Duo's return should stabilize, strengthen Titans defensive line

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 6:18pm

The Baltimore Ravens offensive line won’t have to look hard to find Shaun Smith on Sunday.

At 6-foot-2, 325 pounds, the free agent defensive tackle is the biggest member of the Tennessee defense and an anchor along the line of scrimmage. He also is someone Baltimore’s blockers know well given that for the majority of his seven-year career, he has played with either Cincinnati or Cleveland.

“When I played at Cincinnati and when I played at Cleveland, we played them twice a year,” Smith said. “I know what type of team they are. They talk a lot of trash and they back it up for the most part — they try to come in there and bully you and be physical.”

When it comes to who is by Smith’s side, though, the Ravens will not see the same players in the same spot as when they reviewed film of Tennessee’s season-opening loss last Sunday at Jacksonville.

Defensive ends Jason Jones and Derrick Morgan practiced Wednesday and — barring any setbacks — looked as if they would be ready to go for the 2011 home opener Sunday (1 p.m., LP Field).

Both missed the game against the Jaguars with knee injuries that occurred during the preseason. That left just two natural defensive ends, Dave Ball and William Hayes, and smaller defensive tackles to handle the work on the outside of the line.

“There were a lot of people playing out of place,” Jones said. “Getting me and Derrick back, everybody can work on their position, learn that position and get ready for the game.”

One of the primary goals of the offseason was for the Titans to get bigger along the defensive front so that they were better equipped to stop the run. To that end, Smith was signed, Jones was moved from defensive tackle to defensive end and three defensive tackles were drafted.

Jones and Morgan both outweigh Ball and Hayes — in the case of Ball (the defense’s second-leading tackler in the opener) by more than 20 pounds.

Without those two, the Titans surrendered 163 rushing yards — more than all but four teams allowed during the opening weekend — against Jacksonville.

“I wanted to be out there to help my teammates make plays,” Jones said. “I’m a competitor and I want to go out there and compete. It was hard on the sidelines, just watching.

“Now I’m back full go and I’m ready to help my team out on Sunday.”

Morgan and Jones both were listed on the league’s official injury report but took part in every aspect of the day’s workout. Also on the report was Hayes (shoulder), who participated but on a limited basis.

“I think if they are at full speed … they should be available to play,” coach Mike Munchak said. “… They practiced. They weren’t limited in any way, which is a positive thing and, of course, you want two of your top guys back.

“We went into [the Jacksonville] game without two defensive linemen that are big-time players for us. It will be real good to get them back.”

Based on the Ravens’ performance in Week 1 (a 35-7 victory, seven forced turnovers against Pittsburgh), the Titans will want to be at their best — if possible — at every position.

“They were bullies last week against Pittsburgh, but it’s going to be a different game this time against us,” Smith said. “… I’m not trying to talk trash or anything like that, but it is what it is.

“A team like that, you have to out-physical them.”

Thus, a full complement of big guys ought to be useful.

Official injury report: Tennessee — safety Chris Hope (shoulder) and wide receiver Damian Williams (hamstring) did not participate; Hayes (shoulder) had limited participation; Jones (knee), Morgan (knee) and running back Javon Ringer (back) had full participation. Baltimore — cornerback Chris Carr (thigh), wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle), guard Ben Grubbs (toe) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) did not participate.

1 Comment on this post:

By: MusicCity615 on 9/15/11 at 9:10

Go Titans!!