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From LeBeau to Pees, Titans learning new defensive scheme

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

By TERESA M. WALKER

AP Pro Football Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) All-Pro safety Kevin Byard believes it doesn't get much better for he and his Titans teammates: First learning from defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and now Dean Pees.

"Just having two legends as coaches on the defense, man, I was blessed," Byard said.

Now, what the Titans' defense with look like under Pees, that remains somewhat a mystery. Neither Pees nor the Titans are sharing many, if any, details right now. Oh, there's been talk of showing different looks on the defensive line and being consistent in coverages.

But that's about as much as Pees is willing to share.

"I'd like to be more little more precise, but I really don't want to talk about scheme particularly and what we're doing," Pees said Wednesday when asked about coverage consistency.

The Titans made a change from Mike Mularkey to first-timer Mike Vrabel as head coach in January mostly to get more production from an offense led by young quarterback Marcus Mariota. Even though the Titans were the AFC's best against the run and allowed a league-fewest five touchdowns rushing and tied for fifth in sacks, they still have plenty of room for improvement on defense.

Maybe because the Titans were so good against the run, they faced more passes than any other defense in the NFL. They also gave up the most first downs through the air last season. The Titans ranked 25th defending the pass, giving up 239.3 yards per game, and 17th in points allowed. Despite Byard intercepting eight passes, Tennessee finished with 12 interceptions overall - tied for 18th in the league.

With Pees last season, Baltimore ranked 12th in yards allowed per game. The Ravens led the NFL with 22 interceptions and also tied for 10th against the pass giving up 213.8 yards per game.

Pees, 68, has spent the last 14 of his 45 years as a coach in the NFL. But he hasn't talked with LeBeau, someone he's always admired and wanted to have a relationship with as a coach. The new Titans coordinator has been busy learning his new players and installing his defensive schemes with a little more than third installed as of Wednesday.

Outside linebacker Derrick Morgan, now on his fifth head-coach with this franchise, said the defense remains primarily a 3-4 base. Each coach uses different language to describe plays, and Morgan said learning that is the biggest challenge.

"Once we get across that barrier and kind of on the same communication lines, I think we'll be fine," Morgan said. "It's a different scheme from what LeBeau ran here, but you know it's football at the end of the day. So you've just got to get the concepts, get the philosophy and understand what we're trying to accomplish on the field."

Byard echoed Morgan's comments.

"We're not creating a new Cover 2 or Cover 3 or anything like that," Byard said. "It's just we're trying to execute at a high level man. DP just brought a great defense, and I think we're trying to execute it at a high level."

Titans drafted linebackers Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry , additions linebacker Brian Orakpo welcomes. Pees has a reputation for being creative in trying to free up pass rushers to get to the quarterback, and the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker said they've already seen some of that.

"Guys getting freed up, guys getting one-on-ones," Orakpo said. "You see me and Morgan flip-flopping that you're normally not used to seeing. Just trying to get advantages across the board. We're just going to keep taking it day by day and see what happens."

After all, the Titans' season doesn't start until Sept. 9 in Miami.

Notes: Vrabel said he told the Titans on Wednesday morning that the team and controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk will support players on making a decision on the national anthem when the time comes. Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker said that's not a decision that has to be made until September.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Updated May 30, 2018

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