By the end of the Tennessee Titans win versus the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3, the Titans had quietly named three new starters on defense. No one really talked about it during the game and it wasn’t until after the game when the snap counts were posted that anyone even noticed something.
Trust is being placed in some of the young guns. As a matter of fact, consider this your introduction to three new starters on this Titans team.
So who are the Tennessee Titans’ new starters?
Except, he actually isn’t.
Adeniyi has a role on the Titans’ defense, and he is definitely going to get snaps as a designated pass rusher. Still, when Bud Dupree is healthy, he and Harold Landry are going to start (and that is the right call).
So, let’s talk about some of the cream that has risen to the top. The first new starter is actually fan-favorite linebacker David Long who played 100% of the defensive snaps on Sunday and looked like the most explosive linebacker on the field since Jayon Brown circa 2018.
Now, we won’t pat ourselves on the back here, but remember when Titan-Sized told you that David Long was going to be the starter in 2021.
Joining him with 61 snaps (100%) on defense this week was Dane Cruikshank who also shined as a physical presence in the run game. A few weeks ago the prospect of Bradley McDougald being used as a true strong safety/in-the-box presence, gave Tennessee Titans fans hope that Kevin Byard would get back to patrolling the deep middle part of the field and getting interceptions.
While that never happened, Cruikshank showed up like the nerdy girl taking her glasses off at prom in any 90s rom-com.
Speaking of players with a certain reputation that fans have done a 180 on, the final new starter is actually slot cornerback Chris Jackson.
During the offseason, people criticized Jackson (and Kristian Fulton too) for their performances with the 2020 defense. Looking back, that was clearly an overreaction.
It is hard to play cornerback in the NFL, but it is incredibly hard to do it as a rookie who isn’t expecting to start immediately. Remember these two were thrown in with one day of practice after Adoree Jackson got his mystery injury days before a game.
Rookie cornerback Elijah Molden was hot during the preseason and looked exciting, but he has struggled a lot with offenses putting their fastest player in the slot and then taking him on vertical routes where he can’t keep up.
After two weeks of tough matchups, the Tennessee Titans used Week 3 to test Jackson in the slot and he had a really nice day.
With all of these revisions, you may need a refresher on who the starters on defense are. So, assuming everyone is healthy, this is the list of projected starters as of October 2nd:
EDGE: Harold Landry
DL: Jeffery Simmons
DL: Teair Tart
EDGE/DL: Bud Dupree/Denico Autry depending on the formation
LB: David Long
LB: Jayon Brown
SCB: Chris Jackson
CB: Jackrabbit Jenkins
CB: Kristian Fulton
FS: Kevin Byard
SS: Dane Cruikshank
One last note, position battles are never over, and as the season goes on keep an eye on young players like Caleb Farley, Elijah Molden, Monty Rice, and even forgotten rookies like NaQuan Jones and Brady Breeze to compete for roles.