Tennessee Titans OTAs: A big position switch on defense
By Will Lomas
The Tennessee Titans' second OTA practice of the offseason was open to the media and there was one big takeaway from the work that happened on the field.
Due to the nature of the position, the biggest question surrounding the team right now is whether Will Levis or Malik Willis will be the backup quarterback when the season opens in three months. That is a topic that has to do with the future of the Titans and it is something that we will see play out over the preseason.
Something that will directly affect Tennessee in Week 1 is where Elijah Molden will line up on defense.
Tennessee Titans fans have had so much to think about over the last 12 months that Elijah Molden has been forgotten about for the majority of the offseason. That is a shame because he had a great rookie season filled with highlights in coverage, forced fumbles, interceptions returned for touchdowns, and dozens of great plays as a run defender.
With the injury that kept him out for nearly all of 2022 behind him, there was never a question about whether or not Molden should be on the field, just a question about where to line him up after two offseasons worth of roster shuffles.
During his rookie season, Molden spent the bulk of his snaps playing as a slot cornerback or in the box as a linebacker/slot corner hybrid (let's call that the dime linebacker). With Kristian Fulton, Roger McCreary, and Sean Murphy-Bunting all fighting for the top three cornerback spots, it felt like a waste to have Molden's role reduced when he did so well as a rookie.
That is why it was exciting to see him line up at safety today with Kevin Byard skipping OTAs.
Position switch for the Tennessee Titans versatile defensive back
While Molden won't take Byard's spot (unless there is a trade), Molden should be on the field as often as possible. He is better in coverage than any Titans linebacker or safety including Byard, and he is a very solid run defender.
The Titans probably don't want him lining up with receivers with field-stretching speed, but other than that he is a great Swiss Army Knife to have on the field to help solve matchup problems that offenses try to use.
When Byard is back, Molden can fill in as the dime linebacker as he did in 2022 and he should be an instant sub on passing downs. Giving him experience as a safety on top of the experience he already has at cornerback should mean that if he doesn't win the starting slot cornerback job this season, he will be able to plug and play at corner or safety when (not if) the Tennessee Titans suffer an injury in the secondary.
Versatility is a buzzword for the Tennessee Titans coaching staff right now and Molden's effectiveness in the past combined with his willingness to do anything to get on the field will endear him to Mike Vrabel and potentially lead to a new deal with the defense down the road.
Mike Vrabel even hinted that cross-training like this would help him see the field more saying, "I think [practicing at safety] will help him expand his role a little bit."