Titans’ defensive mistakes just part of growing pains for team
by TERESA M. WALKER AP Pro Football Writer
Aug 25, 2014 | 362 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Tennessee Titans strong safety Bernard Pollard hits Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White as Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh moves in to help on the tackle in the first half of their preseason game Saturday, in Atlanta.  AP photo
Tennessee Titans strong safety Bernard Pollard hits Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White as Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh moves in to help on the tackle in the first half of their preseason game Saturday, in Atlanta. AP photo
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NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans are making some painful mistakes on defense, and first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt chalks it up to growing pains.

That doesn’t mean he is OK with them.

Whisenhunt was so mad that his Titans (2-1) gave up two touchdowns off slants with missed tackles and other issues that he left them on the field late into the third quarter of a 24-17 win in Atlanta.

He rated his halftime rant at a seven or eight on a scale up to 10 for intensity, and he said Sunday that he felt it needed to be done.

“We’re making progress, but the thing that really irritated me more so last night was what we gave up,” Whisenhunt said. “The two slants on third down that turned out to be big plays. Those are just simple plays, and you can’t do those type of things. There’s a lot of good performances on the tape. We just got to clean some things up.”

The Titans trailed 17-10 at halftime and had been outgained 259-165 in total offense.

But Whisenhunt was upset with Devin Hester scoring on a 31-yard touchdown pass on third-and-4 to open the game — the third straight game the Titans have given up an opening TD drive.

He also didn’t like Julio Jones taking a slant 52 yards for a TD on a third-and-5 in the second quarter. He broke two tackles, including one from cornerback Coty Sensabaugh.

“We have to learn from our mistakes,” safety Bernard Pollard said after the game. “We really do. It’s the third preseason game and it’s continuing to happen. It’s still training camp. We’re still trying to get at this thing. The tackling, the mistakes, we have to get better at that. We have to jell as football team in this new system as well.”

The Titans and coordinator Ray Horton are switching to a 3-4 scheme this season from a 4-3 that this franchise has used for a couple of decades.

Whisenhunt said they also are not scheming for opponents this preseason with the mistakes coming in how the Titans fit together. He said it’s part of the process of coming together as a unit for the first time.

“Obviously, we’re all competitors and we want to do better than we’ve done defensively,” Whisenhunt said. “There are individuals that are playing very well in the defense, and I think as we continue to clean things up it will get better.”

He cited lineman Jurrell Casey as someone who’s playing “really well.” Whisenhunt also likes how fellow linemen Ropati Pitoitua and Sammie Hill are playing. Casey and Hill each had a sack against Atlanta, the first this preseason by the first-team defense.

Kamerion Wimbley and Hill also made a stop on fourth-and-1 at the Titans 20 just before halftime.

“There’s times we’re playing very well, we’re just not playing it as well as a team,” Whisenhunt said.

Jake Locker also looked good, and he is completing 70 percent of his passes this preseason with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

He had a 63-yard TD pass to Nate Washington, but was sacked twice by the Falcons. Whisenhunt said the offensive line gave up the first with Shonn Greene responsible for not picking up the blitzer on the second.

The Titans need to protect Locker if they want to end a five-year playoff drought with the quarterback in the final year of his contract.

“I don’t like the fact that Jake got hit as much as he did last night,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s an area that we’ve got to clean up.”

Titans Tidbits: DB Tommie Campbell has been checked out and did not have a concussion. Whisenhunt said they’ll have to see how RB Jackie Battle recovers from a stinger suffered on a kick return. ... Whisenhunt also anticipates keeping both kickers through Thursday night’s preseason finale against Minnesota and said the competition there is still wide open.



Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker