NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bud Dupree is like no one the Tennessee Titans have had since, well, Jevon Kearse. And he departed the franchise in 2003.
That’s not to say the Titans haven’t had stellar pass rushers over the last two decades—they have. Jurrell Casey was an All-Pro and a franchise cornerstone for years. Kyle Vanden Bosch had two 12-sack seasons. Brian Orakpo made the Pro Bowl.
There have been others, too.
But Dupree is, in a very good way, different from the pack in terms of the way he plays and the way he’s built, athletically. He’s faster, more aggressive and more productive than the rest.
“I want to play with my hair on fire,” Dupree said.
“That’s just the mindset that I have, and I feel like everyone should be the same way.”
A DIFFERENT MOLD
New #Titans OLB Bud Dupree said he’s going to play “with his hair on fire” and do whatever he can to help the defense.
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) March 19, 2021
Dupree is the kind of player that, too often, Titans general manager Jon Robinson has passed up.
Robinson has typically favored players who win at their respective positions with good technique and fundamentals but lack superb athletic traits. He’s often avoided bringing in players who fit the “combine warrior” model—superb athletes whose natural abilities give them an instant advantage on the field.
Often, avoiding players in that mold is wise. The list of players who were unbelievably exciting in gym shorts and sneakers at the NFL Combine but failed to make a discernable impact on the field is lengthy.
Occasionally, though, you have to take risks on those types of players as an NFL team. A roster full of average athletes who win with technique and fundamentals can only go so far.
Dupree is exactly the right type of player to take that risk on, mainly because he’s already proven that he can be exceptionally good at the NFL level.
Not only is Dupree a truly special athlete as a pass rusher, but he’s also produced a high number of sacks. He’s not merely some kind of crapshoot draft prospect who ran a fast 40-yard dash.
And, despite what some analysts and coaches may say, sack production matters immensely for edge pass rushers.
Sure, sacks don’t tell the whole story. Pressures, QB hits and plays in the run game are important, too.
Sacks do tell most of the story, though.
As an edge rusher, your primary job is to pressure the quarterback. If you don’t have very many sacks, you’re not doing your job well enough.
If appreciating the value of an edge rusher requires closely studying their game film to uncover their impact, then the player is just not that valuable.
That problem doesn’t exist with Dupree.
From 2019-2020, Dupree recorded 19.5 sacks in 27 games. That’s an average of just under two-thirds of a sack per game and just over 11.5 per season.
NOT JUST A CLEANUP GUY
Dupree is an athletic freak, uses great technique, and has a great attitude.
This has all the components of a potential home-run signing, and y’all know I’m not quick to dish out the compliments. https://t.co/5E5cFTSYvf
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) March 19, 2021
Plenty of critics have attacked those numbers for being misleading since Dupree lined up opposite of All-Pro T.J. Watt with the Steelers. Those critiques just don’t add up, though.
While Dupree may have gotten more favorable matchups against offensive lines because of Watt, it’s not like Watt was winning Dupree’s pass-rush battles for him.
“When you turn the tape on and see me hitting the running back three yards behind the line of scrimmage, how can you say that was somebody else?” Dupree said.
The Titans will be paying a hefty sum for Dupree’s services over the next several years. His average cap hit from 2022-2025, when the salary cap goes back to normal, will be a whopping $19.325 million.
But Dupree is exactly the type of player who is worth that level of financial commitment. He’s the type of player you bet on.
He’s proven to be a force to be reckoned with on the defensive front, and his athleticism places him in a very small and elite class.
He’ll make the Titans a lot better.
Cover image: Philip G. Pavely/USA Today