Titans looking to beef up at defensive end

Getting an actual nugget about an actual change from a team at this stage, especially given the upcoming shutdown, is a big deal.

Jim Wyatt got one out of reserved Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt in this piece, just the sort of wrinkle that would have fit nicely in my piece from a few days ago about how scouts in Tennessee and Houston have to adjust to the desires of new coaches.

Under new defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and new defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, the Titans will be looking for defensive ends who are a bit different.

Writes Wyatt out of his conversation with Reinfeldt:

In previous years, the Titans had their ends play a lot of 9-technique, lined up wide and told to collapse the pocket. Under Gray, the Titans could play more of a 7-technique, lined up across from the offensive tackles or tight ends, placement that requires stout, run-stopper ends.

"It is still a work in progress," [Reinfeldt said]. "I think our scouts are pretty good at evaluating talent and evaluating a young man's ability to play in the NFL. At the same time they need to have a really good idea of the scheme we are running, what traits we are looking for and I think that is where the combine is good for us. It's a chance for both those guys to be together and I think the pre-draft meetings will be critical for that also."

It appears this is a good draft to be looking for such an end. The Titans could conceivably even trade down from No. 8 and land a first-round defensive end like North Carolina’s Robert Quinn, Cal’s Cameron Jordan or Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn.

All of them are bigger than Jason Babin, Dave Ball and Jacob Ford, smaller Titans ends who are not under contract for 2011. One of those prospects could look good working in combination with last year’s No. 1, Derrick Morgan, and William Hayes, two ends on the roster who are sturdier types. Morgan went on IR on Oct. 5 of his rookie season after blowing out a knee.

A bit later in the draft there are more guys who could be attractive given a desire to have more physical ends. Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, Miami’s Allen Bailey and Mississippi State’s Pernell McPhee all have nice size and would likely be better equipped to line up tighter to the line of scrimmage and do more against the run.