Oh how quickly things can change in the NFL. Once at 0-2 and looking like a real basement dweller this year, the Tennessee Titans have now won five games in a row and sit at 5-2 through the first two months.
If we were breaking up NFL teams into categories, it still looks like they might be best described as a “playoff team” and not a “contender”, but they have clearly swung momentum to their side within the past month.
They are quietly getting hot right before their tougher stretch of the season, and we know what this team is capable of when that is the case.
Derrick Henry is surging and of course, he is the one who is getting the attention, but how about this defense?
They were one of the more disrespected units last year and coming into this year, and they had a very uninspiring start. After the Buffalo Bills game (and a team meeting called by the captains) they are once again starting to show why they should be a feared unit across the league.
Tennessee Titans’ defense is regaining form and consistency
If we take the entire 2022 season into consideration, the Tennessee Titans defense has been pretty inconsistent overall. We cannot just forget the opening game when Saquon Barkley absolutely gashed them on the ground over and over again.
For the next few games after that, the secondary was looking incredibly suspect, as injuries, underperformance, and shuffling players around hampered them. But if you look now, the improvement against the run and the pass has been evident.
The run defense is dominant again, climbing their way back up to second in yards allowed per game and keeping Jonathan Taylor and Josh Jacobs well in check along the way. Even Dameon Pierce, who has been one of the better rookie running backs from the 2022 draft class, could do next to nothing against the Tennessee Titans.
With how much talent the Titans have at the first and second levels, it is not a fluke that teams are having a hard time running against them. In addition to what they had last year, Teair Tart and David Long have both taken the next step toward becoming standout players, which is scary for a group that already has Jeffery Simmons.
The secondary, while still not perfect, has definitely tightened up recently. Even with Amani Hooker’s injury issues being tough for the safeties, the cornerback room is quietly becoming a strength for the Titans.
Kristian Fulton has emerged as a true CB1, and he starting to look more and more like the other premier corners in the NFL.
Keep in mind that the numbers below include games against Terry McLaurin and Michael Pittman.
Roger McCreary has also been very good as a rookie and has shown that he has tremendous potential as a boundary corner. On top of that, the Titans just got the news that they are about to get an even bigger boost with their starting slot corner returning this week in all likelihood.
Andrew Adams has also been pretty reliable in Molden’s absence, and Terrance Mitchell has shown that he is…actually alright. After getting absolutely worked against the Raiders, the perception of Mitchell has actually been worse than the product on the field.
So even if Hooker is out for a few weeks, which could be the case, it is not like his replacements are horrible.
For as much as the Titans’ defense has had to overcome early-season deficiencies in the run game and secondary, we have not taken into account how lethal their pass rush still is. Injuries have hurt this group as well, but even at times when they have not been at full health, we have seen the swagger that they have.
Jeffery Simmons has gotten even better as a pass rusher, Denico Autry has done a good job after transitioning to a role primarily on the edge, and Rashad Weaver and Teair Tart are improving rapidly. And hopefully sooner or later, the narrative of Bud Dupree being overpaid and overhyped can be put to rest.
They are starting to finally get more pressures and more sacks as everyone gets healthy, and it just adds to an entire unit that has so much versatility overall. Keep in mind that all of this is without Harold Landry, the man who has been well at the top of the defensive snap counts and impacted the game in more ways than just the pass rush.
Just imagine this group if he were healthy. Even then, you will not hear a single Titans fan complain about what they have done, especially recently. They are regaining the form that fueled their hot streak in 2021, and what better time to do it than right now when the schedule gets tough?
The Titans are going to be a tough team to beat because their defense is almost always going to keep them in games. They will rarely get blown out, and with Mike Vrabel’s track record in one-score games, it is certainly reasonable to have optimism about the next few weeks.