In the last remaining week of the 2020 NFL season, Titans fans have seen and heard it all. From the weekly COVID-19 player IR roulette wheel to the defensive’s roller coaster ride that left most fans with motion sickness, this was a season of incredible ups (Pro-Bowlers Henry and Brown) and hand-wringing downs.
Before you read any further, please note that this is not another negative “What went wrong with the defense” type of stories. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
While yes, nearly every single player on the Titans’ wretched defense regressed throughout the season, there were a handful of bright spots. David Long, Jeffery Simmons, Malcolm Butler, and Amani Hooker come to mind almost immediately.
Amani Hooker and David Long are bright spots on a very dark season for the #Titans defense. Jon Robinson’s 2019 draft class continues to shine.
— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) January 3, 2021
Hooker is a name Titans fans became more familiar with this season and rightfully so. The safety, drafted in the fourth round of Jon Robinson’s elite 2019 class, finished his second season in the NFL tied atop the team in interceptions (4) alongside Butler.
Hooker’s versatility was a demonstrated asset this season as the Titans’ secondary seemed to constantly be dealing with injuries while also being hit by COVID-19 at different points in the year.
While appearing in all 16 games, Hooker started in three contests, all of which came due to fan-favorite strong safety Kenny Vaccaro being unable to play. And he handled those starts (Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Detroit) rather comfortably. With Hooker in the lineup, the Titans went 3-0 while allowing less than 20 ppg in the three-game span.
Amani Hooker being the #Titans’ best safety continues to be one of this season’s wackiest storylines.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) January 3, 2021
The offseason is a long and windy road with difficult decisions hanging over the head of Robinson and Mike Vrabel. One of those decisions will be centered around Vaccaro. According to Spotrac, Vaccaro is scheduled to bring in $6.9 million in 2021 and $7.5 million in 2022. If the Titans opt to cut ties with the 29-year-old safety, the team would only be on the hook for $3 million and could use the savings toward finding that ever-so elusive edge rusher.
Vaccaro’s ability to come up and stop the run is unmatched, and on a defense that could not stop much of anything, losing the Robin to Kevin Byard’s Batman would be a tough pill to swallow. But if that is the route Robinson elects to take, Hooker has proven to be more than capable of stepping into an uptick of responsibilities.
Featured image courtesy of Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports