Titans Position Analysis: MLB

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Next up in our series of Titans’ position analyses is MLB.
Due to injuries and steroids accusations, Ryan Fowler’s hold on the starting MLB could be in jeopardy. Talented and athletic Stephen Tulloch, who showed some playmaking ability while Fowler was injured last season, is waiting in the wings.
Let’s take a look at the battle for the coveted man in the middle spot on the Titans’ defense.

Coming off of shoulder surgery, Fowler missed the last few games of the regular season last year, including the playoff loss to the Chargers. To make matters worse, Fowler may be facing an NFL-mandated suspension as a result of the accusations of dead/convicted steroids dealer David Jacobs.
Tulloch is an athletic guy who performed adequately when his opportunity for playing time arose. Stephen is a defender who flies to the football, and his presence in the lineup adds the dimension of speed to the Titan defense.
Behind Fowler and Tulloch is former undrafted free agent Colin Allred. After spending the first thirteen games of 2007 on the Titans’ practice squad, Allred was activated at the end of last year as a result of Fowler’s injury.
Barring a re-emergence of the injury bug, I expect nothing more than special teams’ contributions from Colin in 2008.
The Fowler/Tulloch battle should be one of the more interesting things to watch when training camp begins tomorrow. Fowler’s size is what you expect from a traditional middle linebacker but Tulloch’s speed could be an intriguing fit on the Titans’ defense.
With Fowler’s impending suspension, Tulloch will likely get the opportunity to start at least a few games for the Titans. I could easily envision a scenario where Tulloch takes the starting MLB spot and runs with it.
So audience, what do you think? Should the Titans go with Fowler’s size or Tulloch’s speed at MLB?

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7 Responses to “Titans Position Analysis: MLB”

  1. Andrew Strickert Says:

    Hey Garland, how’re you doing?
    It’s a huge adjustment and teams that want to change their base defense from 4-3 to 3-4, or vice versa, have to be willing to commit both time (more than one year) and money (free agency) to get the players needed. Parcells was able to do it in Dallas but he had the luxury of two first-round draft picks to get two of the guys he needed. When I mentioned commitment, it includes using your draft for defensive players, at the expense of the offense.
    There are four positions which call for drastically different body types and skill sets – the two DEs and two OLBs. In a 4-3, the DEs are typically about 270 pounds and the OLBs are around 235-240. In contrast, 3-4 DEs are 300 pounds or more and OLBs are 265-270 pounds. Also, a 3-4 NT should be a huge space eater like Jamal Williams.
    Look at the Chargers, Cowboys and Patriots personnel and you’ll see DEs Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Marcus Spears and Igor Olshansky, for example, at 300+ lbs., and OLBs Shawne Merriman, Mike Vrabel, Adalius Thomas and DeMarcus Ware at 265-270. Those players are 35-40 pounds heavier than the Titans players at those positions. The OLBs must be able to get on the LOS and rush the passer against OTs as well as get back in coverage. The DEs rush the passer from the inside instead of taking their typical outside rush, which isn’t the strength of guys like KVB or Kearse, let alone smaller DEs like Ford.
    The Titans have given an occasional 3-4 look against the Colts before and they do have the personnel to give a 3-4 look on occasion, but only on occasion. It couldn’t be used too often. For a 3-4 look, their optimal personnel group would probably be:
    NT Haynesworth
    DEs T. Brown and J. Jones
    OLBs Kearse and KVB
    MLBs Tulloch and Fowler
    Note that Bulluck and Thornton don’t really fit into this package and also that KVB would be a liability in pass coverage – he’d have to be strictly a rusher. The Freak was an OLB in college so he could be decent in coverage.

  2. JimOKC Says:

    Bah no 3-4!
    I like both Tulloch and Fowler. I don’t really care which gets the starters nod. I think the depth at the position is solid.
    Now the thing that I don’t get is… How does Fowler get to confront his accuser? Has he ever tested positive for a banned substance let alone steriods? I think this is muchado about nothing.
    Jim

  3. Andrew Strickert Says:

    I like Tulloch’s quickness and athleticism. LB coach Dave McGinnis must too, because he’s been working Tulloch at all three LB positions in OTAs and minicamps. Tulloch played all three in college, although most of his time was on the outside. If he doesn’t win the starting job at MLB, I can see him as the first guy in line to replace any of the starting LBs – Bulluck, Thornton or Fowler.
    One other thing I like about Tulloch at MLB is that he can allow the Titans to play some Tampa-2 every now and then besides just cover-2 when playing zone. (Just in case Schwartz wants to show another look on occasion.)
    Fowler and Tulloch are certainly two different types of LB.
    I have my doubts about a possible Fowler suspension. It seems entirely possible that he got that letter from the NFL on the basis of no more than an unsubstantiated allegation from a convicted felon who is now deceased. However that situation pans out, I hope it is resolved soon.

  4. Garland Says:

    When I was playing Madden today, I was in a 3-4 defense and got to thinking about how we have two solid MLBs. With that being the case, has or might Schwartz use a 3-4 look to get them both on the field, especially if we have issues at DT? How difficult is it for the players to switch between a 4-3 and a 3-4?

  5. Garland Says:

    That’s what I get for thinking Madden is realistic…
    Thanks for the detailed answer, Andrew. I know it’s a big deal to fully switch over, so I didn’t have that in mind. I was just thinking about an occasional wrinkle and wondered if the strength at middle linebacker would make that realistic. But if you have to trade Bulluck and Thornton for Jones and Tulluch, that doesn’t sound like something you would want to do very often.
    I am planning to be at both practices on Tuesday. Any of you guys going to be there, too?

  6. Drexel Perry Says:

    I’m going to try to make it to a practice or two, just not sure what day I’ll be coming down.
    As for the possibility of the Titans utilizing the 3-4, I agree with Andrew’s analysis: the Titans don’t really have the players to run that type of scheme all the time.
    I agree with the rest of you that the Titans have good depth at the MLB spot, so whether it’s Fowler or Tulloch, they should be in good shape.
    Thanks for the comments, guys.

  7. kevin.b Says:

    3- 4 is a in vouge fad with the NFL , a real tuff defense wil run the 4-3 ( stop the run !! )………..

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