NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Safety Bernard Pollard said this week that he expects a transformation among the Titans' defense that goes beyond alignment.
Pollard and the Titans are shifting from a 4-3 to a hybrid system that incorporates some 3-4 and 4-3 elements under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. After leading the Titans in tackles in his first season in Tennessee, Pollard re-signed via a multi-year agreement. He said the defense needs to build off what went well, increase aggressiveness and eliminate things that tripped up the Titans in 2013.
"We were German shepherds in the training phase, but for some reason we transformed to pit bulls, to Rottweilers," Pollard said. "Preferably, I want to be a lion, but there's no lions over here, but I've got the heart."
The Titans are in the second of a three-week phase of the offseason that has 10 scheduled organized team activity practices leading up to a mandatory minicamp that is scheduled for June 17-19.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was pleased with the intensity level he saw on the field Monday in a practice that was open to the media, and players said they see an intense focus and purpose, particularly for this point of the calendar. Players will break after the minicamp until training camp opens in late July.
Jurrell Casey, who led Tennessee with 10.5 sacks in 2013, said tough competition will make each player better.
"We've got so many new faces, so many talented guys who are out here competing and battling," Casey said. "It's going to be a tough training camp. Everybody is going to be out here clawing and scratching to get to the top and it's going to be up to guys on the first team to hold their spots and guys on the back end to take a spot."
Pollard has a lion's share of sacks and interceptions in mind for the Titans in 2014. He said he wants Tennessee to climb to the top five in the league in both categories. The Titans had 36 sacks (tied for 21st in the NFL) and 13 interceptions (tied for 22nd) a year ago.
Horton helped Cleveland defenders rank 16th in sacks with 40 and tie for 20th with 14 interceptions, and the Browns were ninth with 332.4 yards allowed per game in 2013. Carolina ranked first in the NFL with 60 sacks, and Super Bowl champ Seattle led the league with 28 interceptions. Buffalo, with 57 sacks and 23 interceptions, ranked second in both categories.
Pollard said combining the lessons learned from last season with the new system should help the Titans' defense make a bigger impact and more "game-changing plays."
"We know where we don't want to go. We know what we don't want to do," Pollard said. "We've got some pieces of the puzzle that have been to where we want to go, so now it's time for us to put that together in a new defense where it's going to allow us to make plays, it's going to put the players in position to make game-changing plays for us. We didn't do a lot of that last year.
"We had some great plays, but you look at some games, and we didn't step on the throat when we were supposed to," Pollard continued. "We didn't finish it off when we were supposed to, we didn't get off the field when we were supposed to, so if you look at Coach Horton and the mentality that they're instilling in players like us, it's going to be a fun year."