TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee defensive coordinator Jerry Gray has moved to the coaching box to see the field better and see if that helps the Titans tighten up their defense.
At this rate, it certainly couldn't hurt.
The Titans are back on pace for an NFL record nobody wants in points allowed in a season, and they are back to last in the league giving up 34.2 points per game. They could top the 317 points they gave up last season Sunday when they visit Miami (4-4) and have allowed at least 30 points in seven of nine games this season.
Coach Mike Munchak said Thursday they see the defense playing better but not getting much help from the offense. Munchak said the Titans (3-6) can best help the defense by holding onto the ball longer than an average of 26 minutes, 10 seconds a game.
Yes, the Titans rank last in that category too.
"Overall, we have to get off the field, and we have to stay on the field on the other side," Munchak said. "I think that will help with a huge part of what the defense is doing. They've been out there way too much, some of their own fault and some of the offense's fault. If we could just fix that category as a team, I think we're going to win a lot more football games."
Gray made the move from the sideline up to the coaching box upstairs in the press box in last week's 51-20 loss to Chicago. Munchak said they had talked about the possibility before, including this offseason. Gray worked from the box while he was defensive coordinator in Buffalo but he was on the sideline since coming to Tennessee due to the lockout last season.
"I think he liked what he could see," Munchak said. "He could make his calls quicker. I think it was good that Frank Bush, the linebackers coach, was able to talk to the linebacker, his player, (Colin) McCarthy, who was wired, so he could give him some other comments other than just the defense. I thought all of that worked well, so we'll stick with it."
Gray said he likes working on the field so he can look at players and see if they're telling him the truth when they come to the sideline. But
"You don't get a chance to feel the game," Gray said. "You see it all. You see what goes on and you get a chance to see if there're guys messing up, not messing up. You can make the corrections right quick when you're talking to the coach the very next play."
With the Titans giving up 51 points, it certainly didn't look good in the loss to the Bears. The Titans now have given up 308 points this season, putting them on pace to allow 548 this season. The 1981 Baltimore Colts gave up 533 points in 1981.
But Tennessee turned the ball over five times, and the defense started three different drives at the Titans 16 or closer to their own goal line in giving up three touchdowns. The Titans did force the Bears to punt three times and forced Chicago three and out after the first turnover of the game.
Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley is the second-oldest starter on the defense at the age of 29 in his seventh season. He said he sees players hustling hard.
"Everybody's still enthusiastic," he said. "We know we have games left to play. It's very important for us to go out and get things turned around."
Gray sees signs of promise in a defense that has six starters in their third season or younger because they are busy talking.
"They're guys that communicating as the play's going on," Gray said. "That's where you grow. You don't grow just because a guy does his job on his own. You have to really communicate as the play's going on who has what what's the tip. When you can get that, that's what the good defenses do and they pass it along to the other guys."
Notes: Jake Locker practiced for a second straight day Thursday with pads on and even was bumped by Wimbley at one point. Munchak said if Locker progresses well into Friday they feel good about him returning as the starting quarterback against Miami.
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