On the heels of a disappointing season, the Tennessee Titans want to improve their defense heading into 2021.
The Titans’ defense was horrendous in 2020. The unit was historically bad on third downs and registered one of the NFL’s all-time worst sack totals for a playoff team.
Fixing that bad of a unit takes more than just adding a player or two—it requires a close look in the mirror and deep, fundamental changes.
That’s what the Titans intend on doing, general manager Jon Robinson said.
“That’s what were working through now is improving some of the calls, improving the execution of the calls, improving the personnel,” Robinson said during his first press conference of the offseason on Tuesday. “That’s kind of our goal this offseason.”
Asked to vouch for Shane Bowen, Jon Robinson said he’s “looking forward to the continuity.”
Added that when things go poorly on a defensive play, it’s more than just the call.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) February 16, 2021
What the Titans won’t be improving, though, is their coaching staff.
Shane Bowen, who called defensive plays for the Titans in 2020, will be the defensive coordinator in 2021 after head coach Mike Vrabel gave him a promotion.
Robinson, asked to defend his team’s decision to promote a coach coming off of a terrible season, emphasized that, when a defense fails, the blame doesn’t only fall on the shoulders of the play-caller.
“There’s a lot of things and factors that play into a play during the course of a football game,” Robinson said. “It’s never really one thing, it’s a myriad of things.
“When you send a call into a game, it’s about the execution of the call. Was it a bad call? Was it executed wrong? Were the players that were out there not good enough or not capable of executing it?”
While keeping Bowen around is still an objectively poor decision, even if it works out in hindsight, it doesn’t mean that the Titans are blind to the fact that their defense has some fundamental problems.
Based on what Robinson had to say on Tuesday, it seems that the Titans are committed to at least trying to fix those issues.
Players frequently complained throughout the 2020 season about deficiencies with communication, and fixing that should be priority No. 1.
The Titans also need to improve their defensive personnel, especially at pass rusher. Robinson seems committed to doing that as well.
“That’s a position that we’re definitely interested in,” he said. “We would love to have a guy who comes in and commands double teams and gets sacks.”
Say what you want about Bowen, there aren’t many defensive coordinators who could’ve had success with the crop of pass rushers the Titans had to rely on in 2020.
Dick LeBeau in his prime probably wouldn’t be terribly successful with the likes of Brooks Reed and Tuzar Skipper.
So, let’s recap: the Titans’ plan to fix the defense in 2021 is to address internal issues with their defensive scheme and sign better players.
On the surface, that sounds like a pretty good plan that should yield positive results.
Executing that plan and doing it well, however, will be the difficult part.
Cover image: Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today