It is no secret that the Titans secondary in 2021 will be fairly unproven. What is proven? Kevin Byard’s ball production.
Kevin Byard had 5 interceptions (tied for 2nd in NFL) and 9 passes defended in 2019. Byard continues to prove himself as a legit ballhawk and one of the best players on the #Titans.
Here are all of his interceptions and defended passes in 2019: pic.twitter.com/CgcumL7RD9
— Titans Tape (@TitansTape) March 24, 2020
Byard will be vital for Tennessee for the defense to improve from their 2020 campaign. The Cornerback room does not have a clear CB1, and the depth in the safety room is still pretty questionable. Rookie Elijah Molden may see some time at safety, but there will be difficulties that come with being a rookie in a young secondary. That same sentiment can be said for first-round pick Caleb Farley. He has tons of upside, but CB is one of the most difficult transitions to make for a rookie. If Farley can make an early, positive impact, then that is a game-changer as well. Byard’s implications are more projectable for this season.
Dane Cruikshank is a phenomenal special teams player. That’s where most of his value lies for the Titans, though. Amani Hooker will play a much bigger role after Kenny Vaccaro’s departure, too. He fits more of a box role, while Byard will have his ballhawking role as per usual.
These are a lot of names, but not a ton of snaps taken for these guys. That is where Byard stands out. He is the most experienced starter in Tennessee’s secondary besides newly signed CB Janoris Jenkins. The biggest differences are that Byard is 27 while Jenkins is 32, and Jenkins has not played in the Titans’ system as of yet.
Now, the Titans shouldn’t expect the eight interceptions that came in his breakout season of 2017. The four and five that respectively came in his 2018 and 2019 seasons should more-so be the expectation. Anything more than that would take the upside of secondary to another level. Anything less may prevent them from improving too much on the back end. If he can replicate or even come close to the 2017-2019 version of himself, fans can feel a lot better about the team’s chances while the ball is in the air.
Highest graded safeties 2017-2019
1. Harrison Smith – 92.2
2. Anthony Harris – 92.1
3. Earl Thomas III – 91.1
4. Kevin Byard – 90.9 pic.twitter.com/L6p5XmrrVw
— PFF (@PFF) March 13, 2020
Byard is what can also help the front seven get pressure more effectively. Not to mention, blown coverages on the backend by multiple parties would not give the defensive line the necessary time to get to the Quarterback. Accordingly, giving up big plays and quick drives was an issue at times for Tennessee last year, and part of that was Byard’s inconsistency. That certainly wasn’t the only cause of the defensive woes, though. A lot of new personnel could change that in 2021.
The defense, as a whole, needs to make strides this year for the Titans to make the deep playoff run they currently envision. Kevin Byard is the piece that could help them complete that puzzle.
Featured Image via USA TODAY-Sports