Why the Tennessee Titans are optimistic despite losing Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans Blog

November 12, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Most people outside the walls at St. Thomas Sports Park, where the Tennessee Titans are based, felt like the sky was falling when MVP candidate Derrick Henry was ruled out for the season due to an injury to the foot.

Players and coaches acknowledged that the loss of their star running back was significant when asked about the NFL’s leading running back. But they promised to maintain their “next man up” mentality that has been applied to every other injury this season.

Like their coach, Mike Vrabel, the Titans (7-2) appear to rise to the top when faced with the toughest situations, keeping them at the top of the AFC standings after nine weeks.

“We have a lot of guys that no matter what the situation is, we’re going to fight to the end,” defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons said. “We knew a lot of people doubted us, that they all had thoughts without Derrick. We miss Derrick, it sucks that he gets hurt. But it’s one thing defense wins championships.”

Tennessee’s defense is getting in shape at just the right time. He drowned the Kansas City Chiefs in a 27-3 win in Week 7. Most recently, the Titans held the Los Angeles Rams to 16 points in a 12-point victory, and the Rams’ only touchdown came when the game was already it was over. far.

The recent spike in turnovers brought on by the Titans defense is one of the main reasons the team is winning. Tennessee’s defense had caused two turnovers in the first four games, and at one point, David Quessenberry, an offensive lineman, led the team in forced fumbles.

The Titans use a ball break period during practice that focuses on hitting the ball out of the ball carrier’s hand or catching deflected passes. The approach paid off in Week 5 when safety Kevin Byard picked up a fumble caused by Elijah Molden and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown on the Titans’ first defensive drive in their 37-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tennessee forced two turnovers in that game. The Titans would force 11 turnovers in the next six games, winning each of their meetings.

During that stretch, Byard had five interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, had a forced fumble and returned a fumble for a touchdown. The veteran safety was named Defensive Player of the Month in October and is now a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

Byard’s forced fumble against the Chiefs, when he threw the ball out of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ hand, is a prime example of the results that are up front.

“You can see Kevin Byard’s ball production,” Vrabel said. “We’ve tried to study that, and there are other guys who are doing it, it’s just that Kevin has been doing very well in terms of stabbing in the pocket and not hitting. All these techniques that we see make the difference between making a play and not making a play. Again, it’s the player who comes out and does it, it’s just as coaches, you try to find ways to help them improve. When you do that, there is a sense of acceptance from the player that these things are working. “.

Byard said they are gaining confidence with what they are recording. Things discussed in the classroom and insisted on on the field have led to positive results on game day.

As a result, the Titans defense isn’t giving up as many big plays. After allowing six passing plays of 40 yards or more in the first six games, the secondary has not allowed any of those plays since.

The defense is forcing teams to take field shots in the red zone. In the past three games, Tennessee’s defense has allowed opposing offenses to score touchdowns in 45% of their visits to the red zone, which is the sixth best in that span.

“In some games, the offense doesn’t play well and the defense has to hold on or vice versa,” Byard said. “It’s about being a team and not saying that the defense won everything.”

“It just makes it a lot more fun for us, knowing we have to make more plays,” added linebacker Bud Dupree. “At the end of the day, it’s something we know we have to put on our shoulders. Just knowing that Derrick was a huge key to the offense, we need to make sure we make up for it.”

For the Titans’ forwards four, the additions of Dupree and Denico Autry through free agency have paid off in a big way.

Tennessee finished with 19 sacks last season, placing them 30 in the NFL. The Titans already have 23 sacks in nine games this season.

Harold Landry III has upped his game and is turning pressures into sacks. It’s like a middle reliever in baseball that becomes a closer stoplight.

Landry’s 34 quarterback pressures last season were the 13 highest in the NFL. But he finished with 5.5 sacks. Through nine games, Landry has nine sacks, tying his career record for one season.

As for the interior, Simmons completed a career day with three sacks last Sunday against the Rams. But his biggest play came when he pressured Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford for a misplaced pitch, resulting in an interception by David Long Jr. that set up the Titans’ first touchdown.

“You don’t get sacks unless all 11 on the field are on the same page,” Simmons said. “The quarterback had to hold the ball, we got in the pocket. Guys props in the back. That’s like interceptions. We hit the quarterback, we get him to throw the ball and that helps get interception “.

The Titans host the New Orleans Saints (5-3) on Sunday (1 pm ET, CBS) at Nissan Stadium.