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titanskick8851

Position Primer - Defensive Backs (CB, NB, Safety)

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As we continue into the off-season, I wanted to dive into a bit of discussion/options with regards to the different position groups on the team. Today, starting out with the Defensive Backs, as that is an area we will certainly be making potential wholesale changes at with regards to starters and depth.

 

Current Players on the Roster:

CB:

Adoree Jackson

Malcolm Butler
Joshua Kalu
Kenneth Durden

 

DB:

Amani Hooker

Dane Cruikshank

Kareem Orr

 

Safety:

Kevin Byard

Kenny Vaccaro

 

Upcoming Free Agents:
Logan Ryan (UFA)

Tramaine Brock (UFA)

LeShaun Sims (UFA)

Chris Milton (UFA)
Tye Smith (RFA)


Overview:

The Titans will return most of their starting unit in the defensive backfield this upcoming year, with the potential exception of one major player in Logan Ryan. Ryan's contract is set to expire and with huge free agents in Tannehill, Henry, and Conklin due as well, Ryan is looking like he will be on the outside looking in with regards to an extension. Ryan had a bit of up and down year as he produced big numbers (114 tackles, 5 INTs, 4.5 sacks, 4 FF, and 18 PD) and was a key leader to the defense, but he also gave up over 1,000 yards in coverage in 2019 and teams with quick/fast WR's seemed to be more keen in getting him in space when we would run man concepts to take advantage of his lack of speed to stay with WR's. Ryan is instinctive and always in the right spot with regards to zone coverage, while also serving as plus run defender and blitzer out of the slot. The trick will be finding a player that is capable of jumping into that role without becoming a liability. Jackson and Butler will return to man the outside CB spots, while Byard/Vaccaro continue to patrol the middle of the field. The other question of depth comes into discussion. As of now, five Titans CB's are set for free agency. Brock proved to be a useful addition towards the end of the year and through the playoff run. Sims has been a quality depth and ST role player for us over his first four year, but is not a fit for NB. Milton is a ST-only type player, while Smith has toiled on the back-end of the roster for a couple of years now. The Titans will likely decline to tender him as a RFA, although he could be brought back for less later.

 

Candidates for Increased Roles:

The two players that COULD potentially look to fill that NB role are Hooker and Cruikshank. Both had extensive experience playing in the slot/NB in college. Both are currently the top back-ups at FS/SS, but as we saw in the Baltimore game, they can be used as chess-piece players to match up against certain players. The question will be does Hooker and/or Cruikshank possess the change of direction ability to be successful in the NB role? They have enough straight line speed as both players ran sub 4.5 at the combine, but their roles were more of hybrid Safety-LB-NB types vs. true man coverage NB's. Hooker obviously had the INT production and made a living at Iowa of reading a QB's eyes and jumping into throwing lanes. Can he succeed when asked to play man coverage? For Cruikshank he served in the "SPUR" role with Arizona. Frequently lining up essentially as a Weakside LB and moving out with WR's depending on the formation. Both guys were graded very highly according to the RAS scale, but it remains to be seen if they can play match-up defense against quicker WR's in the NFL.

 

Kareem Orr is another interesting player on the roster who could vie for the NB position. He has the speed (4.46) to do it, but went a bit untested in the few snaps he did get during the season. Coming out of college Orr was a rangy defender coming out of Chattanooga who was a playmaker (6 INTs) but was also not afraid to be physical against bigger TE's and RBs. That being said, he tested awful in his Pro Day last year and that led to him being undrafted. He would be the longest of shots to actually start for us this year.

 

Potential Free Agents:

Due to the likely huge contracts at QB, RB, and RT, we will likely not see many huge contracts handed out by us to free agents. That being said, with the amount of quality prospects in the draft, it is likely that this group ends up having a drop in value due to teams deciding to wait till the draft. A couple of guys that could be of interest include:

 

Bryan Poole (NYJ) -  27 years old

- After a middling career with Atlanta, Poole really shined in the NB role with the Jets this past year. Gregg Williams really got a lot out of him as he was graded as a top 10 player. Had a PFF grade of 79.0 this past year, which ranked as the #9 overall CB. 

 

Kendall Fuller (KC) - 25 years old

- Struggled mightily this year as the Chiefs moved Fuller away from the position he had played well most of his career at NB and moved him back to Safety. There they saw his play fall off considerably. Just two years ago he had a PFF grade of 90.6, grabbing 4 INT, 8 PD, and allowing a passer rating of just 56.7 and only 9.3 yards per catch. Still being as young as he is he has a chance to get back to a team and be a playmaker. 

 

Mackenisie Alexander (MIN) - 26 years old

- Alexander continued to blossom into a good defender and also continued to improve as a slot CB this year. He will likely end up being the most expensive of the bunch due to his age and production that he has put on tape the last two years.

 

Bradley Roby (HOU) - 27 years old

- Signed a 1 year deal with Houston last year and battled some injury issues. Roby has always been a useful player in coverage and would add some versatility in that he can play the slot and boundary with the ability to play press man coverage. 

 

Nickell Robey-Coleman (LAR), Daryl Worley (LVR), Jason Verrett (SF) could also be low cost options for the 3rd or 4th tier of free agency.

 

 

Draft Prospects:


Day 1

Jeff Gladney/TCU - As with many others, Gladney is probably my favorite CB in the draft. He possesses the speed and athleticism, size, and IQ to really transition well into the NFL. He will probably need to work on getting more physical at the LOS at the next level, but he has the ability to stay in a receivers hip pocket and adjust to make plays on the ball no matter the kind of  WR he is up against. 

 

Kristian Fulton/LSU - One of the best outside CB's in this years draft. Fulton is strong and capable of playing press man vs. anyone. Would be hard to pass if he made it down to 29. It will be interesting to see how well he tests at Indy and see how his change of direction is. 

 

Trevon Diggs/Alabama - Diggs is a bit raw and has had some injury issues in his career, but he simply produces when given a chance. Will need a good DB coach to help him develop, but he could be a true shutdown CB if those skills are finely tuned. 

 

Day 2

Damon Arnette/Ohio State - Really good player who improved throughout the year and has everything you look for in a CB. He will rise come the combine, but there are some character concerns here that teams will need to be aware of.

 

Cameron Dantzler/Miss State - Long and lanky CB that was productive in the SEC. He also would be an Outside-only CB, but a year as depth before taking over for Butler could be a realistic and a good opportunity here. May struggle in run support. 

 

Darnay Holmes/UCLA - True NB prospect. Really impressed at Senior Bowl. He has the foot speed to stay with almost any WR. Most impressive was he stayed step for step with Hollywood Brown when UCLA played Oklahoma in 2018. Struggles vs. more physical WR's.

 

Antoine Winfield Jr./Minnesota - Although a little undersized, he is very physical and could be a good fit for Ryan's spot due to his willingness and ability to fill run gaps and blitz. Also had great ball skills and production. Question will be can he run with WR's in man?

 

Amik Robertson/LA Tech - Ball Hawk is the term you will hear most often with Amik as he racked up 14 INT and 48 PD in his three years. He is undersized at 5-9, but his change of direction and ability to find the football are unique. He has elite instincts, elite ball skills and high football IQ that will translate to the field in the NFL.

 

Troy Pride Jr./Notre Dame - Another guy who impressed at the Senior Bowl with his ability and speed to match up with anyone.

 

Bryce Hall/Virginia - Outside Zone CB, but a guy who just produces anytime he plays. Hated to see him get hurt this year. If he came out last year he would've been a 1st Rounder.

 

A.J. Terrell/Clemson - Another outsize CB with the ability to match up in press and off man coverages. Not a great tackler, but someone who is willing to throw his shoulder into there. Will be able to match up with more physical WR's. Got smoked vs. LSU though.

 


Day 3

Lavert Hill/Michigan - It will be really interesting to see how Hill tests at the Combine. He has great feet and quickness with plus awareness skills are tops. He likely is a slot only (NB) in the NFL due to physical limitations, but he can make a living there. 

 

Myles Bryant - Another undersized prospect, but a guy who has great awareness and change of direction that are perfect for a nickle defender. Isn't afraid to stick his head in the run game and try and blow up screens.

 

Essang Bassey/Wake Forest - Great footwork and able to flip his and change direction quickly to stay on slot WR. Not the best tackler.

 

K'von Wallace/Clemson - Played nearly every position in the defensive backfield for Clemson. Really agressive player who you end up having to deal with the positives (turnovers) and negatives (missed tackles, bad angles).

 

Reid Harrison-Ducros/Duquesne - Small school prospect with great ball skills. Undersized at 5-10/185 lbs. Has elite short area quickness.

 

 

Just wanted to open the discussion regarding what we do at DB. Do any of these guys in the Draft or Free Agency catch your eye? I purposely focused on a lot of guys who fit in more as NBs due to who we have leaving, but if there are other prospects I didn't mention feel free to discuss.

Edited by titanskick8851

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1 minute ago, AussieTitanFan08 said:

Would be happy if we ended up taking either Gladney at pick #29 or Dantzler at pick #61 both would be good long term options to eventually replace Butler.

 

If Gladney isnt there at 29, I think they definitely wait until the 2nd or 3rd round because there are just so many quality DB's in the draft. Same with WR. You can afford to wait till the 3rd or 4th round to get one even and still get a really good player. EDGE is the position that we probably need to address within the first two rounds assuming we do not add a big time free agent due to the lack of depth in the class.

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The bottom line and unanswered question is whether they consider Hooker capable of starting in the slot and thus the priority for a new CB.  Are we looking for a starter or depth?

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I think Hooker is the clear favorite to be in the slot, as of now. We just have to wait and see who they add during the offseason.

 

I doubt they are going to spend big bucks on a new nickelback. More likely they would use a day 2 draft pick on a corner who can compete for the job.

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I'd be surprised if Hooker is the slot corner. I think he's def going to stay in the 3 safety looks

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I'd have to see Hooker more in coverage to determine his fitness in the slot.  Matching up man on man with a slot WR is much different than playing S.

On paper he is sub 4.5 and had a sub 6.81 3 cone.  Doesn't make him a cover guy however.

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, OILERMAN said:

I'd be surprised if Hooker is the slot corner. I think he's def going to stay in the 3 safety looks

Well, how often do they play in the 3 safety packages? If that’s just their normal dime then maybe they just bring in their next best DB after Hooker. 

Edited by Starkiller

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I would suspect we will double down. I expect a NB signed like Poole with a draft pick in the first 3 rounds being a guy that is bigger and has the ability to be a man cover option against the Hopkins type of the league. Would love Gladney, but if we wait til round 2 Dantzler and Terrell are both good options. 
 

id love Amik, his film is super impressive and he reminds me of Pac-Man with his electric ability and how his size doesn’t seem to impact his game , hope it translates because Amik is a fun player to watch. 

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5 hours ago, OILERMAN said:

I'd be surprised if Hooker is the slot corner. I think he's def going to stay in the 3 safety looks

??

He could do both. You dont have to have him only one or the other.

We rarely ran 6 DBs... and in those rare occasions he could play whichever spot the coaches want and cruikshank or a CB could fill the other spot.

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As an LSU guy, Fulton really stood out.  Not as flashy as some of their past DBs, but he sticks to his man like glue.  I'd love to have him, barring bigger potential needs, of course.

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Hooker is not going to be a true NB, we do not want to put him in situations where’s he covering Tyreek Hill, TY Hilton etc etc. Hooker will remains our 3rd S, versatile defender that can play multiple spot on defense, but that does not mean we need to rely on him to be a starting full time NB.

that be almost as crazy as going into the season with Finch, unproven Landry and 37 year old Cameron Wake as your top 3 edge rushers.

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12 minutes ago, TWR said:

Hooker is not going to be a true NB, we do not want to put him in situations where’s he covering Tyreek Hill, TY Hilton etc etc. Hooker will remains our 3rd S, versatile defender that can play multiple spot on defense, but that does not mean we need to rely on him to be a starting full time NB.

that be almost as crazy as going into the season with Finch, unproven Landry and 37 year old Cameron Wake as your top 3 edge rushers.


Ryan couldn’t cover a speed guy either. Your slot corner generally is more suited to cover a quick receiver, not a fast one. 

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