Defensive Backs | Click here to view other position reviews.
Tennessee's secondary collected 13 of 19 interceptions in 2012, helping the Titans increase the team mark in the stat category by eight from its 2011 total.
Cornerback Jason McCourty and Michael Griffin each recorded four interceptions, including two apiece against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football in leading a relatively young secondary. Griffin's second interception of the game occurred deep in Tennessee territory and helped seal the Titans' 14-10 victory (click here to see it again). He led the secondary with 103 tackles and started all 16 games.
Alterraun Verner started all 16 games opposite McCourty and turned in one of the most amazing defensive plays of the season in Week 3. Verner stripped the ball away from Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew and scampered 72 yards for a touchdown. It was the third Titans touchdown of the fourth quarter even though Tennessee possessed the ball for just one minute, 20 seconds of the period. Verner also recorded two interceptions, seven tackles for loss and 10 passes defended this season.
McCourty, who was selected as a defensive captain prior to the season, also delivered clutch interceptions in wins against Pittsburgh (click here to see it again) and at Buffalo and a key forced fumble and recovery of the ball early at Miami. McCourty started all 16 games and led Tennessee's defense with 17 passes defensed and recorded 93 tackles.
Griffin started the first two games of the season at strong safety, changing his role while Robert Johnson started at free safety. The Titans moved Griffin back to free safety the final 14 games of the season as Jordan Babineaux started 12 of the next 14 games and Al Afalava started two of the final three at strong safety.
Johnson made three starts this season (once as an extra safety) and played in 12 games before suffering a season-ending injury against Houston on Dec. 2.
Rookie Coty Sensabaugh made three starts as an extra defensive back and played all 16 games, and Ryan Mouton made two starts and played in 13 games as an extra DB. Sensabaugh, the fourth-round pick, played primarily in the nickel and other alternative defensive packages and on special teams.
The Titans took a deeper look at Tommie Campbell — a special teams standout all season — on defense in the final two games of the season, but did not have an opportunity to evaluate rookie Markelle Martin in a game. Martin was unable to fully recover from an injury he suffered while training for the 2012 NFL Combine. Reserve safety Tracy Wilson contributed on special teams.
While the Titans increased their interceptions, they also allowed opponents to complete more passes with fewer attempts and gave up 335 more net passing yards in 2012 than in 2011.
The most telling statistic, however, may have been opponents' completion percentage and the number of times a quarterback completed more than 60 percent of his throws against the Titans. Opponents completed 66.3 percent of their passes for the season, which was the second best rate in the NFL and up from 62.4 percent in 2011.
Tennessee held foes to less than 60 percent three times in 2012 (at Miami, at Indianapolis, against New York Jets), compared to six times in 2011 (Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, at Carolina, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville). The Titans are 7-2 the past two seasons when holding an opponent below the 60-percent threshold.
Completion percentages can't be attributed solely to the secondary. Defenses obviously benefit when the front of the defense is able to maintain pressure against the quarterback and disrupt an offense's rhythm. As Tennessee improved its pressure, the completion percentages by opponents decreased. After allowing seven of its first nine opponents to complete more than 70 percent of their passes, only Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers hit 70 percent of his throws in the Titans' final seven games.
Griffin said he saw the defense improve as the season progressed because all defenders were being more disciplined within the scheme.
"I think when we started playing great football is when everybody started doing their job instead of trying to make big plays that weren't there," Griffin said.
Here are the stats posted by Tennessee's defensive backs in 2012:
Jason McCourty (16/16):93 tackles (79 solo, 14 assists), four tackles for loss, four interceptions-29 yards, 17 passes defended, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery
Michael Griffin (16/16): 103 tackles (72 solo, 31 assists), one sack-8 yards, two tackles for loss, four interceptions-59 yards, five passes defended, two forced fumbles, one blocked field goal
Jordan Babineaux (12/16): 92 tackles (66 solo, 26 assists), one quarterback hit, one interception-10 yards, six passes defended, nine special teams tackles
Alterraun Verner: (16/16): 78 tackles (66 solo, 12 assists), seven tackles for loss, two interceptions-11 yards, 10 passes defended, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery-72 yards, one touchdown, six special teams tackles
Coty Sensabaugh (3/16): 27 tackles (23 solo, 4 assists), three passes defended, four special teams tackles
Robert Johnson (3/12): 13 tackles (10 solo, three assists), one tackle for loss, one interception-2 yards, one pass defended, seven special teams tackles
Ryan Mouton (2/13): 42 tackles (33 solo, nine assists), one tackle for loss, three passes defended, two special teams tackles; recorded 11 tackles against Detroit
Al Afalava (2/12): 23 tackles (13 solo, 10 assists), one interception, one pass defended, one special teams tackle; recorded 11 tackles against Jacksonville 12/30
Tommie Campbell (0/14): six tackles (six solo), one pass defended, nine special teams tackles, one punt return for a touchdown (65 yards), one fumble recovery on special teams
Tracy Wilson (0/9): six special teams tackles Markelle Martin (0/0): was on the physically unable to perform list as he recovered from injury; finished the season on reserve/PUP