LeBeau speaking up again now he's running Titans defense
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans are back to just one man running their defense, and Dick LeBeau is ready to speak up once again.
LeBeau worked as Tennessee's assistant head coach in charge of the defense last season, deferring to coordinator Ray Horton who called the plays. Horton left to be defensive coordinator in Cleveland after the Titans name Mike Mularkey head coach hours after Horton interviewed for the same job. Mularkey kept LeBeau as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback didn't speak up much last season, believing a defense needs to hear one voice. LeBeau said Thursday he is excited to be able to talk much more.
''I'm very used to doing all the talking, and I didn't want to do that to Ray, so I didn't,'' LeBeau said. ''I don't have any problem talking all the time now, and I'm much more comfortable in that environment.''
With LeBeau working with Horton, the Titans took a big leap in several areas defensively. Tennessee went from 27th in total yards allowed to 12th and from 31st against the run to 18th. The Titans even led the NFL allowing the fewest pass attempts and went from 15th against the pass to seventh.
But the Titans ranked 27th in points allowed, giving up an average of 26.4 points per game.
Asked about what philosophical changes LeBeau might make, the coach who turns 79 in September noted he drafted Horton out of college with Horton working for him three different times.
''Coach Horton's defense was Dick LeBeau's defense, I think so I guess that's bragging ...,'' LeBeau said. ''That's one of the big reasons I was hoping I got to stay here was the players so they'd have continuity in what we're doing.''
The Titans made sure to give LeBeau plenty of depth through free agency and the draft. New general manager Jon Robinson signed veteran safety Rashad Johnson from the Cardinals, cornerbacks Brice McCain and Antwon Blake and brought back defensive tackle Al Woods with a new deal. They also used six of 10 draft picks on defense, including three of the first 64.
Linebacker Kevin Dodd, the No. 33 pick overall at the beginning of the second round, had surgery on his right foot Thursday and won't be back until training camp. But LeBeau said the Titans' depth is appreciably better, a sentiment shared by several of the veterans.
LeBeau also has some veterans back from injuries, a group led by veteran cornerback Jason McCourty who was limited to four games by an injured groin and linebacker Derrick Morgan whose season was ended early by an injured shoulder.
Linebacker Brian Orakpo also is excited to have LeBeau running the defense, expecting much more blitzing.
''Everybody's a bit more involved with coming after the quarterback,'' Orakpo said. ''I think we're really going to get after it. Horton did a great job with getting us over the hump. Now we've got to get better and be a No. 1 unit like we feel like we're capable of.''
The Titans tied for 12th with 39 sacks in 2015, a number that certainly sounds likely to grow if LeBeau has anything to say about that.
And the man considered the designer of the zone blitz does.
''I like to err on the side of pressure, so we're going to be coming there's no question about that,'' LeBeau said. ''But we were pretty much a pressure team last year also. You may not notice too many differences, but there's quite a few in there.''
AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL