Coming into the 2017 season, Pro Football Focus ranked the Titans as the 20th best secondary in the NFL. That was 5 spots better than they had them the year prior. Their ranking had a lot to do with the atrocious play from the likes of Perrish Cox and Valentino Blake. This was a welcomed sign that PFF had faith in the Titans unit to improve their gameplay this year. They certainly did improve their play, but how did they manage to do that?
Coming into the season, the Titans made some excellent additions to help bolster the secondary. Signing John Cyprien and Logan Ryan is what started it for the Titans. PFF ranked Ryan 17/109 possible cornerbacks and Cyprien was rated 7/90 possible safeties. After their free agent signings, they further addressed the position by going out and drafting Adoree Jackson. Jackson, a cornerback from USC, made an instant impact on one of the worst secondaries in the NFL the prior year. Though perhaps the most critical player did not come from an addition. Kevin Byard, a second-year safety out of Middle Tennessee State, had a promising rookie season. Although I don’t know how many people were expecting this big of a jump from him for the 2017 season.
Going into the season, it was known that the secondary was not going to be a strength of the team. They had a lot of young players with high upside. To start the season, they played well enough to get wins. Despite losing Cyprien to a hamstring injury in the season opener, they were playing okay football. That was until they were obliterated in the 4th quarter against the Seahawks. They still managed to secure the win, but it was not pretty. Week 4 at Houston was awful, giving up 57 points in one of the most lopsided losses in Titans history. The Titans defense was on the field for nearly 40 minutes in this game, including giving up four 70+ yard touchdown drives. It was tough to watch, but something happened after that loss.
The defense came together, and they turned it into a learning lesson. Over the next month of football, the Titans secondary only allowed 2 passing touchdowns. Yes, it was against the Dolphins, Colts, and Browns. However, it was an encouraging sign to go from being annihilated to completely flipping the script on everything. The Titans used that momentum to help them thrive throughout the season. Byard led the way in the secondary as the only fan to ever record 8 interceptions in a single season. Other than giving up 4 passing touchdowns and 299 passing yards to Ben Roethlisberger, the Titans finished the season strong. They finished the season allowing more than 25 points only 1 time the rest of the way.
Season to Come
The Titans finished with 12 total interceptions, a number they can definitely improve this upcoming year. Overall, the Titans have a lot of work to do in the secondary. A step in the right direction, however, allows me to give them a B- in good confidence. This upcoming year is a make or break. We will see if we really have the pieces in the secondary to compete for years to come. Look for another jump in the PFF rankings before the start of the season, I think this secondary is here to stay.