Lockout affects new Titans coaches' preparation for season

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The NFL lockout makes it even more difficult for new coaches. They can't work with the players they have on their roster, and there's no wooing of free agents who could fill gaping holes.

So the Tennessee Titans, who went through the latest coaching change, are doing all they can -- watching film and preparing for the April 28-30 NFL draft.

Coach Mike Munchak said it's strange not being around the players as part of an offseason program. But he does know the players well from his 14 seasons with the franchise, even if he can't talk to them now.

"At least I don't have that learning curve," said Munchak, who was promoted from offensive line coach. "I've watched a lot more defensive tape than I've ever watched."

But both of his coordinators are new to Tennessee, with Chris Palmer busy learning the offense and Jerry Gray studying up on his defenders for a team that's trying to bounce back from a 6-10 season.

Gray believes the coaches understand the process they're going through with the lockout.

"So we're getting everything from film because we can't talk to them (the players)," Gray said. "The film is kind of getting us the direction of what we think we have to draft. I think that's really the good thing."

The Titans are deep into their pre-draft visits with players who could fill big needs at either quarterback or on defense. They pick No. 8 overall and must replace Vince Young, whom they plan release or trade once a labor deal is reached. Rusty Smith, a rookie in 2010, is the only quarterback currently on the roster.

A defensive tackle also could be attractive to the Titans, who want to improve their run defense.

Over the past week, quarterbacks such as Auburn's Cam Newton, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Florida State's Christian Ponder visited the Titans. The team also met with defensive tackles Nick Fairley of Auburn, Marcell Dareus of Alabama and end Da'Quan Bowers of Clemson.

LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson also visited Nashville, even though the Titans have their starting cornerbacks, Cortland Finnegan and Alterraun Verner, under contract for 2011. But Munchak recently noted the value that shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis provides for the New York Jets.

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"The value of someone like him, who can come in and be that dominant that quickly," Munchak said of Peterson. "Yeah, he's one of those rare corners who can come in and be a very, very high pick."

Gray said the Titans are looking at all areas in the draft. They have nine draft picks after receiving two compensatory selections last month for the free-agent losses of tight end Alge Crumpler (to the New England Patriots) and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (to the Detroit Lions).

Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin was in Tennessee on a one-year deal, but the Titans aren't sure which of their other players will wind up free agents. That group could include linebacker Stephen Tulloch, defensive end Jacob Ford and left guard Leroy Harris.

"So we're kind of looking at all the areas to see where we could get better overall," Gray said. "You want to be cognizant of who your free-agent guys are because those guys are still there, too. They can't just up and leave, so they're kind of in limbo, and that helps us because it's a lot like they're not there and they are."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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