After posting the worst third-down stop rate in the NFL last season, a point of emphasis for the Tennessee Titans this offseason has been improving in that area.
So far, so good, as not only has the third-down defense looked good in camp, but the Titans have held their opponents to 4-for-26 (15 percent) on third downs in preseason play.
Of course, we can’t put a ton of stock in exhibition games, but we’ll take any progress we can get after the horror show the defense was last season.
Titans safety Kevin Byard notes that communication has been better, and he acknowledged that the team was “pretty terrible” at challenging receivers in 2020, but feels the defense is making strides there as well.
“Communication has definitely been there, urgency, all that stuff you talked about” Byard said. “Last year I feel like we were pretty terrible as far as challenging receivers, being tight. It was a big thing where we were playing off on third-and-7 or whatever, guys is nine yards off, stuff like that. That has been a big difference this year, but we’ve got to go out there and put it all together when real ball starts.”
Byard’s acknowledgement that the defense wasn’t aggressive enough against receivers on third downs in 2020 should be music to Titans fans’ ears. After all, it was a major point of contention throughout the campaign.
Linebacker Rashaan Evans also believes that the team’s third-down defense has improved in practice and during the preseason, but understands that doesn’t mean much if Tennessee can’t carry it into the regular season.
“I think it’s that sense of urgency,” Evans said. “I think each individual person on the defense feels that we can be a lot better from last year. I think going from practice and doing the things that we’re doing in the preseason, you see the results… Like I always say, the consistency and the things that we’re doing, it has to transition into the regular season.”
Evans notes that the defense having a year under its belt with defensive coordinator Shane Bowen has helped build confidence, which is playing a big role in the team making strides.
“Last year was already crazy enough, COVID and all those different things, and Shane (Bowen) coming in and being our defensive coordinator,” Evans said. “There was a lot of different things that were changing and moving. Now that we have another year, just a year under our belt, now going into some of the things, the schemes that he’s trying to run and things he’s trying to do, we have a lot more confidence now.”
All signs point to Tennessee’s defense improving overall in 2021, although it must be said that it really has nowhere to go but up from here.
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