Cellar Dweller to Contender: A Jon Robinson Story Part 2

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NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05: Kevin Byard #31 of the Tennessee Titans intercepts a pass against the Baltimore Ravens at Nissan Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

In my previous article, I looked at how general manager Jon Robinson has changed the Tennessee Titans’ offense in his first two-plus years on the job.  These additions have changed the offensive face of the team. The defense, however, has improved at an even faster rate since Robinson’s arrival.  After allowing the sixth most points in the league in 2015, the defense lacked star-power and production.  Looking through the past three drafts and free agent signing periods, he has given this unit a new look. He has lifted the potential of the team as a whole.

Defensive Line

2015: Daquan Jones, Al Woods, Jurrell Casey

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2018: Daquan Jones, Bennie Logan, Jurrell Casey

The three up front for the Titans haven’t changed much since Robinson’s arrival, but why fix something that’s not broken? Robinson has done a great job to retain Casey and Jones by extending Casey last summer with a 4-year, $60 million deal and re-signing Jones this offseason. This kept the two great interior pass rushers who have combined for 45.0 sacks in their careers.  Logan was signed away from the Chiefs this offseason who should make a solid tandem at nose tackle along with former second-round pick Austin Johnson.

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Inside Linebacker

2015: Avery Williamson, Zach Brown, Wesley Woodyard

2018: Wesley Woodyard, Rashaan Evans, Jayon Brown

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Robinson showed his ability to build through the draft in this specific position group.  Despite losing Brown and Williamson to the Bills and Jets, respectively, Robinson has added their replacements in the last two drafts.  Jayon Brown was added in the fifth round of the 2017 draft to fill the role of the third-down coverage linebacker who can lock up opposing tight ends and running backs.  Evans, this year’s first-round pick, is rangy and should fill Williamson’s void next to Wesley Woodyard. In coverage Evans is possibly even an upgrade.

Pass Rushers

2015: Derrick Morgan, Brian Orakpo

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2018: Derrick Morgan, Brian Orakpo, Harold Landry, Kevin Dodd

Out on the edge, the young general manager was gifted with two former first-round picks to rush the passer in Morgan and Orakpo.  Robinson has since drafted two edge rushers who could be poised to replace them next year when their contracts end.  Dodd thus far has been a dud and has often been a healthy scratch for Tennessee.  However, as a second-round pick, the team doesn’t want to give up on him and 2018 will be a crucial year for him to break out.  Landry, another second rounder, should provide immediate help on the edge after having 16.5 sacks just two years ago before an injury-filled senior season.  Robinson may not have replaced his dynamic duo on the edge, but he has drafted their replacements for years to come.

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Cornerbacks

2015: Jason McCourty, Perrish Cox, Coty Sensabaugh

2018: Malcolm Butler, Adoree Jackson, Logan Ryan

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The next two groups are the most improved of any on the team during the Jon Robinson era. The cornerbacks were the most suspect group during Robinson’s first year on the job, allowing the third most yardage through the air during the 2016 season.  He immediately added Ryan and Jackson in the next offseason and improved the group greatly, but there were still liabilities.  Robinson’s response was adding the Super Bowl XLIX hero, Malcolm Butler, to become the number one corner on the roster.  The cornerback group should move towards the top half of the league in the 2018 season.

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Safeties

2015: Michael Griffin, Da’Norris Searcy

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2018: Kevin Byard, Johnathan Cyprien

Finally, on the back end of the defense, Robinson drafted an All-Pro in Byard. He also signed one of the better run-stuffing safeties in the league in Cyprien.  Both Griffin and Searcy had great seasons with the Titans while they were on the roster, but Robinson found upgrades through both free agency and the draft.  Byard is starting to look like a future superstar in the making after leading the league in interceptions last season.  Cyprien was somewhat of a liability in coverage last year and struggled because of hamstring injuries. He will still be the starter and be a solid piece in a greatly improved secondary.

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When Jon Robinson arrived in Nashville, the Titans were seen as a bottom-feeder of the NFL. Rightly so after winning just five games over a two-year span.  However, in the two seasons, he has been in the general manager’s chair, the team has had two winning seasons and a playoff win.  With this upgraded roster, the team should be looking at achieving even more in the coming third season under his direction.

Have thoughts on this or anything else Titans related? Find me on twitter @LymanJake or @FPC_Titans and continue the conversation.

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