Titans 53 prediction cornerbacks, May
The Titans added Adoree Jackson in the draft. He played very few snaps outside last year as did LeShaun Sims. Logan Ryan and Brice McClain played most of their snaps lining up over the slot wide receiver. Last season, Ryan and McCain both played outside in a somewhat limited role and did fine, if not well.
Ryan was given a large free agent contract of a #2 cornerback. If one considers the Titans to be a bit frugal, then it’s conceivable he could be the number one guy. Regardless of the quibble, he’s a key cog and not likely to spend too much time covering the slot in 2017.
Sims and Jackson are not the type to cover typical slot wide receivers. They’re more athlete than cornerback. Sims is a blanketing type. Jackson can blanket but also baits a quarterback. He’s confident in his athleticism. He has the speed to recover, the ups to go get it, and the hands to intercept the ball. A slot corner is more of a tactician like a slot wide receiver opposite them. It’s not their style and I don’t anticipate either playing in the slot much.
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Sims raising his game would not be unheard of here at all. He was a rookie that “took his lumps” as a backup, “took his lumps” when he got his chance to play, and then learned from it and played well. The progress was evident over the last few games of the season. How much more can he improve? Sims is the wildcard here that can propel this group with continued improvement. If he is about as good as last year, he will probably start the season outside and then lose his spot to Jackson becoming a key reserve. If he improves, defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau could then afford to use Ryan inside some weeks and play Jackson opposite Sims.
Jackson is not going to be Darrelle Revis on day one. Some expectations need to be toned down. He oh so clearly has some “alpha dog” to him. There is little doubt that he wants to cover the best player each week. Can he stop DeAndre Hopkins? Can he “man up” with Rob Gronkowski? TY Hilton? Is he better suited to cover Allen Hurns or Allen Robinson? Lebeau is going to have to learn Adoree as much as Adoree has to learn the NFL game. These players also play inside and outside. If he plays outside, he’s not covering TY much. If Lebeau is confident in Kevin Byard on Gronk, the rook isn’t covering him. Jackson is going to get “burned” too. Maybe Robinson will fake him out and catch a 60 yard bomb? Who knows exactly how, but the rook has some growing pains and learning to overcome first. Will Fuller “turned on his jets” and sped right past the Titans defense last season. Jackson may start out by putting an end to that. Those expecting him to hold Hopkins to zero catches need to be reminded he is a rookie and rookies need to learn.
The fifth cornerback will either be Kalan Reed, John Green, or D’Joun Smith. I would predict Smith. He is a talented corner, a former third round draft pick that has some bumps in the road during his career. Now is his time to step up and overcome. Green is a very fast undrafted free agent. Reed is an intelligent perceptive corner. He isn’t the best step for step, but is excellent at reading the play and reacting. In 2016, Lebeau switched to primarily playing his corners man to man. For much of Lebeau’s career, he has preferred zone. Reed is far better suited for zone. Which will they primarily play in 2017? Green’s speed can’t be underestimated here. It wouldn’t be a total surprise if he wins the fifth spot.
The Titans have Curtis Riley. Riley is a former cornerback that converted to safety last season. He made the roster but only played in four games in 2016. He affords coach Mike Mularkey to consider two spots covered when he cuts the roster down to 53. The odds seemed against him making the roster last year, but he did. Things will be the same for Riley this summer.
The Titans don’t really have an outfielder role at safety. At times they employ one, but Lebeau’s defense usually has the free safety playing with a purpose. Byard could be on the line, he could be over the tight end, or even over the slot. When the Titans do employ an outfielder type role, I think Kalan Reed should be given an opportunity. His ability to read where the pass is going is extremely impressive and it’s my opinion that he is miscast as a cornerback.
In May, I think Reed is going to wind up being cut one way or another. I like his game and think he was a super pick in the draft. There are a whole lot of “square peg round hole” issues with him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him cut (or traded for a minimal pick) and play well elsewhere. If Lebeau goes back to employing a zone, I wouldn’t be surprised if he skyrockets up the depth chart either. As is, he seems ill-suited to make the Titans roster.
Green wasn’t drafted, so he can probably be cut and wind up on the practice squad.