The quarterback must go down and go down hard
With training camps opening, it's time to revisit Advanced Stat of the Week.
All this week, I've been looking for a key number to monitor in order to assess how each team in the AFC South is progressing.
The Titans' quarterback situation will obviously get all the headlines, and rightly so. How they handle the two-headed monster they've created will likely determine their fate in 2012. Still, that mix is so inscrutable, that I'll be paying attention to another area of the team.
I'll be looking at the defensive adjusted sack rate of the Titans all year long to see if they really have solved the question of how to get more pressure on the quarterback. Last year they ranked 31st in the metric.
Tom Gower of Total Titans has done some good work recently in investigating ways the Titans can apply more heat on the pocket. It's clear that the Titans' coaches are going to have to be creative.
The good news for Tennessee is that in 2011 they had one of the smallest gaps in pass defense performance with pressure as compared to without pressure. That was supported by the fact that their net yards per pass attempt was strong, despite a terrible rush.
Adjusted sack rate is a good measure because it's context- and opponent-sensitive. While the Titans obviously were happy with the performance of their secondary last year, they also won't have many of the same advantages they did in 2011.
Just the fact that Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky are off their schedule means they'll have to step up their pass defense against better competition. They also lost Cortland Finnegan to free agency. They won't be able to rely on the same formula that worked last season.
The Titans face a murderer's row of quarterbacks in the first six weeks. Most lists of the best passers in the NFL would have Tom Brady, Phil Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub and Matt Stafford in the top 10. Given that they will also face Aaron Rodgers later in the year, there's no question the secondary will be tested in 2012.
The Titans defense is still a work in progress, and they seem intent on finding creative solutions to their biggest weakness in 2011.
Regardless of what happens with the offense, the quarterbacks, and the Kenny Britt drama, if the Titans can manufacture pressure, they'll be in a lot of games and contend for an AFC South title. If they can't make the Bradys and Rodgers of the world uncomfortable, it could be a lost season in Nashville.