The Tennessee Titans’ defense had all the makings of one of the best units in the NFL, but after they lost their leading pass rusher they haven’t been the same.
It isn’t fair to say that Harold Landry’s absence is the only thing hurting the Titans’ defense, because (in typical Titans fashion) there have been so many injuries layered throughout the season.
Elijah Molden, Bud Dupree, Zach Cunningham, Amani Hooker, Monty Rice, Ugo Amadi, Kristian Fulton, and Ola Adeniyi have missed a combined 17 games this season…it is Week 5.
It doesn’t matter how good your defense is on paper when you are so injured that you have to bring in guys off the street to play a game on less than a week’s notice.
Mercifully, some of that could be changing this week and some familiar names are trending toward playing on Sunday against the Washington Commanders.
Two Tennessee Titans are tracking for a return on Sunday
While Cunningham looks like he will miss this game, inside linebacker isn’t the concern that it was a week ago after Joe Shobert and Dylan Cole did a nice job rotating beside David Long Jr. against the Indianapolis Colts. Also, there is a potential for Monty Rice to get back into the mix, but that is a conversation for a different day.
Where the Titans did struggle was at defensive back and there were two main reasons for that.
The first reason is that the Tennessee Titans missed Amani Hooker last week. Whether it was missed tackles or being a step too late, none of the backup safeties that were given a chance, proved that they could be a capable Band-Aid with Hooker missing.
Luckily, Hooker is one of the players who might reemerge on Sunday.
He seems to be making his way through concussion protocol and he was listed as limited on Wednesday. Mike Vrabel is notoriously safe when it comes to concussions and has been for years (which is a great thing) with one missed game practically a given, the smart money should be on Hooker to play unless something unusual happens.
The other reason for their struggles is that the Tennessee Titans’ coaching staff completely bungled their decisions at cornerback. Specifically, moving Roger McCreary into the slot.
After talking about not wanting to put too much on his plate schematically, the Titans were quickly forced to change their mind when Elijah Molden and Ugo Amadi both were knocked by the end of Week 2.
You might not have noticed, but Ugo Amadi was the Titans’ starting slot cornerback in Week 1 and he did a great job in the passing game (0 targets) and as a run defender (5 tackles).
Having him back in the lineup would make life easier for McCreary by allowing him to stay on the boundary, and it would provide a much-needed level of consistency.
While each player still has to keep progressing at this rate, improvements in pass defense will have obvious ripple effects.
This pass rush has looked good this season and they never looked better than they did in Week 1 when they had a defensive backfield with Amani Hooker, Kevin Byard, Kristian Fulton, Roger McCreary, and Ugo Amadi.
For the second time this season, the Titans should be able to have that group on the field together and they would get to face an ailing passing game. A great day on defense would provide great momentum for this defense as they head into their early bye week and it would completely change the outlook on a team that started off 0-2.