By Jim Wyatt, Titans Online
TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE LINE
In camp (10): DL Jeffery Simmons, DL DaQuan Jones, DL Jack Crawford, DT Matt Dickerson, DT Isaiah Mack, DL Larrell Murchison, DT Joey Ivie, DE Amani Bledsoe, DT Teair Tart, NT Kobe Smith.
Offseason developments: The biggest move here was a departure – the Titans traded away five-time Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey to the Broncos in exchange for a seventh-round pick, and some salary cap relief moving forward. Defensive lineman Austin Johnson also departed this offseason, and he signed with the Giants. The Titans made some additions as well. Crawford, formerly with the Falcons, signed a one-year deal with the team. The Titans also drafted Murchison in the fifth-round of the NFL Draft while also adding a pair of undrafted free agents in Tart (Florida International) and Smith (South Carolina). Simmons spent a good portion of the offseason working with trainers to strengthen his knee. And the team has spent some time flirting with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who remains a free agent.
In the spotlight: Jeffery Simmons. The 19th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Mississippi State, Simmons looked like he was shot out of a cannon in his NFL debut last season, sacking quarterback Philip Rivers in an October 20 contest vs. the Chargers after spending the first six weeks of the season on the team’s Non-Football Injury list. Simmons finished the season with 40 tackles, 14 quarterback pressures and two sacks in nine regular season games, and he was a disruptive force on a lot of Sundays. The Titans expect Simmons to take a big step in his second NFL season. Simmons said earlier this offseason he’s feeling a lot better, and he revealed plans to ditch the knee brace he wore last season. He also expects to ditch more offensive linemen on the way to ball carriers and quarterbacks.
Battle to watch: Dickerson, Mack vs. the undrafted DLs. Simmons, Jones, Crawford and Murchison are going to be on the 55-man roster, but the race will soon be on for spots behind them. Dickerson and Mack have the edge heading into camp because of their experience in the system, and the flashes they’ve shown to this point. But the Titans have a pair of intriguing undrafted free agents in Tart and Smith, who could be roster spot stealers. Bledsoe and Ivie will be looking to make a case for themselves, too, of course. Keep in mind the Titans ended last season with seven defensive linemen on their 53-man roster. One other thing to keep on the radar: The possibility of an outsider or two joining this group at some point as well.
Keep an eye on: Crawford and Murchison. The Titans didn’t sign Crawford to replace Casey. But Crawford is a veteran with some versatility, and he should provide a boost as the team moves forward. Crawford (6-5, 274) is an eight-year veteran who has played with the Raiders, Cowboys and Falcons since entering the NFL in 2012. In 93 career games, Crawford has recorded 132 tackles and 16 sacks. He recorded a career-high 35 tackles and six sacks during the 2018 season with the Falcons, where he played for the past three seasons. Murchison is a young cat with some versatility himself. He earned second-team All-ACC honors as a senior when he was in on 48 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, and seven quarterback sacks.
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