NASHVILLE, Tenn. — New Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Shane Bowen made at least one thing abundantly clear during his first press conference since his promotion, which took place on Wednesday: the Titans want their defensive players and coaches to communicate better.

“That’s a daily thing with any defense or any offense—making sure all 11 guys are on the same page,” Bowen said. “It’s been a point of emphasis for us this offseason.”

Achieving that is going to be difficult for Bowen.

While he does have some factors working in his favor, such as an increase in privileges attached to his promotion to defensive coordinator, he’s got a big hill to climb to pull the Titans’ defense out of the depths of incompetency.

A TOUGH HILL TO CLIMB

The Titans’ defense was far from being on the same page in 2020, when players frequently lamented a deficiency of communication. It didn’t take those admissions from players to see that the defense had serious problems, though.

Anyone who watched the Titans play defense in 2020 saw a unit that was constantly disheveled and incohesive. As a result, the unit produced one of the worst seasons in NFL history in terms of third-down stops. It was also really bad at getting after the quarterback.

An underwhelming roster is partially to blame for those issues, but poor coaching was the engine that drove most of the problems.

Ensuring that the same problems don’t re-emerge in 2021 will require Bowen, who called plays as outside linebackers coach in 2020, and the Titans’ other defensive coaches to run a completely different operation, something they already seem to be in the process of doing.

“We’re kind of starting from square one all over again trying to rebuild this thing with the new guys we’ve got,” Bowen said.

It’s good that the Titans’ defensive coaches seem to finally be looking in the mirror and making much-needed improvements to their processes. However, it’s going to be a really big challenge for them to be successful in that endeavor.

Perhaps having new defensive assistant Jim Schwartz in the building will help matters. Bowen said he’s glad to have the Super Bowl champion defensive coordinator as a resource.

Nonetheless, the Titans are in a position where they’re hoping a coaching staff that failed the team just one season ago can completely transform itself based on individual self-improvement journeys.

And that coaching staff is still talking about needing to make rudimentary achievements, such as figuring out what various players on the roster do well and suiting the scheme to fit those strengths.

Bowen mentioned that idea at least three times during his presser on Wednesday, making it sound like the thought of doing that never occurred to the Titans in 2020.

“We’ve got to see what they do well, what they understand, what they can execute, what their skill sets are,” he said.

WORKING IN HIS FAVOR

It is important to note that Bowen does deserve at least some benefit of the doubt, here.

Not only is he in a position where the only way things can go for his defense is up, on the heels of the unit’s dismal 2020 season, but there are a few underlying factors that should help him improve his individual performance in 2021.

For starters, he finally has a defined role. Though Bowen called plays for the Titans’ defense in 2020, he was never named the coordinator.

To everyone outside the team’s building, it was constantly unclear as to what role he had in scheming and how big his input was.

Now, we know that it’s Bowen’s show to run.

“It’s definitely changed,” Bowen said of his role. “Just the position, the title, the stuff that comes with it—having control over the whole unit, my perspective on everything, making sure we are all on the same page, seeing things the same way. Ultimately, being the final voice.”

Leaving behind his former post as outside linebackers coach also means that Bowen gets to work with every position group during practice, which will certainly allow him to develop better relationships and get a better feel for the entire roster.

Bowen will also have a much-improved roster to work with. New additions like OLB Bud Dupree, CB Janoris Jenkins, CB Caleb Farley and DL Denico Autry figure to be vast upgrades over some of the players who started for the Titans in 2020.

At the end of the day, though, Bowen and everyone else with a hand in the Titans’ defense—players included—faces an uphill battle.

It’s a winnable one, but it will be difficult to do so.

Cover image: George Walker IV/The Tennessean


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