The Tennessee Titans' defense hasn't been bad, but anyone pretending like they haven't been disappointed by the pass rush is in denial.
Heading into the season, Tennessee Titans fans thought that they were in on the NFL's best-kept secret. With Bud Dupree out and Arden Key in, it was finally time for the Tennessee Titans pass rush to take the next step and become a top-5 unit.
Unfortunately, falling short of expectations has been a theme of the 2023 season and the pass rush isn't any different. Through nine games, the Tennessee Titans only have 24 sacks which is good for 17th best in the NFL.
Having a below-average pass rush wasn't something that fans expected and it is part of the reason why this season quickly turned from a potential bounce-back year to a season where the fan base is starting to fracture again.
The strange thing is that despite the disappointing output as a whole, there are three individuals who are actually on track for a 10-sack season.
Which Tennessee Titans pass rushers could still have big seasons?
Arden Key was the flashy free agent signing this offseason, but the biggest "addition" has been the return of Harold Landry.
Despite being fresh off of an ACL injury that sidelined him for 2022, Landry has five sacks his season and he has 4 sacks in the last 4 games. While his production was effort-based early in the year, he has started to regain his special bend and burst that made him a Pro Bowler in 2021.
People have been way too hard on Landry because he was being praised in the preseason by the coaching staff. He was never going to step right in and be the same 12-sack player that he was before the injury, but he has started to get hot.
It isn't hard to picture Landry notching five sacks in the last 8 games of the year since he is averaging a sack per game over the last month. That is all he would need for back-to-back 10+ sack seasons.
While Landry is the hottest pass rusher on the team, Denico Autry leads the Tennessee Titans with six sacks.
Autry started off the season hot and looked poised for a Pro Bowl season, and from a pure numbers standpoint, he might still deserve it. However, the Tennessee Titans defense has lost its mystique and no one on the Tennessee Titans roster is going to win a popularity contest this season with how boring the games have been.
However, with six sacks in his back pocket and games against the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars (twice), he is going to have some chances to thrive against bad competition down the stretch.
Shockingly, if Autry can get those four sacks, he would have the 10th most sacks in franchise history with 29. That would be an incredible three-year stretch from one of the best free-agent additions in recent memory.
The only other player with a shot at double-digit sacks is Jeffery Simmons.
Big Jeff would certainly need to make up some ground considering that he only has 4.5 sacks and we are just past the midway point in the season. However, we have seen that production comes in bunches from Simmons.
There seems to be a slight disconnect between Simmons and the coaching staff right now. Nothing major, but there has been some back-and-forth between Mike Vrabel and Simmons in postgame interviews when things have gone wrong.
Winning fixes everything so hopefully things get better in 2024 when the Tennessee Titans get back to winning, but regardless of winning and losing, a dominant stretch of pass-rushing production would do a lot for this team both on the field and off the field.
Whether anyone likes it or not, the Tennessee Titans are 3-13 in their last 16 games and they are the second-worst team over that stretch just narrowly beating the Arizona Cardinals. A rebuild is coming a year too late and fans need something to focus on instead of a wasted season.
Not only is this pass rush race interesting, but the Tennessee Titans could have all three back next season if they want to. If this pass rush could start to show some dominance toward the end of the season it might give fans more hope for the future.