Last week we took a look at the needs on the offensive side of the ball. Now we turn our eyes to the defensive side of the ball to see where the Titans need to improve the roster.
I will begin by saying, every position on this defense could use talent. The defense performed decently well as a unit in 2017. They ranked thirteenth in total yards allowed per game, fourth in rushing yards allowed per game and twenty-fifth in passing yards allowed per game. While all of these are improved compared to 2016, it is nowhere near where this defense could be. Every level of this group could use a talent upgrade so when picking needs for the defense, I went with the three biggest areas of concern.
Interior Defensive Line
Jurrell Casey is one of the best interior rushers in the NFL. Being named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl should be enough to make this inarguable considering the uphill battle any Titans faces to make the NFL’s All-Star game. That being said, the list ends at Casey if you are looking for game-changing talent. The Titans defensive line group is incredibly underwhelming. Daquan Jones had a solid season up until he went on IR due to a torn biceps injury late in the year, but he had not been much of a difference maker in his previous three campaigns. His rookie contract is also up making him a logical candidate to not return. Free agent signing Sylvester Williams is almost certain to be a cap casualty unless he is willing to take a pay cut on his 5 million dollar base salary. Karl Klug was a favorite of the previous coaching staff but was not the same player coming back from an Achilles injury suffered in 2016. Austin Johnson and David King represent depth but don’t look to be starting-level players anytime soon. This unit needs top-tier talent. Someone who can help Casey create a push from the inside of the pocket. Interior pressure is the unspoken key to winning football games in this league, the Titans would do well to boost the talent in this area quickly.
The Titans have serviceable pieces at edge rusher with starters Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo. Midseason signing Erik Walden was also a valuable addition. Jon Robinson’s biggest miss in the draft has been second-year player Kevin Dodd who cannot seem to stay healthy enough to get on the field. Most draft pundits thought he would be out of place in the Titans 3-4 defense as he was a traditional 4-3 defensive end in college. Those pundits appear to have been right. New Titans coach Mike Vrabel was able to coach up great edge rushers such as Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus so maybe there is hope for Dodd, but with only seventh-round rookie Josh Carraway adding to this group, clearly, depth is needed. Add in the age of Morgan, Orakpo and Walden, and now you have a colossal issue. This was made evident by the Divisional playoff loss to the Patriots. New England came out, went up-tempo and no huddle for most of the first half. The Titans only had 4 line of scrimmage players available. This led to a tired Titans’ front that was unable to get one sack on Tom Brady. Depth, but talented depth is sorely needed.
Johnathan Cyprien made one of the most impactful plays of the year for the Titans when he put Travis Kelce out of the game in the Wild Card round. With Kelce, the Chiefs carved up the Titans and it is fair to say that if Kelce would not have left the game, the outcome may have been much different. However, Cyprien does not add much value to this team. He is a liability in coverage, as he has been his whole career. For a team that has finished in the bottom ten in passing yards allowed two seasons in a row, it may be smart to look for a more coverage adept safety. Cyprien was known as a “Box Safety” primarily who thrived on physicality but missed key tackles while only playing in 10 games all season. Injuries, poor play and a six million dollar salary in 2018 may be enough for Robinson to move on from Cyprien. All in all, the Titans need a major upgrade at safety to pair with Kevin Byard if the team is expected to improve its pass coverage.