NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton said last week that he was pleased with his unit’s “outstanding” effort and attention to detail during Tennessee’s offseason program, but he wants to see improvements in execution.
Horton liked the way defenders bounced back from a performance he wasn’t pleased with on the first day of minicamp.
Horton enjoys launching golf balls and has a passion for flying in his free time, but he will try to emulate an even keel of a ship as he implements significant changes in his first year in Tennessee. He believes a consistent demeanor from a coach will transcend to the players in crunch time, he said during the following interview with Titans Online.
TITANS ONLINE: The word flexibility has been mentioned a lot to describe what you want from a defense. How would you rate the collective flexibility of the defense so far?
RAY HORTON: “We’re still working on it, but up front, we have multiple players that can play more than one position, which is fantastic. Our outside linebackers have to stand up and drop and they have to rush, so that’s inherent to the position. … I’m learning what (all the players) can do, and I think they understand what is being asked of them, so I’ve got a good feeling, but I’ve still got to get to actual game conditions where I can see, ‘Can he do it? Can he handle it? Can they apply it to game time?’ I have a sketch of who can do what, I think.”
RAY HORTON: “By what we’re doing with the transition of a 4-3 to a 3-4, they will get the most scrutiny because they’re really going to a position where they have had their hand on the ground every snap and rushing to standing up on two feet and sometimes they’re rushing and sometimes they’re dropping, so I think people gravitate to them to see how they’re doing. Well, mentally they’re doing outstanding. They’re both really quality professionals that are committed to what we’re doing and they spend copious time doing notes and studying. The best word I can use for it is they’re true professionals, meaning they are embracing what we’re doing, they’re accepting it and they’re trying to be the best they can be. They’re not a concern of mine, which is great because really, they are the key to it, and for me to say I’m not worried about it, that tells me and us that they’re doing everything that we expect them to do and it’s been a smooth transition so far.”
TITANS ONLINE: How much can
RAY HORTON: “I think if you asked him, he’d probably go, ‘Wow, I thought a 4-3 and a 3-4 were drastically different’ for him, but if you asked him know, he’d say, ‘Wow, I’m probably going to be used more than I was there and be as productive.’ I think he would probably breathe a sigh of relief and say, ‘I’m just doing what I do. I play football.’ ”
TITANS ONLINE: Is there a player that’s surprised you the most in the difference in working with him in-person as opposed to what had shown up on film?
TITANS ONLINE: What do you think is gained from having four linebackers as opposed to three?
RAY HORTON: “It’s simple, a number of things. It gives you more athletes that can play in space. It should help your special teams because you have more athletes that can play in space, and it also helps where, in the simplest terms, if you have four down, the offense basically knows, 1, 2, 3, 4 are rushing every time, basically. Well, in the 3-4 they have to account for, they know three guys are going to rush, the three big guys but now, who is the fourth rusher? They know in theory four guys are coming every play, but which one of the four is the next guy? Is it going to be the left guy? Is it going to be the middle guy, the other middle guy, the right guy? … It makes their blocking schemes, you’ve got to account for the three plus one, but it can be any of them so it just adds a dimension. It’s not like it’s revolutionary and they can’t do it, it just adds a dimension of, ‘Make sure you’re sound. You better be sound in your protection because if you’re not, this guy is coming.’ It just adds an element of mystery, I guess, to the layman sitting out there listening.”
TITANS ONLINE: What remains to be determined among the linebackers group during training camp?
RAY HORTON: “Who our four starters are, who our starters-in-waiting will be and play time. We’ve got a competitive group of men. I can say that for every position. Sure, do I expect Jurrell to be our starter? Yeah, I do, but I haven’t guaranteed him that. He’ll earn it and hopefully earn it with a Pro Bowl year, so those kinds of things take care of themselves. When I said we’re probably 18 or 19 guys deep, the guy in front better perform because the guy that’s waiting probably can, so it helps us because we have great competition. Guys are being pushed, and the Jurrell Caseys of the league that want to be known as a great player, he’ll push himself. He’s not really worried about the guy behind him pushing him, so it gives us the ability to not have to motivate all the time because the guy behind you should be motivating you.”
RAY HORTON: “I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but we’ve got, (
RAY HORTON: “For me, it’s a huge security blanket. They are true professionals. They pride themselves on being right, being leaders. George understands he’s the next guy in. He’s a solid professional in every sense of the word. He helps everybody, he does his job, and he’s going to help somebody else get their job done. Sometimes you have areas of concern, but I’m not concerned there. I’m very happy with those three guys.”
TITANS ONLINE: How will you try to relax a little bit during the minicamp and training camp?
RAY HORTON: “From a psychological background, I’m able to put things in drawers. Psychologists always say you have to be able to put things in drawers. I have a work drawer, and I have an off-work drawer. When I come to work, I’m all work, and when I step outside the building, I’m all wherever I’m at. There are times I drift back to football. I’ll think, we play the Dallas Cowboys during the regular season, I’ll drift to, ‘Dez Bryant, what am I going to do?’ Something like that, but I think to not go crazy, you’ve got to be able to separate whatever that is. You’ve got to separate work from non-work and vice-versa to stay balanced, and I do. I fly, I golf, I travel, I just, wherever I’m at, I tell my players, ‘Be where you are.’ If you’re at work, be at work. If you’re at play, be at play, so I kind of embrace that. I am where I am.”
TITANS ONLINE: Has that become easier over the years?RAY HORTON: “It does in both ways in wins and losses. You hear people say don’t get too high and don’t get too low. I’ve learned that, and that is probably a skillset that a lot of people need in a lot of different businesses, whether you’re a salesman coming off a disappointment, ‘I didn’t get the big sales contract,’ if you’re in the hospital and a doctor who lost a patient, it applies to a lot of different fields where you have to be level keel, and if you are that for your players, where you don’t have these big mood swings, they tend to idolize, mirror you, and probably become a little more even-tempered where if the game is on the line, they don’t get too high, they don’t get to anxious, and that’s a conscious thing by me to let them see me in control and not panic and be steady for them.”