Titans Use Group Effort to Replace All-Pro Tackle

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. --** The Titans have heard all the talk that their ability to sack quarterbacks apparently went to Washington with Albert Haynesworth and his $100 million contract. To the bunch of misfits and discards on Tennessee's defensive line, it's just more motivation.

"We are going to miss Albert, but at the same time we have to worry about what we do collectively," defensive tackle Tony Brown said Tuesday.

"Other guys are going to step in, and we're going to keep rolling."

Oh, Haynesworth played a key role in the Titans' defense the past two years and was the guy no one wanted off the field last season. The only sign that he ever played here is left to the record books and the small photo taped inside his old locker, which Brown moved into this offseason.

The Titans planned ahead for the possibility of losing Haynesworth in free agency by drafting tackle Jason Jones in the second round last year. After Haynesworth signed his big deal, Tennessee signed Jovan Haye in March and drafted Sen'Derrick Marks in the second round last month.

They also return 10 starters from a defense that knocked the quarterback down more any other in the NFL and a line that ranked second in sacks in the league with 39½ of the Titans' 44 sacks.

"That doesn't seem to be good enough for some people," defensive line coach Jim Washburn said.

Washburn remembers when critics said the Titans' pass rush would suffer when ends Travis LaBoy and Antwan Odom left as free agents a year ago. He points out the Titans had three fewer sacks from their ends in a season where Kyle Vanden Bosch had 4½ in a year hampered by groin injuries.

Vanden Bosch, who had surgery last December to repair his groin and returned for their playoff loss, is healthy now. After spending Tuesday's minicamp session exclusively on individual drills with his lineman, Washburn said he likes the collection he has now.

"A lot of guys we've got aren't former first-rounders or whatever, this or that. Most of them had their school of hard knocks. Most of them have been cut, three of them sat out football for a year. But that's sort of what we like. They fit what we do regardless of being good for someone else," Washburn said.

That includes Brown, who was sitting in a church hoping to get picked up when called by the Titans in 2006 after Haynesworth was suspended for five games by the NFL. End Dave Ball was living with his parents in California and out of the NFL in 2007 before the Titans called.

Ball had 4½ sacks in 2008, and Brown has become a starter who refuses to become too comfortable.

"I'm still not where I want to be, and coaches probably agree with that. I'm still hungry. I look at it as they still got the eyeball on me like nobody wants me, so I still play like that," Brown said.

There's also Haye, who was a free agent after injuries limited him in Tampa Bay last year. But he had six sacks in 2007, and Washburn was ecstatic to get him signed to a four-year deal after missing out on a chance to claim Haye off waivers earlier in his career.

"He's perfect for us," Washburn said. "He's got a chip on his shoulder."

Jones is in line to replace Haynesworth as a starter. He had 3½ starting against Pittsburgh last December for Haynesworth, finishing with five. He has been busy adding on more muscle in his legs and upper body going into his second season.

The Titans depend on a rotation that keeps their linemen fresh for the fourth quarter. Kevin Vickerson adds depth at tackle while Vanden Bosch and Jevon Kearse lead a group of ends that include Jacob Ford and William Hayes, a fourth-round pick in 2008.

"We played a lot of games and won a lot of games without Albert, and we didn't change anything then," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We are just going to continue that. We will have a good solid rotation and depth, and we will continue to put pressure on the quarterback and stop the run.

NOTES: DE Jevon Kearse said Tuesday the arthroscopic surgery he had in March was on the same left knee he tore several ligaments in while playing with Philadelphia in 2006. He said the surgery cleaned up some loose pieces in the knee that he played through last season. He did not give a timetable for when he will return to the field but said it will be sooner rather than later...LB Keith Bulluck, who was excused from last week's minicamps, missed Tuesday's session. Coach Jeff Fisher said Bulluck, whose contract runs out after this season, has some issues he's handling. Fisher said he will talk to Bulluck in the next couple days and was not concerned.

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