The Titans defense has been inconsistent for the last couple of years, but the second half of 2021’s season saw the Titans turn a corner. However, with Harold Landry III suffering a season-ending injury, will the Titans still be able to build on their success? The team also has some question marks in the secondary, and the linebacker core never really found its footing, even with Landry on healthy.
The Elephant in the Room
The Titans consistently ranked around the middle of the pack coming out of the preseason, which is where most people would have put them at the end of the 2021 season, too. Unfortunately, the devastating news of Landry’s injury will likely lead to the Titans falling down a lot of rankings out there. Without Landry, the pass rush of the Titans falls on two familiar shoulders – Jeffery Simmons and Bud Dupree. (I discuss the most likely replacement for Landry in this article). Sure, Simmons will likely continue to terrorize offensive linemen for many years to come, but Dupree hasn’t looked like a dominant force since the 2019 season. Dupree stepping into the top edge rusher spot certainly causes some concern.
The Big Boys in the Trenches
Jeffery Simmons remains the undisputed leader of the boys in the trenches. He notched 8.5 sacks last season, slightly behind teammate Denico Autry’s 9.0. It’s easy to imagine these two will continue to put pressure on offenses from the line. Teair Tart currently sits atop the depth chart for DT, but he struggled with consistency last season.
That’s [Tart’s] biggest issue, is just being consistent. If he can be consistent and play the way that we want him to play, then he’ll play for us. If he doesn’t, then he’s in the same situation anybody would be in. If they don’t play to our standards, they won’t play.
Defensive Line Coach Terrell Williams on Tart Entering 2022 Season
The Titans linebacker core is perhaps one of the stronger parts of the defense. We’ll exclude the edge rushers in this portion. Zach Cunningham and David Long Jr. are expected to start the season off. Zach Cunningham played well in his time with the Titans last season. He joined the Titans in December and in four games he racked up 26 tackles. Long battled a hamstring injury, but still totaled 75 tackles in 10 games. Titans fans should feel confident here.
The Biggest Question Mark
Of course, that’s excluding the question of Rashad Weaver stepping into Landry’s spot. The Titans secondary has one of the best safeties in the league in Kevin Byard. Very few football fans would dispute that fact. Amani Hooker is still young but has continued to improve year over year. His year was cut short in 2021, but through 12 games he looked good opposite of Byard. These two should have excellent seasons in the Titans secondary
The question mark, then, clearly comes from corners Caleb Farley and Kristian Fulton. Farley had high expectations coming into the league, despite coming off an injury in his final year of college. Unfortunately, no one was able to see if those expectations were warranted as Farley was hurt 3 games into the season and subsequently placed on the IR. Fulton did get some meaningful time for the Titans and looked promising. Here’s hoping he can continue to improve and join Byard as an elite defender.
So… Can They?
As a Titans fan, I feel confident in the defense heading into the 2022 season. If the defense can stay healthy it has enough talent and leadership to take a big leap forward. Landry is irreplaceable to be sure, but Titans fans should remain optimistic that the rest of the defense can button down the hatches and whether the storm that is the AFC.
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