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Without Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans Discover New Identity as Defensive Force

Without Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans Discover New Identity as Defensive Force

Tennessee Titans defensive end Jeffery Simmons, left, sacks Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Ashley Landis/Connected Press

The Tennessee Titans lost the guts and soul of their team when running motivate Derrick Henry suffered what might perchance presumably totally be a season-ending broken foot.

No misfortune. 

Mike Vrabel’s squad stumbled on one other manner to catch, 28-16, on the avenue at SoFi Stadium with the Titans defense dismantling the Los Angeles Rams, who looked handle the perfect team in soccer getting into the competition. 

Henry’s brilliance because the game’s premier workhorse and seemingly MVP frontrunner till his injury overshadowed the fact Tennessee’s defense progressively improved precise via the first half of of the campaign and peaked in opposition to Sean McVay’s prolific offensive assault. 

In entire, the Rams quiet managed smartly over 300 entire yards. But the Titans persistently won within the trenches, pressured quarterback Matthew Stafford precise via the night and flew to the soccer in such a capability the unit might perchance presumably furthermore furthermore be Tennessee’s tone-setter from this level forward. 

The Titans function expert war daddies alongside the defensive front to crash opposing offenses. Alongside the motivate line, the team has arguably the league’s simplest safety in Kevin Byard. The linebackers are athletic, too. A full effort each and each week will back propel the Titans to their rightful design amongst the AFC’s simplest squads, even without their simplest participant. 

Tennessee became the AFC’s first team to achieve seven victories. In what might perchance presumably be thought a pair of mediocre 365 days for the convention, the Titans now stand on my own. After a brutal overtime loss to the Unusual York Jets precise via the first weekend of October, Tennessee reeled off 5 straight victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Rams. Presumably those particular person squads will no longer be as impressive on the present time as they had been expected to be, however the Titans are quiet taking care of enterprise in opposition to the proficient community of different folks who play on those rosters. 

A week ago, the Titans became the single opponent to withhold Colts running motivate Jonathan Taylor below 100 speeding yards in his closing four appearances. Carson Wentz threw two interceptions, whereas Tennessee careworn the quarterback with seven hits. 

On Sunday, the Titans’ defense leveled up and demolished the Rams with two interceptions, 5 sacks and 11 more quarterback hits. The entire lot starts alongside the defensive interior. Los Angeles had no resolution for Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry. Those round the league knew what they had been about to face this season within the 24-365 days-feeble defensive tackle. 

“No one is Aaron Donald, however he might perchance presumably furthermore simply be the closest,” an nameless customary manager suggested ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler this summer season. 

The three-time NFL Defensive Participant of the Year is no longer outdated to being upstaged. But Simmons did so Sunday. In spite of all the pieces, the up-and-comer registered three sacks and 10 quarterback pressures, in preserving with NFL Subsequent Gen Stats. His 27 pressures since Week 6 lead the league. 

Simmons is so explosive and extremely efficient in instant areas he can manufacture 300-plus pound offensive linemen gaze handle human whirligigs whereas making an are trying to block him. 

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GOOD LORD, Jeffery Simmons!! #Bully https://t.co/BOabQm8GOf

The 2019 first-round recall is a diversified skills. But he advantages from undoubtedly one of many league’s simplest defensive lines. The Titans function other folks all alongside the front four who can catch their one-on-one matchups and blow up plays. 

Denico Autry has been nearly as real as Simmons with 20 pressures since Week 6. The hybrid defensive lineman, who can play rank quit or 3-methodology, is extremely instant off the snap and slices via blocking schemes. The Rams’ interior didn’t catch an resolution for him or his running mate. 

Off the edge, Harold Landry Jr. has emerged as undoubtedly one of many league’s simplest wander-rushers. At the same time as a second-round recall within the ’18 draft class, Landry was the most natural bender and edge-rusher the category needed to present. The 25-365 days-feeble has gotten stronger and more fixed without shedding any of his flexibility or explosivity. Which capability, he ranks amongst the league’s simplest with 9 sacks via 9 video games. 

Amazingly, Bud Dupree has yet to play particularly smartly after the organization signed the edge-defender to a 5-365 days, $82.5 million free-agent contract. Slightly presumably, his play might perchance presumably furthermore simply quiet recall up as he will get more ecstatic within the machine and takes perfect thing about alternatives playing alongside Tennessee’s proficient front. 

Success came from relying practically totally on the defensive linemen attending to Stafford without being forced to bring additional blitzers. As NFL Subsequent Gen Stats eminent, the Titans blitzed only 5 instances Sunday. The unit generated a 30.6 p.c stress price with four or fewer wander-rushers. All 5 sacks came courtesy of a four-man move. 

“We’re appropriate a four-man wrecking crew,” Autry acknowledged after the competition. 

The Titans had been so real up front the Rams needed to change their offensive advance within the second half of appropriate to catch Stafford out of the pocket on myth of Los Angeles’ offensive line wasn’t up to the project. 

Consistent stress with no must always make expend of additional defenders tends to enhance protection. The Titans’ secondary endured its a part of accidents with Kristian Fulton and first-round rookie Caleb Farley on injured reserve. Yet Janoris Jenkins, Elijah Molden and Chris Jackson didn’t catch torched by the Rams’ proficient huge receiver trio. 

Byard is the accurate disagreement-maker. His ball talents rank amongst the league’s simplest amongst all defensive backs. With a 7-3 lead, the safety baited Stafford by lining up deep half of outdated to strolling up to eradicate the instant route appropriate outdated to the snap. Robert Woods ran a straightforward out route, which Byard undercut the throw and took it motivate for a recall-6. 

Tennessee Titans @Titans

First Snatch 6 of his profession! STUD! @KevinByard

📺: Seek #TENvsLAR on @SNFonNBC https://t.co/YhO2rKI7bQ

As a positional unit, Byard and Amani Hooker, who led the Titans Sunday with 12 entire tackles, entered the Week 9 contest with top-5 grades in wander protection, per Pro Soccer Level of interest (h/t Mike Moraitis of USA This day’s Titans Wire). Byard earned the AFC Defensive Participant of the Month honors for October thanks to his seven defended passes and three interceptions. 

Linebackers Jayon Brown and David Long Jr. might perchance presumably be thought referring to the feeble spots however both can play in dwelling. Long leads the team with 66 entire tackles. 

In the kill, Tennessee’s offense will present more back than the unit did Sunday. The defense showed it’ll catch a sport for the Titans. On the identical time, a microscopic reconfiguration is most notable by the opposite facet of the ball, even though the coaching workers doesn’t belief on altering too powerful. 

“I believe you’ll seemingly be in a position to be ready to design an emphasis on obvious areas, however I could perchance presumably be doing this team a disservice if I jerked the wheel appropriate thanks to an injury, as astronomical as Derrick [Henry] is,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing suggested newshounds Thursday. “We are who we’re, and we’re going to search out methods to proceed to back that identification. Clearly, there are going to be some tweaks and quarter turns alongside the manner and a diversified emphasis, however we’re who we’re.” 

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Connected Press

More of an emphasis might perchance presumably furthermore furthermore be placed on the team’s proficient huge receivers, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. Adrian Peterson didn’t attain powerful in his first appearance with the franchise, other than a one-yard landing fall. The ragged motivate will seemingly be built-in more fully because the season progresses. Plus, the Titans experienced two most notable setbacks alongside the offensive line that can presumably enhance dramatically with the return of two starters. 

Left tackle Taylor Lewan dressed however didn’t play attributable to a lingering injury. Correct guard Nate Davis, within the meantime, remains within the concussion protocol. Each and each might perchance presumably furthermore simply quiet return this season and present a most notable boost after the community’s shaky primetime performance. 

As real as Tennessee’s defense performed, 194 yards from the offense is no longer real ample, as a minimum on a weekly foundation. Abet does seem like on the manner, though. When it arrives, the Titans desires to be positioned relatively smartly within the down AFC. 

The premise of riding Henry via the the relaxation of the season and playoffs because the motivate shattered league speeding data as soon as held so powerful promise. The Titans must always alter and they’ve the objects in design, particularly on defense, to achieve so. 

“The Titans will no longer be making an are trying to bid other folks unpleasant,” Landry suggested newshounds. “We’re making an are trying to bid ourselves real.”

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher File. Apply him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.