Titans 53 prediction, defensive line, May
Jurrell Casey is a wonderful defensive end. The former 4-3 defensive tackle played the nose at times last season. This greatly limits his ability to wreak havoc and will hopefully not be necessary for 2017.
The Titans were the 30th ranked defense at stopping runs up the middle. 2015 starting nose tackle Sam Hill didn’t return in 2016. 2016 starting nose tackle Al Woods isn’t returning in 2017. The Titans added Antwaun Woods as an undrafted free agent and drafted Austin Johnson in the second round last year. Recently, the Titans signed nose tackle Roderick Henderson from Alabama State. To best solve the issue at nose tackle, the Titans have employed the “out with the old, in with the new” concept.
Karl Klug is a wonderful backup, a joy to listen to in interviews, and a fun player to watch. Klug was injured late last season. His injury has an expected recovery time frame of one calendar year. Some have stated that he will be in camp and they expect “same ol’ Klug” when he returns. I expect he’ll start the season on the physically unable to perform list and join the team midseason.
Austin Johnson was the third string nose tackle throughout last summer. Antwaun Woods was a beast that ran with the second string and occasionally the first. Johnson struggled at the nose during the season whereas Woods was very impressive late in the season. Henderson’s college highlights are glorious for a nose tackle, so I’m going to pencil in Woods as the starter and Henderson as the backup.
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Since the day the Titans drafted Johnson, I have been saying he is a 4-3 defensive tackle or a 3-4 defensive end. He’s a fighter. He’s got great feet and athleticism and even some moves. Last season, when Casey was out, Johnson filled in just fine for him. I think he will struggle playing the nose and could even risk being cut if the Titans were to solely play him there. Last year’s substitution seems to indicate they are aware of his ability outside. I think Johnson could be a good defensive end “day one” and progress from there. I’m going off the beaten path here and penciling him in as the starting end opposite Casey.
Angelo Blackson was a 2015 draft pick that was also a very athletic nose tackle. He is almost too athletic or too pretty for the nose. In a similar vein to Johnson, he is better suited outside. His game lacks the toughness for the 3-4 defensive line. He was inactive for several games last season, so I’m interested in seeing if he shows up to camp with a chip on his shoulder. If that chip brings some meanness to his game, he could absolutely make the roster. If he doesn’t bring a tougher meaner style, he won’t make this team. I am apprehensive, but putting him on the 53 as a backup.
Daquan Jones should be an NFL backup defensive end and I expect Johnson to put him there and take his spot.
Cashaud Lyons is a typical 3-4 defensive end. The former Steeler should provide depth.
Mehdi Abdesmad is an older second year player at 25 years old. He got in late in the season and showed some nice quickness. The Canadian could take a big step up this season and become a sort of third down weapon for Dick Lebeau. His play against the run is questionable, but his speed and athleticism to get after the quarterback is impressive.
As you may have noticed, I have everyone making the team here. All eight players on the roster making the team. That’s how many players made it last season and I don’t foresee that changing. Last season, I stated that it was odd to go almost three units deep (3 times 3) but they did. These players are not all active on gameday, but defensive linemen are hard to find. I imagine the Titans simply want the “horses in the stable” just in case they are needed. Johnson shifting outside and Henderson added inside should provide enough punch and change to this group. Wholesale changes aren’t necessary.
I don’t expect Sylvester Williams to make the team. I expect the duo of undrafted free agents to outplay him this summer.