Wreh-Wilson's penalties a problem, but nothing new for a Titans' cornerback

It is fair to think that Blidi Wreh-Wilson has committed too many penalties.
The second-year cornerback, after all, has been flagged eight times for four different violations, including taunting, through the Tennessee Titans’ first four games this season. Half of them came in the Week 3 loss at Cincinnati.

Those who think those penalty problems are evidence that the 2013 third-round pick out of Connecticut has been a sub-par replacement for Alterraun Verner, however, might need to make their case elsewhere.

That’s because Verner, who signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay, led the Titans in penalties last season. It is a fact that got lost amid all the good he did last fall, including his AFC-leading five interceptions and the Titans’ lone Pro Bowl invitation.

Verner was flagged nine times overall, including six (four pass interference, two holding) in the final five weeks of the season. Guard Andy Levitre was second with seven violations.

“It’s the rules of the game,” Wreh-Wilson said recently. “In practice, coaches make sure to get on me to make sure that my techniques don’t slip or don’t change going forward to a game day. So it’s just something I have to work on during practice. I have to make sure that down the field I’m just running with the (receivers) and matching routes.”

If form holds, this will be the second straight year and the third time in the last four that a cornerback leads the team in penalties. Although to be fair, when Tommie Campbell did it in 2011 most of his infractions occurred on special teams.

Before that it was defensive linemen who led the Titans in penalties for four straight seasons. The end of that streak coincided with the departure of former defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who demanded a level of intensity that typically led to a few extra flags.

A year-by-year look at the Tennessee Titans’ leader in penalties (1999-present), including penalties that were declined:

2014: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, cornerback – 8-x
2013: Alterraun Verner, cornerback – 9
2012: David Stewart, tackle – 8
2011: Tommie Campbell, cornerback – 7
2010: Jason Babin, defensive end – 13
2009: Tony Brown, defensive tackle – 9
2008: Tony Brown, defensive tackle – 14
2007: Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle – 10
2006: Pacman Jones, cornerback – 7
2005: Pacman Jones, cornerback – 14
2004: Fred Miller, tackle – 14
2003: Justin Hartwig, center/Carlos Hall, defensive end – 11
2002: Brad Hopkins, tackle – 12
2001: Fred Miller, tackle – 13
2000: Brad Hopkins, tackle/Kenny Holmes, defensive end – 9
1999: Dainon Sidney, cornerback – 10

(x-through four games)

Wreh-Wilson is questionable for Sunday’s game against Cleveland (noon, CBS) with a concussion.

Even if (as expected) he sits out, he still will be on pace to commit the largest number of penalties by any Tennessee player during the Titans era. That, however, can be attributed at least in part to the fact that officials have placed greater emphasis on illegal contact against potential receivers.

Plus, it’s not as if he is the only Titans player drawing flags. Tennessee is fifth in terms of most penalties marked off (34) and penalty yards (307). At that pace the team will finish with 136 penalties, 12 shy of the franchise record.

“Penalties are up for everybody in the league right now,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That was expected coming out of the preseason. … It’s really hard to say it’s one area. It seems like we’ve just had some penalties at bad times.”

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