With an influx of talent like veterans Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jevon Kearse and Tony Brown mixed with young players on the rise such as Jacob Ford, William Hayes and Jason Jones, legendary defensive line coach Jim Washburn has plenty of talented options at his disposal.
The unit has gotten off to a strong start in training camp, already catching the attention of several players on the team.
"Whenever you have a defensive line get off the way they do, it's unbelievable," linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. "You just go back there and play football. They're getting off, creating havoc and making it easier for the linebackers."
The defensive line got to the quarterback early and often during Monday's practice, making several what would be sacks in a real game situation. Although quarterbacks are not allowed to be hit during practice, there was obvious excitement on the defensive side of the ball whenever one of their own charged deep into the backfield.
Head coach Jeff Fisher has taken note, as most of the Titans are confident that their ability to pressure the quarterback should not skip a beat in 2009.
"They do a good job of rushing the passer," Fisher said. "Hopefully we can carry on the successful pass rush pressure that we had last year."
After the loss of Haynesworth, second year pro Jason Jones has stepped into a starting defensive tackle position and has looked very natural playing alongside veteran Tony Brown. On Monday, Brown caused a fumble in a running drill early in practice, Jones had an athletic pass knockdown during the 11 on 11 session and the rest of the defensive line seemed to consistently be attacking the quarterback.
"We want to do to do that every day, especially in passing situations," Jones said. "That's something Coach Washburn harps on. He wants sacks. Seeing us out there getting after the quarterback is a good sign for us for the season."
Many believe that the Titans will have to blitz more this season because of Haynesworth's departure, considering that the former Titan typically drew double teams from opposing offenses. During today's blitz period, defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil dialed up the blitz from all angles.
The defensive linemen, however, don't think there will be a major need to blitz. Jones believes the front four will be able to generate just as much pressure as last season, while Kearse said that Washburn drills into his players' minds that they are pass rushers first, with their main objective being to get to the quarterback.
"We've got some pretty good cover corners, linebackers and safeties back there," Kearse said. "We know that sometimes we're going to need them to help us out and cover longer so we can get some coverage sacks."
BACK IN ACTION: After missing the first three training camp practices, kicker Rob Bironas was back kicking at full speed today. That wasn't the case for top draft pick Kenny Britt, who is still recovering from his hamstring injury. Other players nursing injuries include Jacob Ford (leg), wide receiver Mark Jones (leg), wide receiver Paul Williams (groin), safety Nick Schommer (leg) and linebacker Colin Allred (ankle).
ON-FIELD MEETING: Towards the end of practice, several players began to tire because of the intense heat and large number of reps. This led to a few off-sides penalties that caused Fisher to call an impromptu full team huddle.
"There's a lot of things that happen on the practice field that are very, very valuable learning experiences, and that was one of them," Fisher said.
Needless to say, the message to the team wasn't all roses, but it was an important one that got through to the players.
"The overall message was we need to get some work done," Kearse said.
REFS ON THE FIELD: The Titans and other teams around the league have days when referees come to practice and officiate some of the practice periods. With the preseason opener less than a week away, the referees' presence at Baptist Sports Park Monday served as valuable experience for both the players, and the referees.
"It works very well for both sides, we need their presence out there.," Fisher said. "We have a game in less than a week and they are going to help us in a lot of areas. It's their one opportunity to go out and refresh themselves and work before they do a preseason game."