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Tennessee Titans Depth Chart: Will defensive additions get them back into the playoffs in 2021?

As the 2021 NFL Draft approaches, the Tennessee Titans’ depth chart saw several changes they hope will propel them to another playoff push.

Tennessee Titans Depth Chart: Will defensive additions get them back into the playoffs in 2021?
Dec 20, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; View of Tennessee Titans helmet during the second half against the Detroit Lions at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Titans are coming off their best season since 2008 and are poised to contend for the AFC South in 2021. However, several questions remain on their depth chart, which the Titans hope to answer in the upcoming NFL Draft.

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Tennessee Titans Depth Chart

Offense

Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, DeShone Kizer

Running Back: Derrick Henry, Darrynton Evans, Jeremy McNichols, Khari Blasingame

Wide Receiver: A.J. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Cameron Batson, Nick Westbrook, Chester Rogers, Marcus Johnson, Cody Hollister, Rashard Davis, Mason Kinsey

Tight End: Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, Tommy Hudson, Jared Pinkney, Parker Hesse

Offensive Tackle: Taylor Lewan, Ty Sambrailo, Kendall Lamm, Aaron Brewer, Paul Adams, Anthony McKinney, Brandon Kemp

Offensive Guard: Rodger Saffold, Nate Davis, David Quessenberry

Center: Ben Jones

Defense

Interior Defensive Line: Teair Tart, Daylon Mack

EDGE: Bud Dupree, Harold Landry, Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry, Nate Orchard, Jullian Taylor, Larrell Murchison

Linebacker: Rashaan Evans, Jayon Brown, David Long, Jan Johnson, Tuzar Skipper, Wyatt Ray, Ola Adeniyi, Derick Roberson, Davin Bellamy

Cornerback: Kristian Fulton, Janoris Jenkins, Kevin Johnson, Breon Borders

Safety: Amani Hooker, Kevin Byard, Dane Cruikshank, Matthias Farley, Kareem Orr, Maurice Smith

Special Teams

Kicker: Tucker McCann

Punter: Brett Kern

Long Snapper: Morgan Cox

Titans Depth Chart Analysis | Offense

Quarterbacks

If you give someone $118 million, you expect them to produce. Fortunately for the Titans, Ryan Tannehill did just that in 2020. Completing 65.5% of his passes, Tannehill threw for 3,819 yards — most since 2015 — and set a new career-high with 33 touchdowns.

The question is, can he repeat this play in 2021? 45% of the Titans’ yards and 47% of their receiving touchdowns were lost in free agency, with Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith heading to new teams.

Remember when DeShone Kizer was the fourth QB selected in the 2017 NFL Draft and the Cleveland Browns starter that season? Yeah, that seems like a lifetime ago, but trust me, it did happen. The Browns were winless under Kizer, who completed just 53.6% of his passes for 2,894 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions.

Running Backs

At this point, there is little left to say about how special Derrick Henry and his incredible 2020 season were. Henry became the eighth RB in NFL history to run for 2,000+ yards in a season, with his 2,027 yards the fifth-highest mark ever. However, how long can Henry’s body sustain this kind of workload? Over the last two seasons, he totaled 681 rushing attempts.

With the type of volume that Henry sees, Darrynton Evans rarely receives an opportunity to see the field. The RB2 on the Titans’ depth chart saw just 14 carries for 54 yards in his rookie season last year. 

Wide Receivers

Some players have an innate ability to score touchdowns. With regression the narrative of his second year, A.J. Brown proved his rookie campaign was no fluke. Battling through a pair of injuries, Brown recorded 70 receptions on 106 targets for 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns. The only thing that limits his production is his target total.

Expect this to change in 2021 as Brown no longer has to share the offense with Davis and Smith. Brown could end up leading the NFL in receiving yards and touchdowns next season if he sees anywhere near 120 targets.

The Titans brought in former Rams WR Josh Reynolds to patch their receiver room. In four years, Reynolds started 24 games and amassed 1,450 yards and 9 touchdowns. His 618 yards last season were a career-best. I fully expect the Titans to add another WR to their depth chart during the NFL Draft.

As of now, the WR3 is up for grabs. Cameron Batson and Chester Rogers are both in the running for the role. Batson played on 283 snaps over 12 games, catching 8 passes for 83 yards. Rogers saw solid usage with the Indianapolis Colts as a rotational piece. Over four seasons (2016-2019), he appeared in 53 games where he caught 111 passes for 1,221 yards and 5 touchdowns. He suffered a fractured knee cap in 2019, failed to make the Miami Dolphins’ final roster in 2020, and spent last year on the Titans’ practice squad. 

Tight Ends

After Taylor Lewan tore his ACL, Mike Vrabel slid Smith inline due to his value as a blocker. The benefactor of this change was Anthony Firkser. He set career-highs last season with 39 receptions for 387 yards and a score.

Geoff Swaim re-signed with Tennessee during free agency but has seen limited action, catching 57 passes in 53 appearances. Given the team’s propensity to run 12 personnel, Swaim will likely see an increased snap count in 2021.

Offensive Tackle

A three-time Pro Bowler, the Titans hope Lewan will be back in time following a torn ACL in Week 6. When on the field, Lewan is the best lineman on the Titans’ depth chart.

Ty Sambrailo re-signed with the Titans following an odd year. Sambrailo recorded five starts in 2020 before suffering an undisclosed season-ending injury late in November.

Having spent the last two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Kendall Lamm agreed to a two-year deal with the Titans worth up to $8.5 million. He will enter camp with a chance to win a starting job. 

Offensive Guard

An 11-year veteran, Rodger Saffold has started 15 or more games since 2016. Over the last five seasons, Saffold played on 90.8% of the team’s offensive snaps.

Nate Davis started 29 games since entering the league in 2019, including all 16 games last season. He played on all 1,074 of the Titans’ offensive reps and quietly became one of the most consistent guards in the AFC.

David Quessenberry made his long-awaited NFL debut last season against the Colts in Week 11. A 2014 NFL Draft pick of the Houston Texans, Quessenberry beat non-Hodgkin’s T-lymphoblastic lymphoma three years ago but never received significant playing time.

Center

Ben Jones has been with the Titans since 2016, starting all 16 games in each season. He’s played 98.3% of the team’s snaps over the last six years.

Titans Analysis | Defense

Interior Defensive Line

Teair Tart is a potential breakout candidate on the Titans’ depth chart for 2021. He recorded 2 QB hits, 2 tackles, and a pass deflection over seven games last season. 

Signed to a futures contract, Daylon Mack was a fifth-round pick by the Ravens in 2019. After being waived, he spent time on practice squads with the Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, and Arizona Cardinals.

EDGE

The most significant addition to the Titans’ depth chart during free agency was former Steeler Bud Dupree. He tore his ACL in 2020, but that did not diminish his market value as he signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Dupree put it all together over the last season and a half, recording 19.5 sacks, 99 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, 6 forced fumbles, and 32 QB hits. 

The Titans were not finished bolstering their EDGE position, a must after recording just 19 sacks (30th) and pressure on 17.6% of their snaps (31st). Denico Autry signed a three-year, $21.5 million contract with the Titans in free agency. Autry spent the last three seasons with the Colts, racking up 20 sacks and 102 tackles over that span.

Jullian Taylor also signed with the Titans but has not played since he suffered a torn ACL in December of 2019. He spent the 2020 season on the San Francisco 49ers’ PUP list before being waived.

Linebacker

Jayon Brown started in all 10 of his appearances with the Titans in 2020, registering 76 tackles (45 solo), a sack, and 8 passes defensed. Brown re-signed with the Titans on a one-year deal worth up to $5.25 million.

Rashaan Evans led the Titans’ LB depth chart in 2020 with 96 total tackles (59 solo). He also added 0.5 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 5 passes defended, and a fumble recovery across 16 games.

Harold Landry, the Titans’ sack leader in 2020, accumulated 69 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 5 passes defensed, and an interception across 16 contests. It was a down year for Landry after he set a career-high 9 sacks in 2019.

David Long played just 25 snaps on defense over the first eight games but started the last five to close out the season. He ended the year with 54 tackles (30 solo), 2 tackles for a loss, 2 passes defensed, and a forced fumble.

Cornerback

Heading into his 10th season in the NFL, Janoris Jenkins signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Titans in free agency. The New Orleans Saints released him due to cap issues. Jenkins started 15 games last year, including the playoffs, recording 3 interceptions and 12 passes defensed.

Kristian Fulton didn’t have the rookie season the Titans, nor he, expected. Fulton dealt with an injury along with testing positive for COVID-19, limiting him to just six games. He tallied a sack, 1 interception, 1 pass defensed, and 16 combined tackles (1for loss). Tennessee hopes he can take the next step forward in his progression in 2021.

Staying in the AFC South, former Texans CB Kevin Johnson signed with the Titans to a one-year deal. He spent the last two seasons with the Bills and Browns, appearing in 29 games. He generated 71 tackles (47 solo), 8 passes defensed, 4 QB hits, and 1 forced fumble.

Safety

As Kenny Vaccaro remains unsigned in free agency, the Titans need Kevin Byard to reproduce the success he saw in 2020, where he led their depth chart in tackles. A vital member of the defense, Byard recorded 111 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 7 passes defensed, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. He played 100% of the defensive snaps in all but one game last year.

If you are looking for an area of improvement for 2021, it would be in interceptions. His 1 interception was the lowest since his 2016 rookie campaign after snagging 17 over the last three seasons combined.

Tennessee is expected to move Amani Hooker into Vaccaro’s role and take over the starting safety position. Although he received finite work last season, he made the most of it by producing 51 tackles, 8 passes defended, and 4 interceptions on just 468 snaps.

Appearing primarily on special teams for the New York Jets in 2020, Matthias Farley joins the Titans’ depth chart on a one-year deal. Farley generated 24 tackles (7 on special teams) and 3 passes defensed. His role should remain the same with Tennessee in 2021.

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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