NASHVILLE — Whenever the Tennessee Titans resume normal operations, defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons plans to feature heavily in the team’s future. The former first-round pick will be expected to do more than just produce on the field.
Veteran Jurrell Casey’s absence requires Simmons to display new leadership in the position group that the two once shared.
“It’s going to be a big leap coming from me,” Simmons told reporters via Zoom on Wednesday. “I think a lot of guys, especially the guys we’ve got coming in this year, I feel like everyone is going to play a big part of this whole season here coming up. Me, personally, I don’t feel like I just…no pressure for me. I think, just be myself and continue to do what I do.”
Simmons emphasized his focus on improvement from Year 1 into Year 2.
— Buck Reising (@BuckReising) December 2, 2019
Any sophomore development will have to be well-rounded, though, without Casey. Tennessee shocked its fan base by trading away five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman earlier this year.
As first reported by Mike Klis, general manager Jon Robinson shipped off the the team’s second-longest tenured player to the Denver Broncos for a 7th round draft pick. Casey’s 2019 was inconsistent but he still managed to lead Tennessee in quarterback pressures (30) and tied for second in sacks (5.) What the Titans lose is not only one of the best drafted players in the history of their franchise, but a person whose leadership shone through both on the football field and off of it.
Robinson later flipped the 2020 pick acquired in the Casey deal (No. 237) to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round selection.
“Personally, I texted Jurrell (Casey),” said Simmons. “First off, I told him I appreciate him for everything he did for me coming in as a rookie. Jurrell took me under his wing and pretty much just broke everything down for me. That was very helpful coming in as a rookie, especially coming in hurt.”
Jurrell Casey on Week 1 @ Browns pic.twitter.com/AcAZEmhR2S
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) September 4, 2019
“The way Coach ‘T’ (Terrell Williams) and the way we ran our defense this past year, I played 3-technique, I played 4, I played 5, I played everything,” said Simmons. “I played 3-technique, I played whatever Jurrell (Casey) played. Not comparing us to each other or anything. Playing defensive line, you’ve got to be able to play everything across the line of scrimmage. I’m ready, hopefully when it’s time to report for camp all that practice will show me where I’m at.”
Simmons appeared in nine games for the Titans, returning from an ACL injury that caused his draft stock to fall just in time for the team’s 2-4 turnaround. In that time, the Mississippi State product made crucial stops in several goal line stands, frequently rag-dolled All-Pro offensive lineman, batted down passes and contributed to a lacking quarterback rush. Spending time with the team’s training staff despite the global pandemic has Simmons optimistic about his progress.
Mostly, he seems undeterred.
“It’s nothing but football, nothing to be surprised about,” said Simmons of this offseason. “I’m not thinking I’m behind at all. When it’s time to report back I’ll be ready, like I said, it’s only football.”
If only everyone made football look as easy as Jeffery Simmons.
Featured Image: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.