Titans challenge safeties vs. Saints' Graham

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — We pointed out Wednesday that New Orleans and Drew Brees have had ridiculous success throwing to the middle of the field this season.

ESPN Stats & Information says Brees is connecting on 72.4 percent of his passes between the numbers for an average of 8.2 yards per attempt with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions.

His primary target there is 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end Jimmy Graham.

Rookie middle linebacker Colin McCarthy is coming off an AFC defensive player of the week award for the Titans, but with Graham roaming the middle, McCarthy will face a new kind of challenge. And he’ll need help, particularly from safeties Michael Griffin and Jordan Babineaux.

“When you’re 6-7 and 6-4 (like receiver Marques Colston) and you’re throwing it over little bitty guys, why wouldn’t you go over the middle,” said Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. “I don’t think we’ve covered a 6-6, 6-7 tight end. The thing is the safety has got to come down and hit him and help (McCarthy) out.

“The biggest thing I think in this league is, you’ve got to start putting fear in guys’ hearts from throwing the ball in the middle of the field. If that means getting a letter from the commissioner on Monday, that means getting a letter from the commissioner. But a lot of times you’ve got to let these guys know, you’re not going to be able to throw the ball over the middle of the football field. This is not a basketball, this is a football game, so the ball doesn’t go down the middle of our field. And that’s what safeties should do in this league.”

Have the Titans safeties done enough to send that message this season?

“Of course not,” Gray said. “Or they wouldn’t be throwing the ball down the middle of the field.”

As for encouraging play that could be deemed fine-worthy, Gray softened that stance while drawing a laugh.

“Do a clean hit, you hit a guy clean,”’ he said. “And the good thing is, he’s 6-7, you’re not going hit him in the head anyway.”