It’s become the premier position battle of Titans’ training camp this summer, and nobody really saw it coming. Besides me, but we’ll get to that later.
“With the 18th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans select Adoree Jackson…”
Ever since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke those words, Adoree Jackson was expected to be the Titans’ day one starter at corner back, opposite veteran free agent acquisition Logan Ryan. However, for preseason game one Saturday night it’s LeShaun Sims breaking the defensive huddle as the starter. That’s not because Jackson is going through some rookie struggles. He’s been very impressive. It’s because Sims, a 5th round pick from the 2016 draft, won’t stop getting better.
“He works hard daily,” Titans secondary coach DeShea Townsend said. “I don’t think he takes any thing for granted, especially with the route he had to take to get here. He probably has a chip on his shoulder but the way he comes to work, the way he approaches it daily you can see why he’s developed the way he has from year one to year two.”
The entire team noticed the work, too. Sims joined Pro Bowl teammates Delanie Walker and Jurrell Casey as the three “top-performers” of the offseason.
“It’s nice to get recognized and get an award like that. I feel good about it,” Sims told TitanInsider. “It was good having the recognition from the coaches for all the hard work I was putting in. I think that was the most rewarding part of it, to be honest.”
“He doesn’t say much at all, but he’s all business,” head coach Mike Mularkey said. “He’s come in here and impressed a lot of people with the way he does things. But he does not talk. He’s very quiet, but don’t let that speak for him as a football player.”
Sims is quietly working, and Jackson is getting headlines and making highlight plays in practice.
It’s the perfect scenario for the Titans. A year ago, they had little to zero depth at the cornerback position. Long time team captain Jason McCourty was battling groin injuries for the second straight year. Starter Perrish Cox was cut from the team after an abysmal performance in Chicago. Let’s not waste time talking about Valentino Blake. Then there was Sims, making the most of his opportunity that started after Cox got cut.
The Southern Utah product snatched a game changing interception on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs that helped the Titans win that game in epic fashion. From there, his confidence grew and the work never stopped. Sims credits his growth in the weight room, playbook and film study in his climb to fight for a starting job.
The position battle is far from over. Mularkey said this week that Jackson does things, athletically, that haven’t been done by a cornerback in the franchise in a long time.
“The instinct thing, I think some things just have to be natural,” Townsend said about Jackson. “And for those guys that have it, especially with his skill set, it makes him a difference maker. But the thing that’s been really surprising is (how he’s) picking up our defense.”
So all of a sudden, the Titans have pretty solid depth at cornerback. And that’s a breath of fresh air to a lot of Titans fans.
If Jackson eventually does jump Sims as the starting cornerback, that means he earned it. Because I don’t see Sims letting up any time soon. As far as seeing this position battle forming this summer… I’ve got to pat myself on the back.
Let’s check the tape.