Shane Bowen can draw on Titans' vast coaching experience to turn around defense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Even though Shane Bowen didn't have the title of defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans last season, he bore the brunt of the criticism when that unit struggled. After all, he was the playcaller on a defense that finished 28th in yards allowed (398.3 per game). Now that he is officially their coordinator, Bowen wants to get the defense back on track with help from the experienced hands on staff, including head coach Mike Vrabel, senior assistant Jim Schwartz and inside linebackers coach Jim Haslett.

Having so many alpha-type coaches in the same room resembles a scene from Bravo's "Top Chef" show. The Titans hope their coaching synergy yields results similar to a well-prepared five-star meal.

The idea that the 34-year-old Bowen, who is the least tenured coach of the group, is leading the charge defensively is something he welcomes.

"Just the position, the title, what comes with it," Bowen said of how things have changed since last season. "Having control over the whole unit and making sure we're all on the same page. Ultimately, being the final voice."

Bowen sees the wealth of knowledge that Vrabel, Schwartz and Haslett bring to the defensive room as an advantage because they've all been in his shoes before. Each of them have also served as a head coach, which Bowen feels gives him an edge because they've sat in on offensive meetings and can offer perspective on how offenses try to attack their defense.

Collectively, the trio offers 63 years of pro football coaching experience for Bowen to draw from.

"I think we all work well together," Bowen said. "It's great to be able to bounce ideas off of each other. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat. So the different perspectives are good. Everybody has their niche and things they do a little differently, but we're trying to find the right thing to do with our guys."

Added Haslett, "Obviously, I'll have suggestions. I think everybody has an opinion of how things should be done. I feel Shane [Bowen] has done a great job along with Mike [Vrabel] and Jim [Schwartz]; all of us are handling it in the right way."

What happens when the coaches see things differently?

"The one thing that everybody has to realize is there's going to be disagreements," Vrabel said. "When you leave a meeting, you have to all be on the same page when you go give the message to the players. That's what's most important and critical. It's what happened and will continue to happen."

Judging from last season's results, the defense could use all of the help it can get. The secondary gave up 36 passing touchdowns -- only the 5-11 Detroit Lions (38) gave up more. The 36 passing TDs surrendered tied the Titans with the 2008 Arizona Cardinals for the most ever by a playoff team, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

The Titans finished with just 19 sacks during the regular season. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that total was one shy of the fewest sacks by a playoff team since 1982, when the Atlanta Falcons won the NFC West title and got bounced from the wild card round of the playoffs.

On top of that, Tennessee allowed opposing offenses to convert on 51.9% of their third-down opportunities, which was the worst by any team in the past 30 seasons.

Even their red zone defense struggled. Teams scored touchdowns on 69% of their visits inside the Titans' 20-yard line, third worst in the league.

To help turn things around, the Titans made serious changes in the secondary. They released veteran defensive backs Malcolm Butler, Adoree' Jackson and Kenny Vaccaro. General manager Jon Robinson added veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins, in addition to selecting defensive backs Caleb Farley and Elijah Molden in the draft.

Tennessee also signed Bud Dupree and Denico Autry and drafted outside linebacker Rashad Weaver to help out up front. All together, the personnel changes could make the Titans' defensive unit a much better group this season.

Bowen will undoubtedly spend a good amount of time working with new outside linebackers Dupree and Weaver as they get acclimated to their new team. But unlike last year, Bowen will get to rotate among the position groups instead of solely working with the outside linebackers, who are now coached by Ryan Crow.

"First and foremost, it helps develop a relationship with all of the players," Bowen said. "You see how they work. We always talk about taking stuff from the meeting room to individual period to group and team. You see the techniques that we talk about that we show on film and talking about it on the field. If you can correct things in the moment, it's always better than after the fact. It's been great for me to build relationships with these guys."

The Titans had conversations with other candidates for the defensive coordinator position. But when the dust settled, Vrabel went with the guy he was most familiar with. Someone who had been with him since 2016 when Vrabel was the linebackers coach for the Houston Texans and Bowen joined the staff as a defensive assistant.

Now it's up to Bowen to prove Vrabel made the right decision.

"He's brought me up through the profession in some regard," Bowen said. "I appreciate his confidence in me. Just like all of the players we talk about, we work every day to make this team better, regardless of the individual. We are all in this together to do whatever we see fit or whatever is needed to find ways to win."