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Titans Offense Prepares for Disruptive Detroit Defensive Line

Posted Sep 22, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans coach Mike Munchak said this week that Detroit’s deep and disruptive defensive line is a challenge that he wants to see his offensive line face.

“I think that’s exactly what we need right now,” said Munchak, the Hall of Fame guard and former offensive line coach. “As an offensive line, we need to be challenged by a bunch of guys that can embarrass you if you’re not ready to play football.”

The defensive line of the Lions is so deep that two former first-round draft picks (defensive end Lawrence Jackson, 2008 and defensive tackle Nick Fairley, 2011) are second stringers. The group is led by Kyle Vanden Bosch, who racked up 38.5 sacks in five seasons with the Titans from 2005-09. Vanden Bosch had eight sacks last season and starts opposite DE Cliff Avril, who recorded 11 sacks a year ago. They bookend a pair of 6-foot-4, 300-plus pound defensive tackles in third-year pro Ndamukong Suh and nine-year veteran Corey Williams.

“(Vanden Bosch), the inside guys, (Ndamukong) Suh, they’ve got some men in there that are awfully good,” Munchak said. “That’s the strength of their defense, is what they accomplish up front. That’s what they rely on. It’s going to be a challenge for all five (offensive linemen). Heck, they drafted (Nick) Fairley last year in the first round. He’s not starting because the guys ahead of him are so good and they’re so deep at the tackle spot. They’ve got a great rotation, they’ve got good players, they’re coached well. That’s going to be a huge challenge.”

Titans tackle Michael Roos, who is poised to make his 115th consecutive start, said he will enjoy the challenge presented by Vanden Bosch and the experience of going against him in a game as opposed to on the practice field.

“I’ve never had a chance to play against him in a game scenario,” Roos said. “I always, obviously, had a lot of practice reps against him, so I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be fun out there. I know in practice we always each raised the intensity level (in one another), so I think it’s going to be a fun challenge.”

Lions coach Jim Schwartz, who spent 10 seasons as an assistant with Tennessee, took over in 2009 after Detroit’s 0-16 season that included a 47-10 Lions loss to the Titans on Thanksgiving in 2008. Schwartz recruited Vanden Bosch when the player’s contract was up in Tennessee because he likes Vanden Bosch’s level of play and ability to set a tone on the defensive line.

“Kyle is a tremendous leader,” Schwartz said earlier this week during a conference call. “You guys know him as well as anybody. He had one of his best years last year. He had eight sacks and he was coming off a neck surgery. I thought he had a very good year, caused a lot of fumbles, played like he always does, is around the football all the time. He practices hard, plays hard, good against the run, good against the pass, relentless — all those things that everybody remembers about him, he still does for us.”

Schwartz joined the Titans’ staff as a defensive assistant in 1999, when Tennessee won the AFC Championship and made the franchise’s first appearance in the Super Bowl. He coached linebackers and focused on third downs in 2000, then became defensive coordinator from 2001-08.

Guard Steve Hutchinson, who joined the Titans this offseason after six seasons with Minnesota, emphasized to his teammates that the strength of the Lions’ defense is their front seven, and more specifically their defensive line. Hutchinson has played the Lions 11 times in the past six seasons and observed how the Lions have improved each season under Schwartz.

“They’ve made a conscious effort of really bringing in talented defensive linemen,” Hutchinson said. “I guess when you have a former defensive coordinator as your head coach, he’s going to believe that his defense is going to set the tone for their team, and it starts up front. It’s a well-proved theory, you know.”

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