For the past few seasons, the Tennessee Titans have boasted one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing duos. Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan consistently wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
The pair’s best season together came in 2016, when they combined for 19.5 sacks. Orakpo was selected to the Pro Bowl following that season.
Despite having continued success in 2017, it became clear throughout the season that the Titans needed to find at least one replacement during the offseason.
Orakpo and Morgan are still one of the league’s better pass-rushing duos, but their tenure with the Titans could soon be coming to an end. In addition to the fact that both players will be at least 30 years old by the end of next season, Orakpo and Morgan are also both entering the final years of their respective contracts.
In the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Titans elected to upgrade a different position, selecting Alabama inside linebacker Rashaan Evans. But when the second round began, general manager Jon Robinson aggressively went after a pass rusher.
Just a day after trading away his only fourth-round pick, Robinson traded his only third rounder to move up and select Boston College pass rusher, Harold Landry with the 41st pick. Most analysts predicted that Landry would be off the board as early as the middle of the first round.
“He was mocked up into the teens in some of those mock drafts,” Robinson noted in his press conference immediately following the selection of Landry. “We felt like we got a first round caliber player.”
Obviously, Landry fills a major positional need for the Titans. Even if he isn’t a starter right away, he gives them much-improved depth behind Morgan and Orakpo.
However, Landry’s presence does something much more than giving the Titans a body at a position where they previously lacked depth. He will provide them with an element that their pass rush has lacked for many years now.
As good as Orakpo and Morgan have been over the last few years, they lack diversity in their pass rush arsenal. They are power players who win with technique and effort.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with that approach, as shown by Orakpo’s four career Pro Bowl nods. It becomes a problem when there are no players behind them on the depth chart to give the pass rush a little bit of flare.
When they had just Morgan and Orakpo, the Titans’ pass rush had no element of speed, bend, or dip. It was the equivalent of a pitcher throwing four-seam fastballs for an entire game.
A really good pitcher might be able to get away with throwing straight fastballs for a little while, but eventually, they will get pounded if they don’t throw in some offspeed pitches or breaking balls.
In the same way, NFL teams cannot purely rely on power rushers. Luckily for the Titans, the traits they’ve lacked for the last several years are the exact traits that Landry will bring to the table.
“He’s got an explosive get-off,” commented head coach Mike Vrabel. “I think that’s the first thing that jumps off the screen at you.”
Jon Robinson added, “He’s really athletic, can dip and bend, can change direction, and turn the corner to get to the quarterback. He can set the edge. He has good length.”
The two comparisons most often given to Landry were Yannick Ngakoue and Vic Beasley, both of whom share Landry’s elite-level gifts of burst, bend, speed, and general athleticism.
Landry was a prospect deserving of being selected just after the top ten. The fact that the Titans managed to scoop him up at pick #41 without any known character or medical flaws contributing to his fall is nothing short of spectacular.
The Titans really can’t lose with this pick. Even if Landry takes a year or two to get his feet wet, the presence of his athleticism will make every player in the Titans’ front seven better.