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Camp Notebook: Defense Wants to 'Start on Fire'

Posted Aug 15, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Most eyes will focus on how second-year quarterback Jake Locker handles his first start for the Titans Friday at Tampa Bay, but Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray is more interested in another type of start.

Gray wants to see his defense be sharper, crisper and faster from the moment they step on the field than last week at Seattle.

The Seahawks put together a 15-play, 62-yard drive that resulted in a 41-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka on its first possession. The drive was aided on its seventh play by a questionable pass interference penalty on a third-and-4. The Seahawks converted a third-and-3 with a short pass, but lost 5 yards on a sack by Karl Klug on third-and-10 to force the field goal.

“You always want to come out and make a statement and not have to go 12 and 14 plays to stop guys,” Gray said. “The big thing we talked about is you’ve got to start faster. We’ve got to have a mindset of trying to get after the guys and stuff like that up front, the ball carrier, and then make plays when you get them in third-and-3 and not have the (pass interference penalty). So it’s still things like that where we’ve got to have a mindset of getting off the field, other than getting down to the red zone like we did last year.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak said he hopes Locker handles 20-25 plays before yielding to 14-year veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who started at Seattle and all 16 games for the Titans in 2011. Munchak said starting Locker is another part of the evaluation process as the quarterbacks compete for the starting job in 2012. They have generally rotated snaps with first and second team players throughout the offseason. Both quarterbacks will have their number of snaps limited Friday, so that will compress the amount of time they have to make their case in the game.

“Even though he isn’t going to get as much time as he’d like, out of 20 or 25 plays, (we’d like him to) get at least two drives where we do something positive with points,” Munchak said. “We’d like to see us go up by 10 points, move the ball, stay on the field and find a way to make plays. Those are the things you want to see. It’s going to be an away game in front of a different crowd, so I think that’s part of the problem too. It’s playing well on the road.”

The effectiveness of the offense and the defense, however, will affect the total number of snaps and situations Locker and Hasselbeck encounter.

While the offense wants as many first-half snaps as possible, the defense doesn’t mind taking far fewer snaps, Gray said.

“You want to see guys play well,” Gray said. “You want to see them start off the game like after we got settled. You want to see them come with some three-and-outs, two-and-outs, even some one-and-outs, kind of like Seattle did. That gets you fired up to play the rest of the game, and you don’t want to have to go that long drive to settle them down. That’s not what you want to become. You want to start off on fire.”

WORTH A LOOK: The Titans added depth to their offensive line Wednesday by signing Michael Jasper and Jonathan Palmer.

Jasper, who weighs 375 pounds, is from nearby Mt. Juliet. He played in college at Bethel and was drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 Draft by Buffalo. Palmer played collegiately at Auburn and has spent time on multiple NFL practice squads since 2007.

The additions were signed a day after Mike Otto broke his finger during practice and on a day when the Titans opted to rest 12-year veteran and offseason-signee Steve Hutchinson.

The Titans now have the preseason maximum of 90 players on their roster, which must be trimmed to 75 by Aug. 27 and 53 by Aug. 31. Teams can establish eight-man practice squads from players who do not make their active rosters and are not claimed on Sept. 1.

Munchak said it is good to add depth on the line and evaluate Jasper and Palmer more closely.

“We rested Hutch and we lost Eugene (Amano to a season-ending triceps injury), and we haven’t replaced Eugene, so we’re losing a body there,” Munchak said. “With Hutch, you’re trying to rest him, so if you get one injury, you’re very lean at training camp, so we’re trying to make sure, and there’s practice squad and things like that. I think our staff does a great job of looking. We’re not waiting until camp ends to decide what to do. We’re keeping track of everyone that becomes available because we’re thinking they can make our team or maybe the practice squad.”

AWARD RECIPIENT: Last week’s trip to Seattle was special for Hasselbeck, who played 10 seasons for the Seahawks, and Locker, who starred collegiately for and earned a history degree from the University of Washington.

In honor of the school’s 150-year anniversary, the UW College of Arts and Sciences created the Timeless Awards to recognize alumni and chose Locker as a recipient. Locker was unable to attend the ceremony in May, but a group from the school met up with him in Seattle to present him with a medal.

NOTES: The Titans again rested Gerald McRath (knee), and the linebacker will not play against Tampa Bay, Munchak said. … Brandon Barden (hamstring), Terrence Wheatley (hamstring) and Dave Ball (concussion) also will not play Friday.

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