, you are not going to go out and try and blow the guy up. Great football players have to put that out of their mind. You have to say, 'This is my territory between the numbers, and if you throw the football, you better bring the Gator truck.' And that's how you have to play. You can't play timid in the NFL
The first thought that crossed my mind? The Titans were already playing against 11 offensive players and the rowdy Vikings fans. The last thing this defense needs is for the officials to nitpick on unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. By going to the media, Gray has put a target on each of his players' backs.
I'm sure something similar is said in every NFL locker room, maybe without the Gator truck reference. Gray is correct in that his players should play with more physicality. During the opening drive against the Houston Texans, Michael Griffin looked like the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man from Family Guy.
My concern is with how Gray handled this situation. He should've been able to get his point across without embarrassing his players to the media. Does he have the respect of the players to do something like this?
What makes this worse is that Gray has been as timid as the rest of his defensive players. Gray wants to act tough by sending a message that opposing receivers will find themselves on the Gator truck. The reality is that he needs to focus on getting opposing quarterbacks on that truck (not literally, but you get my point).
A perfect example of what I'm talking about was the Thursday Night Football between the St. Louis Rams and the previously undefeated Arizona Cardinals. The Rams won 17-3. They harassed Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb. Kolb was sacked nine times. That doesn't include hurries or quarterback hits.
The Titans haven't been successful with their four-man rush. That's evidenced with six sacks in four games. That's why Gray needs to blitz more. The Titans' defense has been too vanilla; they're not confusing anybody with their base schemes. Gray was scared to blitz Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford and Matt Schaub. However, there is no excuses against a young quarterback like Christian Ponder. The Titans' safeties must stop playing way off in nowhere land.
The Titans are surrendering most of their points at two stages of each game: introduction and end. This tells me two things. First, the coaching staff hasn't properly strategized against the opponent's first 10-to-15 scripted offensive plays. The defense is also worn out toward the end of games because the offense can't stay on the field.
This is a must-win game for the Titans. Hopefully, this doesn't become a distraction for the players or something that the officials will focus on.
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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