NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Derrick Morgan had plenty of reasons for questions: Ken Whisenhunt is his third head coach with the Tennessee Titans and now he is being asked to play outside linebacker and defensive end.
The defensive end got enough answers that he is optimistic about the changes.
”I think it’s all going to work itself out the way it’s supposed to,” Morgan said Thursday after practice. ”I’m embracing the change and a positive mindset about it. That’s just how I’m taking on this challenge and hoping to come out on top and make a good transition.”
Article continues below ...
The first-round round draft pick in 2010, Morgan said he wondered after Whisenhunt hired defensive coordinator Ray Horton how he would fit into defense. Horton is mixing in a 3-4 front on a team that used a 4-3 scheme for years. Morgan has had the advantage of the offseason program and has been in pads a couple times now during training camp.
”The transition’s been going pretty good,” Morgan said. ”Getting more and more comfortable every day, so it’s a learning process. But at the same time, it hasn’t been too drastic of a change. Just a few wrinkles here and there.”
Morgan still rushes the quarterback. The 6-foot-3 lineman, who missed most of his rookie season with a torn ACL, has 16.5 sacks in his four seasons with the Titans. He ranked second on the team with six sacks last season, and he also has 48 career quarterback pressures.
Right tackle Michael Oher, signed in March away from Baltimore, has been blocking Morgan regularly so far. Oher loves Morgan’s quickness coming off the ball.
”He works hard every play and has good technique in his rushes,” Oher said. ”He just comes to work every day is all I see. I like him as a rusher getting to the quarterback.”
Now Morgan’s also being asked to drop into coverage when playing outside linebacker. He did that a little in college at Georgia Tech. With the Titans, he has defended only nine passes in his career, including only one last season, so that’s the biggest challenge he faces. It could be a risky change for a player going into the final season of his rookie contract.
”I’m adjusting to it, learning from it each day,” Morgan said.
He’s lost a little weight, now down around 258 pounds, making him a little faster both rushing the edge and dropping into coverage.
Whisenhunt, who played in college at Georgia Tech as well, sees Morgan as an athletic player who causes lots of matchup problems for defenses. He said the Titans are trying to take advantage of that.
”He’s doing really well, doing exactly what we thought he would do, what we saw in the spring,” Whisenhunt said. ”So we’re hopeful that he’ll have a good year. I think there’s a lot of things to indicate that. He’s a good player, really respect what I’ve seen of him on tape last year. Just excited to see him in this position.”
Notes: The Titans turned up the noise for the first time under Whisenhunt, cranking up four speakers for a period Thursday at a closed practice. The Titans open the season Sept. 7 at Kansas City, which set the Guinness World Records mark last October as the loudest stadium in the NFL with a noise level of 137.5 decibels. ”I think it was loud enough,” Whisenhunt said. ”What you’re trying to do is make them communicate in that noise, especially when we’re in the gun, those kind of things.” Jake Locker had a nice touchdown throw to Derek Hagan, and rookie Zach Mettenberger connected with Justin Hunter on a 60-yard TD. C Brian Schwenke (right leg) worked on a side field along with DT Antonio Johnson (leg).
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker