Every time he reviewed game film last season, Jerry Gray must have felt as if what he saw was in black and white.
It was old. Outdated. Out of step with the times.
It was not the scenes that played out before the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator. It was the scheme.
“We pretty much took the defense that the Titans ran two years ago, we cut out the fat and pretty much ran that,” Gray said Thursday. “… Looking at what we did last year, we’re going to add a lot.”
In its first season with Gray calling the signals, Tennessee’s defense finished eighth in the NFL in points per game allowed but was noticeably short in impact plays. It ranked among the bottom third in third down efficiency, first downs allowed, sacks and interception percentage.
It was a safe, generally effective, almost generic approach unlike what Gray did other places he has coached. It was nothing at all like what he wanted to do.
“Now we’re going to get the chance to watch some stuff that we want to do, some other things,” he said. “We’re adding some things I did in the past in Buffalo, some things I did in Washington.
“So we’re kind of tailoring this defense to the players we have not to what we had, which was [installed] under the gun last year.”
Unlike in 2011, when teams lost most of their traditional offseason training time to the lockout, Gray and his staff have plenty of time this spring and summer to add or change the defense in anyway they like.
The alterations began almost immediately when secondary coach Marcus Robertson and assistant secondary coach Curtis Fuller were fired. Brett Maxie and Steve Brown were hired as their replacements.
“I think each coach has their own way of teaching certain things, different technique things and just the way the room is conducted is a little bit different,” veteran cornerback Jason McCourty said. “Like coach Gray said, though, sometimes change can be good.
“There’s always going to be the pain of change, [but] right now guys are getting used to it, and getting familiar with what coach Brown and coach Maxie bring to the table. So far guys are adjusting to it and welcoming it.”
Currently, technique is about the only thing they can teach.
Under the collective bargaining agreement forged through the lockout, a new offseason calendar was created. Currently the Titans are in Phase II of the offseason conditioning program, during which time players can work individually or as a group with their respective coaches.
“Right now it’s just a lot of guys working on perfecting their craft,” second-year linebacker Akeem Ayers said. “… You’re just working on yourself right now. We’ll get into much more of [the scheme] later in the offseason.”
And presumably, Gray will get into more of a comfort zone when he’s making the calls this fall.
“I know last year throughout the season [there were] certain things he said we couldn’t run throughout the season because we had to get the offseason to really teach it so that we master it before we go out there on Sundays and get a chance to run,” McCourty said. “I’m excited just to see the different nuances he’s going to add to the defense.”