Tennessee Titans camp: Defense gets better sparring partner

Training camp is now just a week away for the Tennessee Titans, and if recent history is any indication, then you should see the passing game take center stage…on both sides of the ball.

I say both sides of the ball because there has been a striking correlation between the strength of the Titans’ offense heading into training camp, and the regular season success of the defense.

In 2014 the Titans were devoid of talent on offense across the board. The quarterback play was shaky, the offensive line was in shambles, the running game was putrid, and the receivers were a mess.

And this was the unit the defense, which had more talent, sparred against daily to ready themselves for the regular season.

That season the Titans finished 22nd in passing offense and 26th in rushing offense. Coincidentally, the defense finished 15th against the pass and 31st against the run.

As a caveat, Tennessee was on the wrong end of several blowouts in that 2-14 season, thus, teams took the air out of the ball to run the clock in the second half of those contests.

In 2015 Marcus Mariota arrived, but only played in 12 games while having his share of rookie growing pains. The offensive line, run game, and receivers were still a mess heading into that year’s training camp.

The Titans finished that season with the 25th ranked passing and rushing offense. And coincidentally, the defense finished 7th against the pass and 25th against the run.

But just like the previous season, opponents rarely had to throw the ball in the second half as the Titans were on the losing end of 13 of their 16 regular season games.

Last season a new regime took over with an emphasis on dominating the line of scrimmage with a strong rushing attack. They overhauled the offensive line and running back position that offseason.

Armed with better talent and a new identity, Tennessee’s offense entered last year’s training camp looking to impose their will on their defensive sparring partners. The defense, of course, embraced the new challenge.

One of the most competitive drills in all of camp last year was the goal line drills, where the bigs up front went mano y mano on both sides of the ball.

The end result?

Tennessee finished the season with the league’s third best rushing attack. And not so coincidentally, the defense finished second against the run…with basically the same front seven from 2015.

The passing game, however, remained shaky heading into camp as the team’s resources were dedicated to fix the run game.

So it is no coincidence that Tennessee finished the season ranked 25th in passing offense, and 30th in passing defense.

This offseason the Titans addressed the passing game almost exclusively on both sides of the ball. Two receivers and a tight end were drafted in the first three rounds, while adding a proven veteran receiver in Eric Decker.

Tennessee also revamped their entire secondary, and will roll out two new starting cornerbacks and two new starting safeties this fall.

Much like the run game from a year ago, the influx of talent in the passing game should raise the bar for the newly retooled secondary….and the sparring sessions between the two should resonate in the regular season stat book.

I believe in the age-old saying that competition brings out the best in most, if not all of us. And it’s no different when preparing for the rigors of a 16 game regular season.

History has shown that the defense’s statistical success has mirrored the offense’s, and an improved passing attack should make for a better…more prepared passing defense when Oakland comes to town for the season opener on September 10.

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