The Tennessee Titans have big expectations going into this season. They finished 9-7 and were very close to making the playoffs. Unfortunately, a bad loss here and there kept them out of the playoffs. Unlike previous seasons though, there was an upward trajectory for the team. They had the perfect mixture of youth, veterans, leadership, and seemed to be building the perfect culture to make things happen.
The team drafted what they needed this season and plenty were happy with the choices they made. There was something that was missing and plenty could tell what it was. Over the years, guys like Javon Kearse and Kyle Vanden Bosch were terrors off the edge. Quarterbacks had nightmares about them and teams had to create gameplans around them each and every time out. Last year’s Titans defense had their moments, but they still seemed to be missing some things, mainly solid defensive backs and a pass rush.
Well, they seemed to solve one of those issues this offseason with the addition of Logan Ryan (New England Patriots) at cornerback and Jonathan Cyprien (Jacksonville Jaguars) at safety. However, there was one other hole that seemingly was not going to be solved. The Titans may have drafted a guy to play outside linebacker, but that pick was not one to write home for. Add in there the Titans only had one double-digit sack guy (Brian Orapko) last year and the issue was evident: there needed to be more of a pass rush. But where was it going to come from. Well, the Titans think they may have the answer.
The Titans and outside linebacker Erik Walden have agreed to a one-year deal to bring him to the team. The veteran linebacker was available and there seemed to not be much interest, which was surprising. But with what Walden can do, there is definitely a need for him in Tennessee. Orapko was effective last season for Tennessee in veteran defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s system, totaling 10.5 sacks, which was his first double-digit sack season since 2013. The other two big threats for sacks on the Titans, Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan, only totaled 14 sacks combined last year. For an interior defensive lineman, Casey put up some solid numbers and he caused havoc in the trenches. But for Morgan, his nine sacks were something that was above expectations. Even with him putting up that sack total last season, there is still room for concern. Morgan has never totaled double-digit sacks in his entire career and there is no reason to think that he can do so on a whim this year. So with that being said, Walden brings in a veteran presence with an ability to rush the passer. Walden had a breakout season as a member of the Indianapolis Colts last season, totaling 11 sacks for the season. Of course, his age is something that some organizations may have soured on going into free agency (turns 32 in August). But he has been solid and maybe, just maybe, he has found his pass-rushing mojo.
Now that the Titans have Walden, the question comes about how they are going to use him. Morgan could make it easy for him if he is to get injured, but let’s assume both are healthy this season. With Walden on the team, the Titans get more versatile up front. They could have him play either outside linebacker or they could put him on the field with both Orapko and Morgan. That type of pass-rushing talent can confuse a blocking scheme each and every time if you disguise it right. The more confusion and defensive weapons the Titans can put on the field, the more chances they have to make some things happen.
With what the Titans are expecting this season from their offense, they should be wanting to get the ball to them early and often. Another thing that Walden will bring is a veteran presence. People seemingly talk about the presence of a veteran player quite often to one extent or another. But realistically, their brains can be trusted on the field more than a younger player trying to get his niche together in the NFL. For a team that is trying to win now, the acquisition of a vet is great and can help them through the tough times that can happen during the season.
Titans executive Jon Robinson seems to be making all the right moves during the offseason whether you like them or not. The only question there is: Can that front seven wreak havoc? With LeBeau as the defensive coordinator, the Titans defense will be coming from all angles after opposing quarterbacks. The opportunities will be there for Orapko, Morgan, and Walden but can they take advantage of the opportunity? Only time will tell what happens.
Check out Pro Player Insiders on Twitter at @playerinsiders and Mike Patton on Twitter at @General_MP.
More stories you might like