Titans welcome Perrish Cox's aggressive approach to defense
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Perrish Cox has a simple philosophy playing cornerback in the NFL: He has as much right to any ball in the air as anyone, and even teammates better beware.
''I'm just ball hungry,'' Cox said. ''I want every ball that comes my way. I even tell our DBs that if I'm coming and ... if you aren't going for it, I'm going to get it.''
That attitude is one reason why the Tennessee Titans signed Cox to a three-year, $15 million deal in March. They also valued the cornerback's experience and ball-hawking instincts after trying to go with youth opposite Jason McCourty last season.
Cox is part of a revamped Titans' secondary, which also includes safety Da'Norris Searcy, who was signed this offseason.
Tennessee tied for 21st in the NFL last season with 12 interceptions after losing cornerback Alterraun Verner to Tampa Bay. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who managed only one interception in his second NFL season, has replaced Verner as a starter.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Cox is coming off his best season as a pro after starting 14 of the 15 games he played with San Francisco last season. He not only had 59 tackles, but he intercepted five passes and recovered two fumbles. Searcy, who spent his first four seasons in Buffalo, intercepted three passes himself last season.
Cox, who also has played for Denver and Seattle, said he made sure he learned the defense as quickly as possible upon arriving in Tennessee. He said that allows him to play without thinking, working off what he sees wide receivers doing. He also preaches the need for more turnovers and how an early turnover can change the entire game.
''It's kind of one of my goals just to change the whole aspect of everything, but just get ball hungry,'' Cox said.
McCourty and veteran Titans safety Michael Griffin compare Cox to Verner with the cornerback's knack for being around the ball. Griffin said Cox looks at formations and the sticks to guide how he defends a play.
''There's a reason he's been in the league for so long, and there's a good thing he's here right now and able to help us do the things he's been doing,'' Griffin said.
McCourty likes the confidence that Cox plays with, something that can rub off on the Titans' younger cornerbacks like Wreh-Wilson, Coty Sensabaugh and undrafted rookie Cody Riggs. McCourty also likes how Cox talks trash while being a leader.
''He's an extreme athlete,'' McCourty said. ''When you see him out there, he may be all out of position, be able to speed, turn, get back and knock the ball down. You just watch him with five interceptions last year, he has a knack of being able to make plays. The more playmakers you have on the defense, I think the better we'll be.''
Cox currently is working opposite Sensabaugh, a fourth-round pick out of Clemson in 2012. McCourty has missed two weeks of training camp recovering from a sore groin muscle, while Wreh-Wilson has been out since suffering a high left ankle sprain Aug. 8. McCourty has been working to return, but the trainer will decide when the veteran with 11 career interceptions returns.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Thursday that they originally gave McCourty a day off with a sore groin that turned into a nagging injury. In the meantime, the coach said Sensabaugh has had a good training camp, while Cox has been good since he arrived.
''I'd like to get Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and certainly Jason McCourty back, and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later,'' Whisenhunt said. ''But it is giving these guys a chance to compete and some of these guys are really taking advantage of that.''
Notes: Rookie Jeremiah Poutasi got his chance at right tackle with the first-team Thursday as the Titans continued looking at different offensive linemen. ... C Brian Schwenke (right foot) returned to practice after missing two sessions, and rookie DL Angelo Blackson also returned.
AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker