While Titans fans wait on Ndamukong Suh, there’s another available defensive lineman to keep an eye on: Johnathan Hankins.
The Indianapolis Colts parted ways with massive defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins recently. The 25-year-old run-stuffer was cut a day before his 2018 salary ($4.5 million) was guaranteed. That, combined with the Colts transitioning to a 4-3 defense, made it an easy decision for the front office. With the uncertainty of what team Ndamukong Suh is going to sign with, Hankins is definitely someone GM Jon Robinson and HC Mike Vrabel have discussed as possible insurance.
Robinson has demonstrated multiple times that he likes to rely on personal connections when it comes to more expensive free agents. In the past two off-seasons, Robinson has relied on his New England ties alone to land the likes of Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, and Dion Lewis. With that said, Robinson could decide to lean on Vrabel’s personal connection with Hankins to land the big defensive lineman.
Vrabel was an assistant coach for the Buckeyes during Hankins’ collegiate career. Reflecting on his time at Ohio State, Hankins actually credited Vrabel for playing a critical role in his development:
“He’s brought a lot of energy to the D-line, a lot of technique to the standpoint, just use your hands,” Hankins said.“He stresses just using your extension, making plays without using your body, using your arms, using your hands. I got a good technical (lesson) from him. Just his history of what he has done, playing at Ohio State, playing in the NFL, playing with the Patriots, I try to build off what he’s done and incorporate that into my game.” (Boston Herald)
The former Buckeye may not wow fans with his statistics, but he is somebody who has the ability to make the players around him better. His constant penetration into the backfield forces opposing offensive lines to commit two bodies to him through the course of a game. That puts other defensive playmakers, like Jurrell Casey, in favorable one-on-one matchups.
In years past, new DC Dean Pees has preferred his defensive linemen to be built similarly to Hankins. In 2017, the average weight of a defensive tackle on the Baltimore Ravens was 316 lbs, while Hankins comes in at 6’2″, 320 lbs. This could also explain why the team parted ways with Karl Klug, who only weigs 270 lbs.
While it’s obvious that Ndamukong Suh would bring a lot more play-making potential to the Titans, Johnathan Hankins could come in as a pretty good insurance policy at less than half the price.