Pressure's On Titans' Secondary

Tennessee has showed it is vulnerable in the secondary so far this season, and going up against the league's No. 1 offense is causing some Titans a little angst. Get that and plenty of personnel notes from the beat in Tennessee. <BR>

Andre Dyson knows what people are saying. He's saying it too.

Heading into a matchup in Minnesota that could easily be as challenging for Tennessee's secondary as was their game against Indianapolis, Dyson said he knows he's got to put a stop to the deep balls that have been sailing by him for costly completions.

"Until I defend it, they are going to keep testing me," Dyson said. "I'm prepared for that. I have to stop giving up the big play. That is not something I am used to dealing with. But for three straight weeks I have. It is something I need to eliminate and I'm going to have to deal with it until I do."

Dyson had a solid 2003 as the team's second corner, regularly bouncing back from his bad moments, which were far less frequent. But now, in the final year of his initial contract and clearly not in the plans beyond this season, he's been looking like the weak link.

The Titans are expected to go with top corner Samari Rolle, current nickel back Andre Woolfolk and Tony Beckham as their top three corners in 2005, with Rich Gardner and Michael Waddell potentially in the mix.

Dyson picked off a pass in the season opener in Miami, but things have gone downhill from there. Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne gave him problems in Week Two and then two weeks later he made a bad guess on a throw intended for San Diego's Reche Caldwell that wound up a 49-yard gain.

At Green Bay in a big win, he gave up a 47-yard pass to the Packers Donald Driver and against the Texans he let Corey Bradford by him on the game's opening drive and was on the wrong end of another 47-yard pass connection.

Jeff Fisher said he doesn't think Dyson's lost confidence, and said the Titans will continue counting on him.

"I don't see any evidence of him losing confidence," Fisher said. "He ran well. It was a pretty good throw and catch (by the Texans). He anticipated a double move and expected some deep balls. Beyond that, he played hard. He responded and challenged.

"At the cornerback position, you have to bounce back because they are going to make plays on you. I didn't see him fall out of the plan or lose confidence (Sunday)."

Now, Dyson will be tested by Marcus Robinson and Nate Burleson, Minnesota receivers who've had great success working with Daunte Culpepper.

"You have to try not to think about it, but it's hard," he said. "Of course I get mad at myself and real disappointed. It's to the point where it is almost disbelief that it is happening. I have never been a player that has given up stuff like that.

"Those are big plays, and that is something that I hate, I know the coaches hate, and everybody on the defense hates. It is something I am going to focus on and get better at."

The Titans season is moving the wrong direction and Dyson has to know that if he continues to get picked on successfully he'll be in line to take on more than his share of blame as people search for scapegoats.

"I welcomed that challenge this week and when I did get it I didn't take advantage of it," he said. "In this league you play something a little bit off and you get burned. I am just going to stay focused and get that out.

"I don't think I've given up three (long balls) in a season, and now this makes three straight games. It is something I am going to really work hard on the next week and hopefully - not hopefully - I am going to get that stopped."

SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. Vikings lead the series 6-3 and crushed the Titans in the last meeting in 2001, 42-24 in Minnesota.


NOTES, QUOTES

  • The Titans want strong safety Tank Williams to be a force as a blitzer, and he made a big play at the start of the second quarter against Houston, earning a sack of Texan quarterback David Carr when he swiped the ball free.

    Carlos Hall recovered the fumble at the Houston 32-yard line and the Titans needed only five plays to turn it into their lone touchdown of the game.

    But Coach Jeff Fisher said Williams' blitz was far from perfect and that the safety was actually fortunate to force the fumble.

    "It was a success from the standpoint he got the ball out," Fisher said. "If David Carr lifts the ball a little bit, Tank misses him and (Carr) is outside the pocket and running with the ball. The result of the play was great, it was a caused fumble.

    "The result was good, but he was unblocked on the quarterback and missed him, but batted the ball out. He missed him on another blitz earlier. Good things are happening from pressure, but again, when you are unblocked on the quarterback on the backside you need to get the quarterback on the ground."

  • Jason Mathews is the Titans' lone veteran backup on the offensive line.

    It turned out that the tackle is a capable guard too. Mathews stepped in for right guard Benji Olson against the Texans and played fine.

    "He did a good job," Fisher said. "He worked hard in there. He did a pretty good job on getting to the linebackers in the run game, getting to the second level. It was good to have him there. His experience paid off and he did a nice job protecting for the quarterback."

    Olson should be back in the lineup in Minnesota.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 27 - Pass plays of 20 yards or more for the Minnesota Vikings this season, including nine last week against New Orleans.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "It is absolutely off the charts when you look at what he is doing, his production level and how he is carrying Minnesota." - Titans GM Floyd Reese on Minnesota QB Daunte Culpepper.


    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
    At the start of training camp, the Titans first choice to pair with Keith Bulluck at linebacker in the nickel package would have been Peter Sirmon. He's out with a torn ACL suffered in training camp. Their second choice would have been Rocky Calmus, who's been out since the opener with low back problems that cause leg weakness. Their fourth choice would have been Rocky Boiman, who missed two games before last week with a bum knee before returning to play in the base defense against Houston.

    So the man for the job right now is Brad Kassell, a player they are liking a lot.

    "He is our nickel linebacker right now," Jeff Fisher said. "Brad has a good understanding of what we are doing. We went into it with Rocky Calmus being our guy. Brad has stepped up and each week he has become more and more comfortable. He has played very well for us the last two weeks. He has been involved in a lot of plays."

    PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

  • QB Steve McNair did not practice Wednesday with a sore chest, but he'll get some practice work in before the Titans head for Minnesota. He may spend some extra time talking and working with his pass targets after some miscommunications led to interceptions in the loss to Houston.

  • RB Chris Brown had typical soreness but nothing more after a shot to the shoulder that ended his day against Houston. He practiced on Wednesday. The Titans and Brown scoff at questions about his durability, though he's not finished three games this year.

  • CB Samari Rolle is eager to cover Minnesota WR Randy Moss, saying that's what he's on the roster for. Moss will be limited as he is dealing with a right hamstring strain.

  • WR Derrick Mason will continue to draw tough double coverage so long as Drew Bennett plays inconsistently with drops and route mistakes.

  • WR Drew Bennett was limited in practice Wednesday by a problem with his right calf.

  • TE Ben Troupe is still far from dependable, but he will be the team's lone tight end against Minnesota as Erron Kinney remains out with a right calf injury and Shad Meier isn't ready to return after an appendectomy.

  • RG Benji Olson (groin) did not practice Wednesday, but there is a good chance he will return to action in Minnesota against the Vikings.

  • LB Rocky Calmus, out since the opener with lower back problems that leave him with weakness in a leg, ran some on Wednesday and Jeff Fisher was please with the progress.




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