NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans defense made big advancements and closed big gaps through the offseason as the group worked to prepare for a second season running a 3-4 defense.
That was the review from Dick LeBeau, who joined Ken Whisenhunt’s staff as assistant head coach/defense.
“I think they are all much more comfortable, particularly the outside backers,” LeBeau said in June when the team wrapped up the offseason. “Derrick (Morgan), it was a new position for him and he’s much more comfortable with what he’s doing.
"We’ve just been able to expand the package a great deal. It’s less thinking, and I want as little as possible and everybody to know what they are doing.”
But depth at outside linebacker is a big concern on a defense that yielded 27.4 points and 373 yards a game with Ray Horton as defensive coordinator in 2014. Horton is now working under LeBeau.
The Titans added veteran outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, strong safety Da’Norris Searcy and cornerback Perrish Cox in free agency. They also get inside linebacker Zach Brown back after losing him to a pectoral injury in the first series of 2014.
That should amount to four new starters in 2015.
Orakpo finished his recovery from pectoral surgery during OTAs and minicamp, missing practices with the defense. Jonathan Massaquoi also was out, rehabilitating a shoulder.
The Titans gave a lot of first-team snaps to sixth-round pick Deiontrez Mount and undrafted rookie J.R. Tavaii.
“You never have too many, there is no such thing as having too many,” LeBeau said. “In finding that depth, it was invaluable to have though young guys get those snaps with the first unit. And we’re sure looking forward to where we can get those other two in there, veteran guys who have more experience.
“But regardless of how that breaks out, some of those young guys are going to have to play and do the job for us.”
Keeping Orakpo and Morgan healthy this season could be crucial to the Titans' chances as having a much better defense.
I’m not sure how good the pass rush will be with them.
Take one out, and odds are the level really drops off, which would leave LeBeau having to lean even more on scheme than people to generate pressure.