The value of a defensive tackle


One thing I’ve learned about blogging is that you (by which I mean I) don’t ever end up writing all the posts you think about writing.  Sometimes the idea post doesn’t work well, sometimes you don’t want to take the trouble to write a good post about something, and sometimes you just don’t take the chance until it would be too late.  And, of the posts you don’t write, sometimes you’re glad you don’t write that post, and sometimes you wish you had.

An example of the latter is the NFL’s pension changes for assistant coaches.  This came out of the owner meetings a couple months ago, and I thought it deserved more coverage than it got.  I never got around to writing a real post about it, and I wish I had-this is something that ended up having real world effects, as Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd officially retired today.

An example of the former, though, is a post I almost wrote the day before the draft entitled “The Titans won’t draft a defensive tackle tomorrow.”  This ended up being an opportunity for me to look silly, as the Titans then DID take a defensive tackle the next day, grabbing Sen’Derrick Marks in the second round.  I’m glad I didn’t end up looking silly, but I’m still ending up looking silly by writing about how I would have looked silly if I wasn’t so lazy.  I’m not writing this post to make myself look silly, but because the Marks selection says something important about how the Titans value defensive tackles.

One of the hallmarks of the Floyd Reese era was the Titans’ lack of investment in defensive tackles.  The Titans’ most successful years of the Reese were 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2003.  Those years, the primary starting defensive tackles were undrafted free agent Josh Evans, 7th round pick Jason Fisk, 2nd round pick John Thornton, 6th round pick Robaire Smith (2003), 1st round pick Albert Haynesworth, and 1st round pick Henry Ford.

Ignoring Ford, who was drafted as a defensive end, in the 14 years from 1994-2007, the Titans drafted a grand total of two (2) defensive tackles in the first two rounds: Haynesworth in the first round in 2002 and Thornton in the second round in 1999.

There’s a fairly straightforward reason for the Titans’ lack of expenditure on defensive tackles in the past-GM Floyd Reese didn’t think defensive tackles were worth that much, unless you could get a particularly dominant one like Haynesworth.

Yet, in the past two years, they’ve spent as many top 2 picks on defensive tackles as they did in the entire Reese era, selecting Marks after taking Jason Jones
in the second round last year.  Further, the Titans took Marks despite
having four credible defensive tackles already on their roster in
Jones, Tony Brown, Jovan Haye, and Kevin Vickerson, as I noted before the draft
In fact, Haye’s signing itself was a change-the Titans’
first big money free agent defensive tackle acquired in the salary cap

So, what does this mean going forward?  Aside from noting the change, I’m not really sure what to say.  Obviously, with Reese gone, there’s been a change in how much the Titans are willing to invest to acquire a better defensive tackle.  Whether that’s Fisher or Reinfeldt making the decision I have no way of knowing, and this isn’t something I recall seeing discussed directly in an interview.  One man whose opinion I’d be really interested in on this issue is defensive line coach Jim Washburn.

Ultimately, though, without the ability to get answers from Fisher, from Reinfeldt, or from Washburn, all I can do is note the change and wonder-was Reese right?  Was Reese right then and wrong now?  Does this reflect a change in basic team philosophy?  By spending resources on defensive tackles, what positions won’t have as many resources devoted to them?  Or, am I wrong that there’s been a change in philosophy?


One Response to “The value of a defensive tackle”

  1. Bob Loblaw Says:

    I have to admit that I was shocked that they took a DT this year. It may be that MR/JF value DTs more – I think free agency & the draft next year may be a better indicator. The experience with Randy Starks didn’t give them any reason to devalue backup DTs.
    To me it seems that Reinfeldt is simply a more proactive GM than Reese was. He’s drafting replacements a year or two before they really need to make an impact – Leroy Harris, Jacob Ford, Stanford Keglar, Craig Stevens, Jason Jones, Jared Cook, Ryan Mouton etc. These guys came in (are coming in) with veteran starters in front of them. If they produce right away, that’s great, but not necessary.
    I know that they drafted 3 WRs in ’07, but they haven’t shown the general propensity to throw picks at physical specimens at CB and WR like Reese did. The draft picks seem to be deliberately thought through with the future in mind. Jones takes Albert’s place in the rotation. Brown had surgery this offseason and Brown & Vickerson’s contracts expire this year – Haye & Marks ensure that the Titans aren’t without leverage if they want to negotiate an extension with Brown.

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