Tennessee Titans' Decimated Defense Gives Slim Hope Of Turning The Tide

Bryan HollisterAnalyst IOctober 17, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 27:  Nick Harper #20 of the Tennessee Titans walks off the field during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at  LP Field on October 27, 2008 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)


0-5. That's a zero and a five. Cero y Cinco.

No matter how you say it, the Tennessee Titans are on the worst slide their franchise has seen in recent memory. Going back to the end of the 2008 season, Tennessee has lost seven straight, and things don't look to get any better this week against the New England Patriots.

Not helping matters are the mounting injuries on the defensive side of the ball, a defense that is little more than a shell of last year's dominant unit.

In five games this year the Titans have given up 1,900 yards of offense, over 1,500 of it through the air. Tennessee was three weeks further into the season last year before they allowed that mark to be eclipsed, and they didn't give up a 300-yard passer—one of only two on the year—until Week Nine.

This year, the only quarterback not to go over 300 yards has been rookie Mark Sanchez

We won't even begin to talk about points.

Tom Brady may not be back to full speed yet, but he has got to be chomping at the bit knowing what he will be facing in the upcoming contest.

The litany of injuries to the Titans defense is chilling; nine players are dinged up, with five of them starters. 

Starting cornerback Nick Harper, out with a broken arm.

Backup safety Vincent Fuller, doubtful with a bad forearm.

Starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan, questionable with a bad hamstring.

Starting defensive end Jevon Kearse, questionable with an injured foot.

Backup linebacker Colin Alred, questionable with a bum shoulder.

Starting safety Michael Griffin, questionable with a bad neck.

Starting defensive tackle Jason Jones, questionable with a bad shoulder.

Backup linebacker Stanford Keglar, questionable with a sore hamstring.

Only backup defensive end Jacob Ford and starting linebacker Stephen Tulloch, with  ankle and knee injuries respectively, are listed as probable, but the fact of the matter is they still are listed with the injuries.

Any more injuries to the linebacker corps and someone gets activated from the practice squad.

As it stands, Tom Brady and the Patriots will face two rookie cornerbacks, Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty, and may have safety Kevin Kaesviharn at free safety.

While Kaesviharn isn't a rookie, his resume isn't exactly rife with highlight reel moments and hall of fame numbers.

The only statistic that the Titans have been able to maintain from last year is their rush defense; they are currently ranked third in the league. However, this is small consolation facing a team that relies on the air game; the Titans are taking the league's 31st-ranked pass defense into Foxboro to face the league's sixth-ranked passing attack.

the Titans' only true hope of getting off the ball, so to speak, is to put up big numbers offensively. They are ranked in the top ten in rushing, and while their 208 yards per game only ranks them 21st in passing, it matches them up well with New England's pass defense.

But not so fast.

With the Titans' postseason hopes realistically shot, there may be changes in their offensive makeup. While head coach Jeff Fisher has already stated that Young will be Kerry Collin's backup this week, he has alluded to the fact that starting Young is not out of the question; if Collins struggles, don't be surprised to see Young under center in the second half or sooner.

The Titans have shown they are capable of putting points on the board; they have also shown they are capable of holding teams to low numbers. They have also demonstrated a propensity for colossal blunders, either getting burned deep on defense or coughing up the football on offense.

Make a blunder against Tom Brady, and he will make you pay. 

However, Brady has displayed a penchant for hesitation this year, understandable considering the injury he is recovering from. If the Titans can muster enough gumption to pressure him, they might stand a chance.

If not, then they go into the bye week at 0-6, with questions as to how they will proceed with the rest of their season.

For Vince Young fans, a loss this Sunday will be the clarion call for Collins' departure and Youngs reascension to the throne. While it is doubtful that a win will quiet them much, it will signal that Kerry Collins still has a grasp of things under center.

Either way, Collins or Young under center is not the question that realistically needs to be asked. What needs to be asked is just what the Titans intend to do to get their suffocating defense back. Defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil has had more than enough time to figure out what is wrong; now he needs to demonstrate he knows what to do to fix it.

Another poorly contested game on defense, and calls for his head are sure to begin echoing in Nashville.