For Wimbley, Titans defense, best way to improve is get the QB

Monday, August 13, 2012 at 7:30am

Think of Kamerion Wimbley as a rock.

Not a cornerstone upon which the rest of the Tennessee Titans defense is built. More like a pebble nestled alongside a pond.

If things go as planned, the free agent defensive end not only will make a splash, he will create a ripple effect that has an impact on the entire defense.

Playing for his third team in four years, the 28-year-old is the only newcomer on the starting defense, which makes him the most likely candidate to make a difference on that unit. It is no secret — to him or to anyone else — that the best way for him to do that is to record sacks, one of the splashiest of all defensive statistics.

“That’s what I was brought in here to do — to get sacks,” he said. “So I’m aware of that, and that’s what’s I’m shooting for as far as coming in here and being productive. That’s something that I’ve always expected of myself throughout my whole career.”

Wimbley has 42½ sacks for that career, which consists of 95 games played for Cleveland and Oakland. The other 14 defensive linemen on the roster at the start of training camp have a combined 35½, and only one, Dave Ball, has more over his whole career than Wimbley had in his best single season (11 in 2006 with Cleveland).

Last year with Oakland he had three in a single game. Only two Titans had more than three in all of 2011. Not surprisingly, Tennessee finished last in the AFC with 28 sacks, which included a team-high seven from rookie defensive tackle Karl Klug.

No one expects Wimbley to rack up 14.5, as Jevon Kearse did during his unforgettable rookie season, or to threaten Elvin Bethea’s franchise record of 16, which has stood since 1973. All they want is for him to show he can get to the quarterback consistently.

That’s when the ripples start.

“When you add 10 sacks from Wimbley, and you have the seven that Klug had last year, if [Derrick] Morgan stays healthy … and we have a couple other guys we’re trying to add to the mix — if guys start getting their five or six sacks apiece … that’s a lot,” defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said. “Because now you can’t zero in on one guy.”

From there the ripples spread further out to the rest of the defense.

An effective pass rush means the secondary does not have to cover as long. That creates more incomplete passes and more opportunities for interceptions.

“That makes our job,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “The better the pass rush, the better we look. We just get the credit for it. I think with guys like [Wimbley] — and then our defensive line has gotten a lot better — I’m excited to see those guys get after the passer.”

It is a proven formula.

The Cleveland Browns drafted Wimbley 13th overall in 2006 and traded him in 2010 to the Oakland. The Raiders were 26th in yards allowed per game and 23rd in points allowed the year before he arrived, but improved to 11th in total defense with Wimbley, who had nine sacks (the second-highest total of his career) that season.

The majority of the Titans’ playoff appearances, beginning in 1999, have included significant contributions from an addition to the defense. Among them were Kearse, the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1999; linebacker Randall Godfrey, an All-Pro in 2000; safety Lance Schulters in 2002; and cornerback Nick Harper and linebacker Ryan Fowler, who were free agent additions in 2007.
Now it’s Wimbley’s chance.

“He’s our new guy, so I would expect him to bring something to it,” coach Mike Munchak said. “I think all the guys will get better.”

 

Important acquisitions
Over the past 13 seasons many additions to the Tennessee Titans’ defense have made an immediate impact, both with their individual performances and their effect on the overall play of the defense. A look at some of the more notable ones:

 

  • Jevon Kearse, 1999, defensive end (drafted 16th overall): “The Freak” set an NFL rookie record with 14.5 sacks and led the team to 54 total, which at the time was a franchise record. He also provided much-needed star power in a transitional period. The difference: The franchise not only ended a five-year playoff drought, it made its only Super Bowl appearance.
  • Randall Godfrey, 2000, middle linebacker (free agent from Dallas): Physical and athletic, he earned second-team All-Pro honors, made a team-high 169 tackles and played at a remarkably high level, only to be overshadowed by Baltimore’s Ray Lewis. The difference: A middle-of-the road unit in terms of yards allowed a year earlier, the defense led the league in fewest passing yards and total yards allowed and set a franchise record for fewest points allowed (191). Tennessee had the league’s best regular-season record (13-3).
  • Lance Schulters, 2002, safety (free agent from San Francisco): His six interceptions were the most by a Titans/Oilers safety since Marcus Robertson had seven in 1993 and tied for second overall during that span. He also set a career-high with 94 tackles. The difference: Tennessee’s defense improved from 25th in the league in 2001 to 10th in 2002, and the 18 interceptions as a team was the most since 1995.
  • Nick Harper, 2007, cornerback (free agent from Indianapolis): After two years with the inexperienced and mismatched pair of Pacman Jones and Reynaldo Hill as starters, Harper provided a reliable veteran presence on the outside. He finished with three interceptions, the same number he had each of the previous three years with the Colts. The rest of the cornerbacks combined for two. The difference: The Titans ended a three-year playoff drought, and the pass defense improved from 27th to 10th in the league.

 

 

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