Titans' Gray wants bigger D-linemen

Posted April 07, 2011 @ 6:51 p.m.
Posted By Arthur Arkush

Given the Titans' muddled QB situation and uncertainty over when the new coaching staff will be allowed to interact with its players, new head coach Mike Munchak has said that the offense will keep as much of the 2010 playbook in place as possible for next season. That suggests that no major schematic or philosophical changes on the offensive side of the ball are on the horizon for 2011.

The defense, however, is expected to have a slightly different look next season.

The Titans finished the '10 season 20th overall in run defense, and experienced their fair share of problems on the interior of the D-line. DT Tony Brown, fresh off of signing a three-year, $17 million extension prior to last season, was slowed by a knee injury, and several other interior linemen wore down as the season progressed.

In an effort to avoid a repeat performance next season, GM Mike Reinfeldt has indicated that he intends to acquire some bigger bodies on the interior of the D-line. (In PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki's latest mock draft, Nawrocki projects the Titans to select Auburn DT Nick Fairley with the eighth overall pick.)

Additionally, Tennessee's defensive ends will be asked to line up more frequently as seven-techniques — across from offensive tackles and tight ends — as opposed to on the outside shoulder of the tight end as they have done in the past.

This also will require bigger linemen who can mix it up and overpower blockers rather than relying on edge speed to get upfield.

What does that mean for DEs Jacob Ford and Dave Ball — both of whom are potential free agents once a new CBA is in place? The way we hear it, neither player is ideal for new defensive coordinator Jerry Gray's system, but Ball is closer to being a seven-technique end than Ford — the club did elect to tender Ford, however.

DE Jason Babin's future in Tennessee is also up in the air. Babin, an unrestricted free agent who is coming off a career year in which he notched 12½ sacks, is expected to draw interest from several teams in need of a pass rusher. Word is the Titans are not likely to be the highest bidder for an undersized end who has only one year of major production under his belt.