When you draft a quarterback with the second overall pick, your offense is going to get a lot of attention.
That’s especially the case when that quarterback is a former Heisman Trophy winner named Marcus Mariota, and your team is coming off of a 2-14 season.
The football world will have all eyes on the Titans’ offense this season with the addition of Mariota and other quality players like Harry Douglas and Dorial Green-Beckham around him.
But if the Titans are going to make significant strides this season, the defense will be just as important.
It’s no secret that everyone loves offense. High-scoring games will always attract more fans than low-scoring games. The Titans were involved in a lot of high-scoring games last season, but unfortunately, most of the scoring was done by the other team.
This defense simply wasn’t good, as it ranked near the bottom of the league in most major statistical categories. The Titans allowed 27.4 points per game (29th in the NFL), 373.0 yards per game (27th in the NFL), and 137.2 rushing yards per game (31st in the NFL).
Those numbers are not a recipe for success. A two-win season proved that.
So, no matter how much the offense progresses this season with Mariota under center, the defense has to make an even bigger leap.
That may be somewhat odd to say since the Titans have typically been more known for their defense than offense in recent years.
When this franchise was competing for AFC and division titles, it had one of the most feared defenses in the league. Former head coach Jeff Fisher was a defensive guy, so it made sense that the Titans were an elite defensive team for several years.
The good news is that the Titans now have one of the most feared leaders in NFL history on hand to try and help them return to that level.
Dick LeBeau spent the past 10 years as the defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and year in and year out, the Steelers were usually among the NFL’s best in overall defense. He was a huge factor in helping Pittsburgh capture two Super Bowl trophies during that time span, and is continually heralded as perhaps the greatest defensive mind that the league has ever seen.
That’s certainly a guy that you want on your side when you’re trying to spark a complete turnaround.
While LeBeau doesn’t have the title of defensive coordinator (that title still belongs to Ray Horton), he’ll still be running the defense. But how long will it take for LeBeau to work his magic?
Although the season hasn’t started, the easy answer to that question is that he already is. By being around a defensive mind like LeBeau every day in practice, there’s no doubt that the entire defensive unit is learning plenty.
But of course, applying it once the regular season starts is what will prove to be the most important part of this equation.
LeBeau is getting the opportunity to work with several new faces on the Titans defense, which includes former Washington Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo, cornerback Perrish Cox, and strong safety Da’Norris Searcy. All three players are expected to make an impact in this new and improved defense, which was in serious need of freshening up from a roster standpoint.
Titans regulars like free safety Michael Griffin and linebacker Derrick Morgan will also obviously be relied upon heavily this season. Griffin led the team in tackles in 2014, and Morgan should see a massive boost in production considering LeBeau’s wizardry with linebackers throughout his career.
You’ve heard the saying millions of times at this point. Defensive wins championships.
The Steelers’ last Super Bowl title came in 2008. Want to take a guess where LeBeau’s defense ranked that season?
At the very top of the NFL.
The Titans won 13 games during that same 2008 season. They also won 13 all the way back in 2000. Want to take a guess where Tennessee’s defense ranked during those seasons?
Towards the very top of the NFL.
Sure, the Steelers were the ones that were able to turn their defensive success under LeBeau into championships, but the theme is the exact same.
The Titans want to win championships. LeBeau has developed championship defenses for years.
That’s the definition of a perfect fit.