By selecting Rashaan Evans, the Tennessee Titans have the ability to bring versatility and youth to an aging front seven.
The Tennessee Titans haven’t had to wait this long to see who the newest Titan will be since Kendall Wright in 2012. The wait is a refreshing change for an organization on the rise. This offseason, GM Jon Robinson has done an excellent job solidifying areas of need, and for the first time in a long time, there really isn’t a true need the Titans must attack in the first round.
Most fans are screaming for an edge defender that will bring youth behind two aging veterans on the last years of their contracts. I would agree with you that youth within the front seven is needed, but after the top three edger rushers are off the board, the tier two edge rushers will be a reach at 25. I believe that the youth movement must happen in the front seven, but for me, Rashaan Evans needs to be the start of the movement.
The Titans have not placed great emphasis on the inside linebacker position in the past five years. For this reason, let’s address the elephant in the room: The Titans struggled to cover the middle of the field over that span. The linebackers allowed the fifth-best passer rating in the middle of the field with a whopping 107.6 rating last season. The Titans had three linebackers play a significant amount of snaps in 2017: Avery Williamson, who the Titans selected in the fifth round; Wesley Woodyard, a free agent acquisition from Denver; Jayon Brown, who was also drafted in the fifth round, in 2017.
Coming into the 2018 season, the Titans’ depth chart at the position will be: Woodyard, who is now 31, and Brown, who is coming into his second year as the Titans’ primary coverage linebacker. After this, the Titans have two other inside linebackers who were on the roster last season: Nate Palmer and Daren Bates, both of whom are key special teamers for the Titans. The good news, is the Titans replaced Williamson with a carbon copy of his in Will Compton, a fantastic run defender who came over from Washington and is 28 years old.
HC Mike Vrabel has stated that the defense will focus on coverage consistency and front multiplicity/versatility. If the Titans want the front seven to be versatile, they will need to acquire a faster and more athletic prospect at the inside linebacker position. We do not know what craziness the draft will bring or what Robinson will do based upon what happens in front of the Titans, but since day one, Robinson has had a set criteria in what he wants in a player. Robinson wants production, experience, leaders and team-first players.
Based upon Robinson’s criteria, Rashaan Evans fits the mold. The casual football fan didn’t need to watch too much Alabama football to see him jump out of the TV screen. Evans is known to be very similar prospect to his 2017 teammate, Reuben Foster, but having a clean bill of health off the field in comparison. After sitting behind future pros like Foster for three years, Evans was selected captain by his teammates and in 2017. He started 12 games, tying for the team lead with 74 tackles, leading the team with 13 tackles for loss and recording six sacks. Even while only starting 12 games due to a groin injury, he was a second-team All-SEC pick. Per Pro Football Focus, as a pass-rusher, he posted an impressive pressure rate of 30.6 percent on 85 pass-rush snaps a season ago, tallying more combined sacks and QB hits than any other off-ball linebacker.
Originally, Evans was recruited as an edge defender/outside linebacker, but had to sit back and wait his turn to play, as Alabama has continued to produce NFL caliber players. He made a very smooth transition to inside backer, which was mainly due to his excellent athletic ability. Not only can Evans play as s traditional linebacker, he has excelled at getting to the quarterback. Evans is a very versatile player that has the ability to rush the passer, dominate in the run game and cover well.
Coverage is defined as a weakness of his, but he has been more of a third down pass rusher than a cover backer. But due to his athleticism, he has been able to be consistent in coverage situations. A lack of starting experience is another weakness for him, but when given the ability to play and start, he has been able to dominate and produce.
Per an SB nation interview with Evans, he stated that “I’ve always told each team that I meet with, I always want them to understand that I’m an unselfish player. Whatever it is that you need me to do, I can do it, and I can do it at a high level and do it with an IQ to actually play it.”
The Midday 180 did an interview with Jon Robinson discussing some draft needs and areas where the Titans might look for, and Robinson discussed the linebacker position and might have tipped his hand as to whom they might draft at 25 if there. To me, based upon my understanding of the new defensive scheme, Robinson’s track record and Evans’ traits, production, versatility and unselfish attribute, he would be the perfect fit for the Titans’ new defensive philosophy and also bring youth to an aging front seven.