Kevin Dodd, the rookie pass rusher out of Clemson whom the Titans took in the second round, has been placed on IR and is out for the year. Dodd had struggled with a foot injury heading into the season, and was never truly healthy. His inability to get to 100% affected his game and practice performance, which led to Dodd being made a (somewhat) “healthy” scratch the past few weeks. He will likely need a second surgery on his foot, but should be ready to go by the beginning of next season, when he’ll be needed.
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While this doesn’t seem like a big deal considering Dodd’s minimal impact in his first season with the Titans, it’s actually a big blow. The Titans pass rush has died out at an alarming rate since the first few weeks of the season. According to Tom Gower, over the past four games Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan have averaged an 86% snap clip. During that stretch, the Titans raw sack rate has been 4.5%, compared to 7.4% in the games before.
If you think back to the 2008 season where our Jim Schwartz-coached defense was among the best in the league, much of the defense’s success was because of the defensive line’s ability to get pressure on quarterbacks, making it easier for our coverage. They were able to get consistent pressure because they had a rotation of pass rushers. They were legitimately eight deep at defensive line: Albert Haynesworth, Jacob Ford, Jason Jones, Dave Ball, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tony Brown, Jevon Kearse, and Kevin Vickerson. The luxury of allowing your starters to take plays off and stay fresh for the duration of games, while not suffering a huge drop off when the bench players are in, was a massive key in the team’s success.
This current team doesn’t have that luxury. And it didn’t last season, which is why we saw the pass rush crumble after Morgan went down with injury. If Morgan and Orakpo are going to continue to log close to 90% of snaps for the rest of the season, then the pass rush will continue to suffer. There is no depth at outside linebacker and pass rushing defensive linemen on this team, and that will keep getting exposed with Dodd gone.