Horton runs scout team, learns more D

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans worked some in Thursday’s practice with a scout team running plays off cards.

It was unusual that the scout team –- an offense or defense running someone else’s scheme and plays -- was often composed of first-teamers working against first-teamers. Scout work is usually done by low-ranking roster members, not starters.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said it keeps players engaged.

The cards used Wednesday weren’t New Orleans-specific, though some might apply to the Saints. Whisenhunt said they were to give both sides looks they aren’t seeing from the Titans' own schemes. The offense, for example, worked against some 4-3 defense by the scout team.

Of more interest was which coach was taking the cards into and out of the defensive huddle.

While assistant tight ends coach Arthur Smith handled the often-tedious task for the offense, on the other side it was defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

Horton said it’s a time management tool that lets him use what would be a down period to keep up with other defenses.

“When we’re getting ready to play New Orleans, I know what Sean Payton does because I look at it all the time,” Horton said. “But I may want to know what Rob Ryan does; I don’t have the time to watch his defense. So by me running the scout team, I see what he’s running. ‘Oh, he’s running this. Wow, he’s running that.’ Then, as I sit up and watch the game, I know what’s happening in the whole game.”

During an NFL season, it’s typically fruitless to ask a defensive coach about another team's defense or an offensive coach about another team's offense. An offensive line coach will be engrossed in defensive-front study, not in other offensive lines.

So Horton has found a way to pay at least a little attention to the same side of the ball.

“It’s a way of being tutored by or learning something from somebody else without wasting my time,” he said. “They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I sit and I watch. ‘Wow, this is a pretty good blitz. This is a pretty good coverage. Why is he running so much of this defense?’

“I learn a lot from it. I can tell you what they are all running. I’m learning from all the other coordinators in the league and what they do. Whether it’s something I’m doing and it validates what I’m doing or it’s something I’ve never thought about doing. It’s all about learning.”