The Tennessee Titans' approach to sacking quarterbacks really hasn't changed in about 12 years. Just the results are much better this season.
The Titans lead the NFL with 22 sacks — most by this franchise through the first five games since the 1979 season. They're getting production from across the defense too. Nine different players have at least one sack.
It's a big improvement from last season when the Titans had 32 sacks. They got younger this offseason, and defensive tackle Jason Jones says the key is everyone is healthy now. He had season-ending surgery after playing in only seven games in 2009, while tackle Tony Brown played hurt until missing the final game.
"Once we get everybody healthy, the sky's the limit for us," Jones said Thursday. "As long as we keep doing what we do, I think we'll be successful."
The Titans aren't completely healthy now. Top draft pick Derrick Morgan had surgery Wednesday to repair his torn left ACL.
But Morgan is a big part of Tennessee's offseason youth movement. They let end Kyle Vanden Bosch leave for Detroit in the opening hours of free agency after having 38½ sacks in five seasons with Tennessee. End Jevon Kearse, who lost his starting job last October, was just allowed to leave.
So far, the Titans look like they added the right players during the offseason since they haven't had this many sacks through five games since 1979 when the then-Houston Oilers had 23. Of the 22 sacks, 10 come from players added this offseason when coach Jeff Fisher said they put an emphasis on fixing their pass rush.
They signed end Jason Babin, the No. 27 pick overall in 2004, to a one-year deal, and he leads the team with 5½ after getting two more in last week's 34-27 win at Dallas. Linebacker Will Witherspoon, signed to a three-year deal, has three himself. Morgan had 1½ before tearing his ACL on Oct. 3.
End Dave Ball, who replaced Vanden Bosch as a starter, already has tied his career-high with 4½ sacks. He said the Titans are taking advantage of rotating eight linemen who all pass rush well. He says that makes preparing for an opponent tougher for the offensive tackles.
"It's going to be challenging to kind of practice each week and to get one guy down, let alone two," Ball said. "We're able to do different things, and we're able to get pressure with matchups. We get after guys. We try to take advantage of both our conditioning, how aggressive we are and the fact we have two guys going against one."
Fisher cautions the sacks might not come easily Monday night against the Jaguars (3-2).
"You're only as good as your next game. You have to continue to get pressure. This group is going to be a big challenge for us because they max protect, they get rid of the ball, they have a mobile quarterback and a dangerous back out of the backfield in the screen and draw game," Fisher said.
Babin was the biggest offseason find. He signed for one year at $1 million, thinking the way Tennessee chases quarterbacks fit him best after being used as an outside linebacker in Houston.
"He's just been really good for us," defensive line assistant coach Jim Washburn said. "We like him. He just plays hard. He's talented, and he plays hard. Just a good fit. There's guys all over the NFL that would be good here that might not be as good other places. ... We look for certain types of players, and Jason Babin's one of them. That was a really good get for us."
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio credits Washburn for doing a great job.
"He's always seems to be able to churn out defensive lines that harass the quarterback and play with great technique. I know he's one of the better teachers at that position in the league," Del Rio said.