NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For an NFL defense, not much is more important than having a good pass rush.

“It’s very important, it goes hand in hand,” Tennessee Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “We have to cover long enough from them to get there, and they got to get there in a timely manner so that we’re not covering forever. It’s a total team effort.”

A lack of a pass rush played a big role in keeping Vaccaro’s Titans out of the Super Bowl in 2019, and it’s fair to wonder if the team has done enough over the offseason to improve that area of the defense.

Since their 2019 season ended with an AFC Championship game loss in Kansas City, the Titans have done very little to improve their corps of pass rushers.

The team added just two pass rushers over the offseason outside of the undrafted free agents they signed: DT Larrell Murchison and OLB Vic Beasley.

Murchison, a fifth-round pick from NC State, figures to begin his career mostly as a rotational player. Beasley’s future remains a mystery after his bizarre ten-day absence from Training Camp and subsequent failed physical.

Additionally, the team traded away Jurrell Casey, a five-time Pro-Bowl defensive tackle who led the Titans in sacks several times during his nine-year tenure in Tennessee.

Despite the fact that the team did very little to bolster the position group and, arguably, became less talented over the offseason by losing Casey, players and coaches seem confident that the 2020 corps of quarterback chasers will be able to get the job done.

“A lot of people say we have a bunch of no-names,” said defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons.

“I think a lot of guys have a chip on their shoulder to show that no matter what, no matter if we lost Jurrell or not, I feel like we have guys in that room that can stand up and stop the run and rush the passer.

“I’m more than confident enough. I’m overconfident that we are going to make sure we do whatever it is to help this defense win a championship.”

General manager Jon Robinson similarly feels confident, particularly about the Titans’ edge rushers.

“It is somewhat of a younger group if you will, but it’s an athletic group that has some speed,” Robinson said before the 2020 NFL Draft.

“I think the depth of that position is pretty good right now.”

It would be easy to dismiss those quotes as coach-speak or overly positive, but there’s a chance they come from a place of honesty.

That’s because there’s a chance that the Titans, despite their general offseason inactivity, do have a good enough group of edge pass rushers to get the job done in 2020.

For starters, Simmons, who impressed as a rookie in 2019, figures to take a major step forward in his second season. He’s slimmed down and fully healed from the major ACL injury that led to him missing over a month of his rookie year.

Also, while the Titans don’t have any proven, big-time players at the top of their pass-rushing lineup, they do have quality depth at both outside linebacker and interior defensive line.

While names like DaQuan Jones, Kamalei Correa and Derick Roberson aren’t going to be overly exciting when announced over the stadium speakers, players like that trio, and others, give the Titans an eclectic mix of various strengths and pass-rushing styles.

Ultimately, when it comes to predicting whether the Titans will be good enough at getting after the QB in 2020, it’s hard to say.

Will this group be better than the 2019 crew? In terms of talent, no. But, in terms of production, there’s certainly a chance.

A lot of that will come down to how Vrabel and his defensive staff deploy the talent they have available to them.

For now, the Titans’ pass rushers aren’t a concern so much as a question mark.

Cover image: Geoff Burke & Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today


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