Titans Players React to Coaching Change on Special Teams

hoffman600-100316.jpg


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans made a change on the coaching staff on Monday morning, and it's a move that got the attention of the team's players.

Coach Mike Mularkey relieved Bobby April of his duties as special teams coordinator for the team. Special teams assistant Steve Hoffman will take over April's duties.

"Hoff is a guy we respect,'' said tight end Phillip Supernaw, a key member of the team's special teams unit. "It is kind of a thing like the roster, it's the 'next man up' type of thing. It is no one individual's fault, it is all of our faults collectively, I guess. We just have to get better as a unit."

Titans return man Marc Mariani agreed the team needs to perform better as a whole on special teams.

"We all really like Hoff, we have a lot of respect for him,'' Mariani said of Hoffman. "We have a challenge ahead as a unit, and he is going to spearhead our attempt to get better and it is an area we need to improve on Sundays.

"We know that we have to get better. Every single player in the room needs to take that on and be accountable in his role and look to see what he can do to improve and that includes myself and everyone else. Our challenge is to continue to improve and get better.'

The Titans allowed a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown in Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Texans. The Titans were also flagged for having too many men on the field during a punt return situation, and the improved field position resulted in the Texans kicking a field goal – and making it – instead.

The Titans are ranked 31st in the NFL in kick coverage, and 27th in average punt return yardage allowed.

The Titans are ranked 11 in average kick return (22.3 yards) and 18th in average punt return (8.6).

Hoffman is in his 27th season as an NFL coach, and his fourth with the Titans.

Hoffman was the Raiders' special-teams coordinator in 2012 and the Chiefs' special-teams coordinator from 2009-11.

"I have been blessed to have six years now with coach Hoffman,'' said Titans kicker Ryan Succop, who is 5-of-6 on field goals this season. "He is a great teacher, and that is really what he is at heart – a teacher. Guys are ready to play for him. Really, guys are looking forward to getting better and helping the team win."

Titans punter Brett Kern, who is averaging 49.5 yards per punt, said he's confident in Hoffman. Kern also couldn't help but wonder of April would've lost his job if he'd hit a better punt on the one Texans return man Will Fuller took back for a touchdown.

"We are going to be behind coach Hoff and some of the things he is going to want to do as a unit," Kern said. "I hit a bad ball (on that punt) and put our guys in a tough spot. I pride myself in being consistent, and not hitting balls like that.

"I'll take 100 percent of the blame (for the return). I felt like our defense was playing well, and I can't do that."

The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Week 4 action at NRG Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)