Jim Washburn quickly quashes any attempt to draw comparisons – beyond their respective playing and draft positions – between Jevon Kearse and Derrick Morgan.
The Tennessee Titans’ defensive line coach points out that Kearse (the 16th overall pick in 1999) came into the league with certain athletic gifts – particularly his speed – that cannot be taught.
What he can say about Morgan, though, is that the 16th choice this past April already has shown the ability to learn much more quickly than some others. That much was evident when the defensive end played out of Georgia Tech for the first time this preseason in Saturday’s 15-7 loss at Carolina.
“There’s one rush, in particular, that we use and it’s just painfully difficult to teach guys to do it,” Washburn said. “Kevin Carter taught it to me a long time ago, and the play (Morgan) missed a sack, he was – stab-chop – just a beautiful rush. I was just like, ‘Wow, that came easy. Just natural.
“I thought that’s a real good thing. Seriously.”
It’s even better given the fact that Morgan never really got the opportunity to practice the move, or much of anything else, for that matter.
He missed the first two preseason contests and had only one full training camp workout before he took the field in Carolina. A calf injury he originally sustained during offseason workouts flared again on the first day of camp and kept him out for an extended period of time.
“I didn’t really play to my standard,” Morgan said. “I didn’t really make no plays or anything. But it was good just to get out there and get the first couple snaps out of the way so I could just play and get the anxiety out of my head. I’m happy with that part.”
Officially, he was credited with just one tackle against Carolina as he rotated in and out of the game every three or four snaps until he racked up 15 plays. Twice in his first four snaps, though, he got hits on the quarterback, including the one courtesy of the advanced pass rush technique.
“He has strength and power and explosion and good hands,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He was quite impressive with his first four considering the fact that this was the first time he had full pads on since last January against Iowa.”
That last part is not exactly true.
According to Washburn, he took Morgan out along with two offensive lineman prior to a practice late last week, put them in shoulder pads and let Morgan, who had an ACC-high 12.5 sacks last season, get some extra work.
“He looked bad,” Washburn said. “He was anxious and burning energy like crazy. … It was neat to see him go out there (Saturday) and on his first play he almost had a sack. Then he missed a sack, and he could have stripped the ball on another one. I was encouraged.”
Just don’t expect him to encourage any of the comparisons to Kearse, who set an NFL rookie sack record and was named the league’s defensive rookie of the year in 1999.