Assistant to watch: Titans

Continuing our look at new assistant coaches in the AFC South who will be especially important in 2012, we turn to Tennessee.

Pass-rush coach Keith Millard came to the Titans after a year in Tampa Bay when the Buccaneers managed only 23 sacks. Still, he was a successful rusher as a player and has the faith of coach Mike Munchak and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray.

Millard will work a lot with defensive linemen, but he’s not limited to that group. (Still, it’s hard not to read the hire and positive player reaction to him as a partial indictment of defensive line coach Tracy Rocker’s ability to teach pass rush.)

The Titans have talked of using linebacker Akeem Ayers as a rusher since spending a second-rounder on him last year. Ayers, any other linebackers and any defensive backs who blitz will have worked on technique with Millard. I'll be interested to see how he moves around in practices and who he gets his hands on.

An improved pass rush is a must if the Titans' defense is going to improve. Millard will be right in the middle of what happens, or what doesn’t, in that department.