Tennessee Titans metric battle: Starting nose tackle

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 11: Sylvester Williams
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 11: Sylvester Williams /

One of the more intriguing position battles on the Tennessee Titans roster.

One thing you will see a lot of this time of year is people talking about how their draft picks don’t conform to the normal standards. “Their guy” is different an an exception to the rule.

Allow me to introduce you to the wonderful world of metrics.

There are certain values that the majority of players in NFL history (if not all) have hit over the last few decades. This is true for quarterbacks, running backs, EDGE players, CBs, etc.

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Some people seem to think that for bigger players like defensive tackles and offensive linemen don’t work like that. They are wrong.

Sure, Vince Wilfork didn’t have to run a 4.3 to be a great nose tackle. However, when you adjust his testing to his size, you would see that he was poised to be a great player.

Now, athleticism is great, but to really see if a player has real potential you need to pair athleticism with production. If a player is a great athlete but can’t make a tackle or find a hole, then they won’t be a good fit in the NFL.

Jim Cobern has done a great job over the last few years breaking down draft prospects and NFL players to find the right baseline of athleticism and production that determines success.

I am going to try to use those numbers to predict which player on the Tennessee Titans defensive line will break through and win the nose tackle job. Here are the production and athleticism numbers respectively.

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View image on Twitter /


Best: Austin Johnson

2nd: Sylvester Williams

Last: Angelo Blackson

Johnson edged out Williams in production, nearly hitting all of the All-Pro thresholds. His solo tackle market share was just shy, but the good news is he hit the All-Pro numbers on the big impact plays like TFLs and sacks.

Williams did well passing both of those markers as well, but his solo tackle market share was pretty far below both All-Pro and Pro-Bowl levels. His quick first step makes him a feast or famine type of player.

Blackson had the worst grade here, falling below even the Pro Bowl levels on solo tackle MS and TFL MS.

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  • Athleticism

    Best: Angelo Blackson

    2nd: Sylvester Williams

    Last:  Austin Johnson

    Well, that didn’t make it any clearer. For as poorly as Blackson did in his production scores, his athleticism put him past the All-Pro mark in every category. Blackson was the only player to have any metric pass all of the All-Pro markers.

    Williams again looks solid, but not overwhelmingly impressive. His speed an flexibility are good, but his lack of explosion makes his first step so important.

    Austin Johnson fell flat here. While he hits the starter mark, he doesn’t show any signs of being a key cog on this defense.

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    Who should start

    I think it is pretty clear that Williams is the low ceiling, high floor starter at nose tackle. Jim Cobern advises against him as a long term starter.

    If you are looking for a splash, Cobern says Blackson’s athleticism could provide a spark.

    I would head into next season with Williams as the starter getting the bulk of the snaps. His experience and his borderline athleticism and production makes him a viable starter for now.

    On passing downs and/or if Williams needs a breather, Blackson’s athleticism could be a handful for opposing interior linemen and give the Titans a change up on the line.

    Still, it looks like the Titans may need to address this need in the next draft or free agency class.