NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson is committed to improving his evaluation process, but that’s not all he needs to improve.

Following a disastrous 2020 offseason full of personnel moves that did the Titans more harm than good, Robinson wants to improve the team’s talent evaluation process by including more voices in the equation, particularly during Zoom calls with prospects.

“What I have tried, and what we’ve talked about trying to do is being more inclusive with other members of the organization of the football staff to have maybe more people on the call,” Robinson said.

“They can read body language, they can look at and listen to these prospects so that we get different opinions on how they’re performing on the questions that we’re asking.”

If he doesn’t change his mindset about pass rushers, though, his process improvements will prove to be meaningless.

A HISTORY OF MISERY

The Titans’ pass rush was one of the NFL’s worst in 2020. The team recorded a measly 19 sacks during the regular season, shattering the previous franchise low mark of 31.

Robinson, to his credit, seems dedicated to getting the problem fixed by adding a pass rusher or two.

“That’s a position that we’re definitely interested in,” he said. “We would love to have a guy who comes in and commands double teams and gets sacks.”

The problem, though, is that Robinson seemingly still does not understand what a good pass rusher looks like.

In the draft and free agency, Robinson has whiffed on pass-rushers far more than any other position.

Typically a solid talent evaluator, Robinson’s crop of pass rushers have included colossal busts like Kevin Dodd (second round, 2016 draft) and Vic Beasley (2020 free agency, $9.5M), and disappointments like Jadeveon Clowney (2020 free agency, $12.5M).

Robinson’s only real hit at the position has been Harold Landry, a second-round pick in 2018. Landry’s been a solid player, registering 19 sacks over three years, but he hasn’t been anything special. His highest single-season sack total was nine in 2019.

Despite the more-than-underwhelming results, Robinson doesn’t seem to think anything is wrong with his ability to evaluate pass rushers.

When asked if he thinks his personal process for evaluating the position requires change, Robinson answered by heaping praise on Landry and, of all people, Clowney.

“We’ve gotten production out of those positions,” Robinson said. “Harold’s a good player for us, Jadeveon did some good things for us before he got dinged—the statistical piece might not have gleamed, but he was a disruptive player on the edge for us.”

If Robinson is pleased with Clowney’s pre-injury production, it’s fair to wonder if anything wouldn’t please him.

STATS MATTER

Arguing that a player at an impact position like edge pass rusher is good when they don’t have the statistical production to back it up is an excuse-making endeavor.

The best pass rushers get sacks, and Clowney, in his eight games with the Titans in 2020, got zero of those.

Sure, stats aren’t everything, but they do generally paint an accurate picture of a player’s contributions, especially for outside linebackers. Robinson’s problem is that he seemingly lives in denial when it comes to that truth.

He and head coach Mike Vrabel are allergic to saying the word “sack,” often using phrases like “pressure and affect the quarterback” instead. It’s as if they don’t think sacks are terribly important.

As a result, the pass rushers Robinson has added, especially of late, are more “pressure” guys than sack guys.

It would seem, based on the Titans’ defensive production in 2020, that the approach is n

For the Titans’ defense to improve in 2021, Robinson has to reverse his thinking on that issue.

No matter how many voices are added to the evaluation process, the Titans’ pass rush will continue to struggle as long as the organization minimizes the importance of sacks.

Cover image: Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today


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