NASHVILLE One thing can be said with certainty about the 2019 Tennessee Titans secondary: cornerback Logan Ryan won’t be featured in the slot.

The question of which defensive back on the 2020 roster will assume those responsibilities has been the subject of much debate. Will it be fourth-year pro Adoree’ Jackson with his speed and agility? Could rookie Kristian Fulton be asked to slide inside? How does 2019 fourth-round pick Amani Hooker factor into all of this?

Coach Mike Vrabel, his defensive assistants and player who have been made available have one consistent message.

D.) All of the Above.

“I think the evolution is sometimes guys are putting their No. 1 receiver in the slot,” said safety Kenny Vaccaro. “Do you want to move a guy that plays outside all the time into the slot? Then you’re kind of limited to those man coverages, and you may not be able to run those blitzes and those zone pressures that you usually can run with a traditional nickel. If you have a guy that can kind of do both, play outside and inside, then you’re not as limited in what you can do.”

Should a speedy receiver like Hollywood Brown of the Baltimore Ravens venture into the slot, should Fulton be tasked with such a difficult assignment. In that instance, the wise move would be to slide Jackson into that role on that particular play. The Titans top corner and USC product boasts speed that gives him an advantage on skill players who might test him down the field. Jackson forced 22 incompletions against just 12 receptions allowed when targeted 20 or more yards downfield, per Pro Football Focus.

Jackson on Brown presents the match-up advantage.

Three starters will play in Tennessee’s base defense. The one who takes the label of starting in the slot will depend on which look the opposing offense comes out in. It does not matter how many times the coaches and players are asked this offseason. The message will remain the same.

“With the way offenses are now, that nickel guy has to be able to cover, he has to be able to blitz, he has to be able to fit in the run game, he has to be smart and he has to be able to do multiple things,” new secondary coach Anthony Midgett said in his Zoom introduction to media on Tuesday. “So, it’s not just a guy that you put in the slot just to cover a guy. He has to be a guy that can go in there and mix it up versus the run and the pass, and handle everything we’ll give to that position mentally.”

Featured Image: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.


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