There is a special pain for football fans on the Monday after a playoff elimination. But Titans fans don’t have to look far to dissect the loss. Titans had a tumultuous season on the defensive side of the ball. Everybody can, and probably will, try to search for the one determining factor that led the Titans to finish at the bottom in nearly all of the major defensive categories.
- Scoring Defense (24th)
- Total Defense (29th)
- Pass Defense (28th)
- Rush Defense (24th)
- Sacks (29th)
- Third Down Defense (32nd)
The fact of the matter is that there isn’t just one simple explanation as to why this defense was inept, but instead a multitude of factors contributed to their dreadful showing in 2020.
Bringing in a new defensive coordinator during the COVID-19 shortened offseason surely didn’t help things. Neither did being snake-bitten by injuries at every level of the defense, or by Titans general manager Jon Robinson whiffing on the big-name free agent signings in Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley Jr.
Albeit for different reasons, it was also a disappointing season for some of the cornerstones of the Titans’ defense, such as Kevin Byard, Rashaan Evans, Adoree Jackson, Jayon Brown, and Harold Landry III.
Kevin Byard: "I can play a lot better." #Titans
— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) January 11, 2021
However, there was no player that was better able to fill in and almost flawlessly handle their newfound responsibilities than David Long Jr.
David Long is love, David Long is life.
— Broadway Sports (@BroadwayTN) January 10, 2021
After Jayon Brown suffered a season-ending elbow injury, Long was thrust into the starting lineup for the final five regular season games, as well as the Wild Card Round matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. Long’s strengths at inside linebacker differ from the versatile Brown, whose athleticism shines in his pass defense out of the linebacker position.
Long’s gap responsibility and ball tracking abilities, especially in the postseason against the best rushing attack in the NFL in Baltimore, was enough to raise some eyebrows across the league.
— Jeff Koonz (@CoachKoonz) January 10, 2021
In each of the Titans’ final three regular season games, it was Long who finished atop the team in tackles.
Robinson’s plate is full this offseason with plenty of difficult decisions; however expanding Long’s role in a defense that struggled to stop much of anything at any point in the season seems like a no brainer.
Notable #Titans Free Agents
WR Corey Davis, 25
TE, Jonnu Smith, 25
DE, Jadeveon Clowney, 27
DT, DaQuan Jones, 29
LB, Jayon Brown, 25https://t.co/GpICkpkCSx
— Spotrac (@spotrac) January 10, 2021
There is no telling how Long’s performance in a small sample size will affect Robinson’s upcoming dilemma on whether or not to bring back Brown, but the second-year linebacker sure has made it interesting.
Featured image courtesy of USA TODAY Sports/George Walker IV