The Titans' defense is very much in a state of flux in the opening weeks of the offseason for the organization.
The unit will have a new coordinator after Chuck Cecil was let go by head coach Jeff Fisher. In Cecil's two seasons on the job, the Titans allowed the fifth-most (2009) and seventh-most yards (2010) in the NFL.
Cecil wasn't the only prominent assistant to depart. DL coach Jim Washburn, whose contract had expired, left of his own accord, taking the same position with the Eagles.
One of the NFL's more well-regarded position coaches, Washburn did excellent work with the Titans' defensive line. In his 12-year tenure as Titans D-line coach, first-round picks Jevon Kearse (1999) and Albert Haynesworth (2002) became stars. Later-round picks like DE Carlos Hall (Round Seven, 2002), DE Antwan Odom (Round Two, 2004), DE Robaire Smith (Round Six, 2000) and DE Jacob Ford (Round Six, 2007) became key contributors at varying points of their Titans careers.
Also, Washburn played a key role in jump-starting the careers of DT Tony Brown and DEs Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jason Babin, with Vanden Bosch and Babin becoming Pro Bowlers in their first seasons working with Washburn. Babin notched 12½ sacks in 2010, his first with Tennessee.
"I know guys I'm friends with that played here in that position, and they told me what they did and how he coached, how (they) played and how they spoke of them," Babin, in an interview with PFW in September, said of Washburn. "From Antwan to Kyle, they spoke extremely highly of him. So I've been trying to get here for more than just last year. It just finally worked out that way."
Washburn's departure comes with the Titans facing a host of decisions along the defensive line. Babin, who has seven years of service, is slated to be a free agent, as is Dave Ball (six years of service), the Titans' other defensive end. Ford (four years) also has an expiring contract. Considering the premium placed on pass rushing, Babin's value could soar after his banner 2010 season.
There is little doubt the defense must improve — its play had such a key role in Tennessee's playoff appearances in 2007 and '08, and its regression played no small part in the team's disappointing past two seasons — and having to find someone to replace Washburn is no small order. As Fisher tries to find his replacement, he must find a new defensive boss, too.