NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans made a bevy of roster moves on defense before Tuesday’s trade deadline, but will those moves be enough to fix the unit’s major problems?
On Tuesday, Tennessee showed two struggling starters—CB Johnathan Joseph and OLB Vic Beasley—the door and traded for Desmond King, a former All-Pro slot cornerback and punt returner.
The fate of the Titans’ defense, currently the NFL’s worst unit on third downs, rests in the hands of King, who will presumably replace Joseph, and whoever replaces Beasley.
THE SECONDARY HAS A CHANCE
Robinson on partings ways with CB Johnathan Joseph: I have a ton of respect for him and what he has done in the NFL. He has had a great career and a lot to hang his hat on. At the end of the day we wanted to look at younger guys #Titans
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) November 4, 2020
The Titans’ secondary seems to be the group most likely to turn things around over the second half of 2020.
In addition to having King join the fold and moving on from Joseph, who just had nothing left in the tank at age 36, the Titans’ secondary also figures to see the return of CB Adoree’ Jackson sooner rather than later.
Jackson has yet to play in 2020 due to an injury, but it looks like he could make his debut any week, now.
Having Jackson back to team up with King and Malcolm Butler would be a major development for the Titans’ secondary.
A trio of Jackson, Butler and King would be a marked improvement over the trio of Butler, Joseph and seventh-round rookie Chris Jackson that the Titans have trotted out so to this point in 2020.
That transformation, in itself, will likely do a lot of good for the Titans’ third-down woes.
THE PASS RUSH? EH…
Now find a Beasley replacement and get to work on that. Swallow the money and the mistake. Get Roberson healthy and attempt a Roberson/Wyatt Ray duo. Something where there will be effort. #Titans
— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) November 3, 2020
However, the team’s pass rush remains a sticky issue.
Outside of DT Jeffery Simmons’ dominating play, the Titans have gotten very little production from their defensive front in 2020.
Beasley, who played in five games, registered zero sacks before he was released. Jadeveon Clowney, the Titans’ biggest free agency acquisition heading into the season, similarly has yet to get to the QB. Harold Landry has just one-and-a-half sacks through seven games.
With Beasley gone, the Titans will be counting on young players, in addition to Clowney and Landry, to step up. Outside linebackers Derick Roberson and Wyatt Ray seem to be the most likely candidates to fill the void left by Beasley’s departure.
While things couldn’t possibly get worse with the younger players in there, it’s fair to wonder if they’ll get better.
Roberson and Ray, though they both have promise, aren’t game-breakers. It’s probably expecting too much to expect them to come in and fix the pass rush, even if you believe that Beasley gave very little effort when he was on the field.
But, in the NFL, a bad pass rush can be made to look serviceable by good coverage on the backend. That seems to be something the Titans have the potential for thanks to the team’s roster moves from Tuesday.
It remains to be seen, though, whether the Titans will be able to convert that potential into production.
Cover image: Joseph Maiorana / USA Today