Four Players to Watch as Tennessee Titans Training Camp Begins

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 27: Derrick Henry
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 27: Derrick Henry /
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NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 11: Trevor Siemian
NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 11: Trevor Siemian /

2. SAFETY Kevin Byard

As a rookie, Kevin Byard turned plenty of heads. He showed the ability to be an effective blitzer and make clean tackles in the box. However, what Byard never really showed as an NFL freshman was his ability to play centerfield and be a ballhawk, the skill that made him a star at MTSU. Fortunately, it wasn’t really Byard’s fault.

In 2016, once Byard became a starter at safety, he played much more strong safety than free. Thus, most of the time he played close to the line of scrimmage, leaving veteran Rashad Johnson to play deep. With the addition of Johnathan Cyprien, Pro Football Focus’ top graded run defender in the league last year, and a healthy Da’Norris Searcy taking a pay cut to stay on the team, Byard is set up to be the Titans’ featured free safety in 2017.

In the NFL, it’s a general principle that safeties who play deep are much more valuable than the hard-hitting, run stopping variety. Most of the players generally recognized as the league’s best safeties (Earl Thomas, Harrison Smith, Eric Berry) play deep down the field. If Byard does well in his new role, the Titans have a very young and valuable building block for their defense. If he does poorly, they move him back to strong safety, where he’s already proven to be a good player.

Regardless of Byard’s success or lack thereof as a centerfielder, the Titans know they have a good football player. As camp begins, we have the opportunity to watch Byard receive plenty of reps in his new role, one that he’s probably more comfortable in.