Notebook: Lions thankful the Titans didn't work harder to keep Tulloch, Vanden Bosch

Posted Sep 21, 2012

The Titans have let some really good talent walk out the door the last few seasons.

Maybe it was part of their rebuilding process, or maybe they just wanted to move in a different direction, but the Lions are thankful the Titans didn’t work harder to keep linebacker Stephen Tulloch and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch.

The Lions signed both players away from the Titans - Vanden Bosch in 2010 and Tulloch a year later.

Tulloch and Vanden Bosch have become the captains of the Lions defense and the core of the type of players they hope to fill the roster with for the foreseeable future. Vanden Bosch, 33, is at the tail end of his career, but Tulloch, 27, is in his prime and is now one of the core pieces on defense for the Lions after signing a 5-year, $25 million deal this offseason.

“He was very young when we drafted him,” said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, who was the defensive coordinator for the Titans for 10 years, of Tulloch. “I think he was 20 years old. Drafted him and he played special teams at first, which he had never in his life done. He became one of our better special teams’ players and when our middle linebacker got hurt late in the year he came in and played well.

“Probably his biggest progression over the course of his NFL career has been pass defense. There’s a lot to learn in pass defense. It doesn’t matter who you are, but particularly for linebackers, it’s a very difficult thing. You have to know all your run-fits and all your blitzes. But pass defense is probably the biggest challenge and just looking back on him from him as a rookie, that’s the thing that he’s improved the most on."

Tulloch has become a three-down linebacker for the Lions.

“He’s always been a distinctive defender when it comes to the run,” Schwartz said. “He’s been a short tackler, those sorts of things. But he’s become much more effective against the pass.”

Schwartz, Tulloch and Vanden Bosch head back to Tennessee to play the Titans for the first time since leaving over a three-year span, beginning with Schwartz in 2009.

The Titans find themselves in a 0-2 hole heading into Sunday’s game and needing a victory in the worst way. With road trips to Houston and Minnesota looming over the next two weeks and then a home game against the Steelers, the Titans will be desperate to get a win at home on Sunday.

Schwartz said playing a team on the ropes like that could be tough to predict sometimes.

“Maybe somebody might be tempted to fake a punt or do something like that to make a play if they’ve been struggling on offense,” Schwartz said. “Maybe they might blitz more if they have been struggling on defense or vice versa. Maybe they’re struggling with the blitz and they don’t blitz as much.

“So you always take those kinds of situations and what happened in the first couple of games into account, but the most important thing is always the way we play. We have good players and a scheme that fits them. We need to go execute. If we do a good job of that, then it makes the other stuff moot.”

Schwartz said Friday that he doesn’t get a chance to watch a lot of other football games around the league because of his obvious time constraints, but he did catch a little bit of Thursday night’s Giants/Panthers game and said he came away with an appreciation for how some backup players played a big role in the Giants’ victory.

Schwartz brought up Thursday’s game when asked a question about some of his backups in the secondary having to step up in past weeks and again this week because of injuries.

“That’s the name of the game in the NFL,” Schwartz said. "I don’t get to watch very many games but I caught a little bit of last night's and a guy that got cut five times goes and rushes for 113 yards or whatever it was. Receiver that didn’t have very many opportunities became the go-to receiver and (went) over 100 yards.

“That’s what this league is all about. Everybody gives a lot of attention to the guys that are at the top of the roster, the well-known guys. But you have 46 on game day and all of them are expected to contribute and all of them can contribute. For a lot of them it’s an opportunity and when they get that opportunity they need to respond well and some of our guys have.”