Free agents, Williams not helping Titans' D yet
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
Mike Munchak is using words like frustrated and concerned talking about his Tennessee Titans after their second preseason game with mistakes that sound fixable.
His Titans are running out of time to make corrections before the season opener Sept. 8 at Pittsburgh.
Tennessee brought in a handful of free agents and hired Gregg Williams as a senior assistant coach for the defense after allowing a franchise-worst 471 points last season. Through two preseason games, Tennessee still can't stop the run, struggles to tackle and keeps giving up points.
''We had opportunities to get off the field,'' Munchak said Sunday. ''We were getting them in long down situations, and they made some plays and we didn't and that's the difference in this league.''
The Titans (0-2) have been shredded through the first two preseason games, allowing 178 yards rushing per game after giving up 163 yards on the ground to Washington and 193 to Cincinnati. Opponents also have scored on three drives of 80 yards or longer, and Tennessee has allowed 19 plays of 15 yards or longer.
Munchak said the defense against the run is a concern.
''There's no doubt we want to be able to stop the run,'' the coach said. ''But you don't get too caught up in it. But you need to come out and make sure those things don't happen against Atlanta.''
The Titans so far have looked like they picked up where they left off last year missing tackles and giving up the long plays. That wasn't supposed to happen, not after the Titans signed free agents like tackles Sammie Hill and Antonio Johnson to beef up the interior along with end Ropati Pitoitua, middle linebacker Moise Fokou and safeties Bernard Pollard and George Wilson.
Munchak also hired Williams fresh off his one-year suspension from the NFL for his role in the Saints' bounty scandal to work with defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. Munchak has said he wanted Williams to help boost the Titans' attitude, intensity and swagger defensively.
Williams has talked with reporters only once since being introduced at a news conference in February, and that was back in June.
Against Cincinnati, the Titans got off to a good start in that area. Tackle Jurrell Casey ended the Bengals' first drive by taking the ball away from Andy Dalton for a sack, forced fumble and recovered fumble all in one swift move. That was the only time the Titans' first-team defense got a stop against Cincinnati's offense again until the end of the first half.
Linebacker Akeem Ayers hurt his right ankle on that first series and sat out the rest of the game. He also may miss the Atlanta game for a unit where Colin McCarthy has missed the first two games with a sore right hamstring. That injury for now has cost McCarthy his starting job with Munchak saying Fokou is their starter at middle linebacker.
Pollard said after the game that the Titans are tired of the struggles and need to make tackles. He also preached patience with this defense trying to gel.
''As far as hitting the panic button, don't do that,'' Pollard said. ''We're going to get this thing fixed. We're going to play three quarters next week against Atlanta. They have a very talented receiver group, a very talented running game and a quarterback that can get the ball anywhere. We had a great test tonight. For the second week in a row, we bit ourselves and spotted them points. We've got to get off of the field.''
Munchak noted two plays where the Titans should have gotten off the field if they tackled properly. Cincinnati scored on third-and-10 and kept a second TD drive alive with a 22-yard completion on third-and-8. Munchak said technique and alignment errors mixed with communication on both allowing the Bengals to make plays when they should have been tackled.
''That's the stuff we have to stop from happening,'' Munchak said.
Notes: TE Delanie Walker may be cleared from the physically unable to perform list Monday or Tuesday. ... WR Kevin Walter (back surgery) is not yet close enough to be cleared. ... Rookie OL Brian Schwenke (left hamstring) may have a chance to make his debut against Atlanta. ''He wants to get out there as much as we want to see him,'' Munchak said of the fourth-round draft pick from California.
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