Defense Preparing for Denver's Prolific Passing Attack

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jason Babin was Tony Brown. Brown was Babin. Dave Ball was Sen'Derrick Marks, and Marks was Ball. Derrick Morgan was Jason Jones and vice-versa. Jovan Haye was William Hayes, who was Jason McCourty, who was out with a fractured forearm that was surgically repaired Tuesday.   

It sounds a little like the Abbott and Costello baseball bit, but this is football. The Titans defensive linemen did the jersey switcheroo for laughs at practice Friday.

"We switched it up a little bit to keep people guessing, in case we had some scouts on the lake," Babin said, joking about the small body of water beside the Titans' practice fields at Baptist Sports Park.

Some in the media have offered Tennessee's defense as a "No Name Defense" because of the absence of a household name, but opposing quarterbacks have had to worry about every name and position on the Tennessee defense.

The Titans have recorded 10 sacks in three games, which is tied for fourth in the NFL. Babin, a seven-year pro and offseason signee, has notched two of those sacks, and linebacker Will Witherspoon, a nine-year NFL veteran and fellow offseason signee, has three sacks.

"The d-line is playing great," Babin said. "We're really starting to click like we've been playing here a long time. I'm extremely excited about that."

The ability of linemen and linebackers to sack and pressure Denver's Kyle Orton, who has thrown for 1,078 yards in three games this season, will be a key when the Titans host the Broncos at noon Sunday at LP Field.

Babin said Denver's offensive line shifts with Orton to buy the quarterback more time.

"The way their offensive line and scheme works, he's a pocket passer, but they'll move the whole pocket," Babin said. "The whole line will pick up and run one way. The pocket will really move. If you look at where the ball starts sometimes on one hash, it goes to the opposite hash 10 yards deep. It's one of those games where you've just got to keep playing the whole play cause he's going to hold the ball three seconds, four-and-a-half seconds, so you've got to test yourself."

With a sack in his first three games as a Titan, Witherspoon became the first Titans linebacker to record a sack in three consecutive games since Keith Bulluck in 2004. Titans coach Jeff Fisher said this week that Witherspoon has been a successful blitzer throughout his career.

"I think it has been a good start, but there are still some things that I can get better at and improve," Witherspoon said. "It's something that I've always looked at. You look at yourself week to week and say, 'What can I do better, what did I do okay and how can I get better all around?' "

Witherspoon said Orton has done a "great job of commanding" the Broncos and moving the ball. He said he is not changing his approach but has prepared for Denver's movement of the pocket.

"They do create some additional time and routes doing that," Witherspoon said. "It makes it a little more of a challenge. It's a lot of focus you have to have on your mind, a lot of focus with your eyes to understand what's happening there. There may be some opportunities for us, there may not be. You've got to play the game and let it unfold."

Fisher on Fridays

For years and years, Fisher has established a habit of throwing passes to linebackers during an interception drill each Friday.

"Something I've done every Friday for years," Fisher said. "I'm sure Keith Bulluck misses it."

How is the arm holding out?

"It takes me to the bye week to feel good," Fisher said.

Witherspoon said Fisher has a "pretty solid arm," and the linebackers enjoy that interaction with their head coach. Tennessee is the fourth NFL team for Witherspoon, who said that a head coach throwing during a drill is not a league norm.   

"I can't say a lot of places have that happening," Witherspoon said. "It changes up our week. It gives you a whole different focus at the end of the week. You can sit there and say, 'Alright, you have to catch every ball,' make sure that you're making those tough catches that he's throwing.

"He's not just lobbing it to you," Witherspoon continued. "He's gunning it in there, putting it tight, putting it up high, putting it down low. You've got to be prepared to make those plays."

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