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OTA Practices to Provide Measurement Tool for Webster, Munchak to Assess Plan

Posted May 29, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — General manager Ruston Webster said he thought the 2012 edition of the Tennessee Titans lacked an identity and personality that he saw in Tennessee teams when he was a member of opposing organizations.

With that in mind, Webster and the personnel department, Titans coach Mike Munchak and his staff and the players have set out to forge an identity for the 2013 team.

The process reaches another significant milestone today with the beginning of organized team activity practices that culminate with a mini-camp in the third week of June. The opportunity to line up offensive and defensive players in team drills for the first time should provide a better measurement tool for how the plan is coming together, even though live contact is not allowed. 

Webster and Munchak recently were guest speakers at Bash of the Titans, a fundraiser that benefitted Big Brothers Big Sisters. They gave attendees a “State of the Titans” in which they described multiple decisions made with personnel and coaching positions. Webster wanted to build a team that he’d respect as an opponent because of the challenge he knew it would present.

“I’ve been with other teams, I’ve been in Tampa and gone against the Titans, I’ve been in Seattle and gone against the Titans, and I had respect for the way they played the game, their toughness, the way they played with a physical nature, their offensive line was always a strong point,” Webster said. “I was around some great defenses that, when we played the Titans, there was a lot of respect in our building because we knew we were going against Coach Munchak’s offensive line and what they would bring to the game on Sunday.

“We wanted to establish that offensive line,” Webster continued. “We wanted to get that back to being a strong point of this football team and also to be able to run the ball consistently. When people think of the Titans, they think of a physical, hard-nosed football team, and to be honest with you, if you’re going to advance in the playoffs, you’ve got to be able to go to cold places and win, and to do that you’ve got to be physical, you’ve got to be strong and you’ve got to be able to run the ball.”

To do this, the Titans have revamped their interior offensive line by adding free agents Andy Levitre, who started every game in his first four pro seasons with Buffalo, Rob Turner, Chris Spencer, Kasey Studdard and retaining Fernando Velasco, the only Titans offensive lineman to start all 16 games (13 at center and three at guard) last season.

They also brought in power running back Shonn Greene and tight end Delanie Walker and receiver Kevin Walter, a pair of receiving threats who also have earned stripes and praise from their blocking in the running game.

Webster said he doesn’t want the Titans to be known as a team with a run-first offense. He instead wants them to be known as a balanced offense that can run the ball when it wants.

“There were some obvious areas that we had to find for our team,” Webster said. “The first thing we wanted to attack was our locker room, bring in the type of guys that can compete on the field and win for us but also the type of guys Nashville can be proud of.”

The Titans also placed consideration on that in April’s NFL Draft. Tennessee found players of high character that can help on offense and defense.

The additions on the offensive line continued with the selection of guard Chance Warmack with the 10th overall pick and center/guard Brian Schwenke at 107. The Titans said they were glad that Warmack was available, despite multiple projections that he would be drafted before Tennessee had the opportunity to do so.

“We were definitely excited,” Webster said. “It’s not often that you find a player that fits exactly what you want in his position and also is hoping to play for your team. Most of them play it close to the vest. He did not. We spent a lot of time with Chance. We got to know him really well. He got to know us really well, so when it came time to pick him, it was easy.

“He brings a physical presence,” Webster added. “He’s tough, smart, all the things that we wanted. Our right guard is a power player, and he fit that to a T, so it really couldn’t have worked out better for us.”

Levitre, Greene and Walker each signed with the Titans shortly after free agency began, allowing Tennessee to acquire free agents it immediately targeted and continue adding players.

“The biggest thing is we had a plan,” Munchak said. “We had a plan that we thought was the best way to go forward with this, and it really is interesting to watch as free agency starts and the plan comes together, we were able to get a lot of the players we talked about.”

Free agency also has allowed the Titans to add size on the defensive line by signing veterans Sammie Hill, Ropati Pitoitua and Antonio Johnson, depth and versatility at linebacker with Moise Fokou and Greg Jones and experience at safety with Bernard Pollard and George Wilson.

Webster said he likes all of the additions, but Pollard and Wilson will add elements that were missing from the Titans at the position last season.

“I wrote all the things we needed to do to get better,” Webster said. “One of (the items) had three things: get bigger, tougher and smarter, and I think Bernard is all three of those things, and he’ll have a great influence on our team and be a great player.”

Webster and Munchak said they look forward to great competitions at each position as Tennessee moves toward its season-opening trip to Pittsburgh on Sept. 8, which is 14 weeks from Sunday.

 “We’ve got great competition and there’s nothing better to bring out the best in people in any business than competition,” Munchak said. “We have competition in all spots that we just didn’t have last year, and I think it makes a difference from top to bottom on our football team.”

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