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Updated: October 2nd, 2012 10:20pm
Scouting Report: Steve Hutchinson going downhill with Titans o-line

Scouting Report: Steve Hutchinson going downhill with Titans o-line

by Sam Monson
Special to 1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Vikings will look for a third consecutive win on Sunday against Tennessee. Sam Monson of ProFootballFocus.com, which breaks down tape from every NFL game, takes an inside look at the Titans in his weekly scouting report:

Scheme

There is nothing complex about the Tennessee Titans. They run one of the more vanilla schemes on both sides of the football -- perhaps a reason they are struggling as much as they are in 2012.

The Titans want to run something like the West Coast offense. They like quick, timing and rhythm passes coupled with establishing the run, but they often can't get either going. They will run plenty of shotgun offense, especially with QB Matt Hasselbeck behind center, and will get rid of the ball quickly. Their blocking scheme is power-based with worryingly little power in it, going some way to explaining the struggles of HB Chris Johnson before last week.

On defense, they run a 4-3 scheme with a heavy rotation on the defensive line. They will occasionally over-shift their linebackers to place SLB Akeem Ayers closer to the line of scrimmage, where he is most comfortable from college, but they are trying to convert him to play as a standard 4-3 OLB and now he is more or less expected to sink or swim there.

If they feel the need to, they will bring a safety down into the box, with either of their back two capable of coming up to support the run. Both players are consequently very susceptible to play-action passes.

Key players

LT Michael Roos is one of the best in football, but the holes in the Titans offense are straight up the gut through the interior. LG Steve Hutchinson has fallen still further from his best form since leaving Minnesota and is struggling to pass protect as well as run block. J.J. Watt victimized him in their matchup last week, and together with C Fernando Velasco and RG Leroy Harris, Hutchinson represents a soft middle the Vikings should look to attack. Vikings UT Kevin Williams might not be at his best himself, but he is still more than capable of winning the matchup at the point of attack against any of those interior players, and quick pressure up the middle is the best way of disrupting what can be a quick, timing passing offense.

The Titans spent big money in the offseason for RE Kamerion Wimbley to anchor their defensive line. He has struggled a little as a full-time defensive end -- he played in Oakland with his hand off the ground in base situations and as a 3-4 outside linebacker most of the time in Cleveland -- recording just one sack, one knockdown and 13 hurries in his first four games. Vikings LT Matt Kalil has shown himself to be a good pass protector on the blind side, so although Wimbley has rush skills, he should have the ability to neutralize him. What is even more beneficial for Kalil is that Wimbley has been weak against the run -- an area that the Vikings left tackle has not excelled in. Maybe a matchup against the Titans is just the catalyst he needs.

The Titans have a pair of aggressive and active corners in the shape of RCB Alterraun Verner and LCB Jason McCourty. Both players will support the run quickly but, more important, get physical with receivers and cause problems with the timing of routes. They will both likely be ready to play the short passes to Vikings WR Percy Harvin quickly, and the Vikings offense will need to be careful they don't tip those plays and see a pass going in the other direction for a score. Verner in particular will remind many of Vikings CB Antoine Winfield and has already accounted for 25 tackles and to stops (a tackle that constitutes an offensive failure on the play).

PFF stats

• If you can get past the corners to the safeties, you will succeed against Tennessee. Throwing at any of the three who have played more than 150 snaps this season is netting a QB rating of over 108.
• No Titans defender has more than one sack yet, and nobody on the defense has batted down a pass.
• The Titans offense gets rid of the ball quickly. Hasselbeck was the quickest QB in the NFL last year with an average time to pass of 2.4 seconds.
• Roos has allowed just six total pressures on 160 pass blocking snaps so far this year.
• Johnson is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry this season, but he is averaging 5 yards per carry running outside of Roos at left tackle.

Sam Monson is an analyst for ProFootballFocus.com.
Email Sam | @PFF
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