I admit it; I was wrong.
Coming into this year, I said time and time again that this Tennessee Titans defense was one shut down cornerback away from being great. However, I did not expect Alterraun Verner to be that player.
In a piece I wrote about the Titans defensive backfield this offseason, I described Verner’s play during his career so far as “wildly inconsistent.” Before the year began, Verner was nothing more than a solid run stopping defensive back who tackled well but had average-at-best coverage skills. He did not get beat deep often, but he simply did not force turnovers, either. But this season, that has changed.
In his first three years, Verner only caught six interceptions and recovered three fumbles, despite playing in all 48 games over that time span. This year, Verner is making an early bid for the NFL’s defensive player of the year, as he leads the league with six turnovers through only four games. Also, his four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and eight passes defended are all tied for tops in the league in their respective categories.
I am happy to say I was dead wrong about Verner, who is now the best player on one of the NFL’s best defenses. After surrendering an NFL-worst 29.4 points per game last season, Tennessee has started this year averaging only 17.3 points allowed per game, the seventh-best mark in the league. Those numbers are not being inflated by a cupcake schedule, either. All four of the offenses the Titans have faced are in the top half of the league in terms of yards from scrimmage, and the Jets, Chargers and Texans are all in the top 10.
If Verner and the rest of the defense can keep playing at this level, the Titans may just be able to stay afloat, even with Jake Locker sidelined for the foreseeable future.