It’s Training Camp Week!!! With camp officially starting this Saturday, July 29th, let’s take a look at how things are shaping up with the safeties.
Returning: Kevin Byard, Da’Norris Searcy, Curtis Riley
Departures: Daimion Stafford (signed with Steelers), Rashad Johnson (currently unsigned)
Additions: Johnathan Cyprien (FA), Brynden Trawick (FA)
The Titans return 51.0% of their snaps from this unit after allowing Johnson and Stafford to walk in free agency. Last year saw the Titans rotate their top four safeties (Byard, Stafford, Johnson, and Searcy) a ton which is rather uncommon in the NFL. I will be interested to see how they split up snaps here in 2017.
Kevin Byard led the Titans safeties with a 60.1% snap share in his rookie year and was extremely impressive while doing it. Greg Cosell of NFL Films called Byard “as good as any safety in the league playing the run in the box” at one point last year. The Titans used him around the line of scrimmage and covering tight ends man-to-man quite a bit last year, but they seem poised to put him back in his more natural free safety this season which will hopefully allow him to show off some of the ball skills he flashed when gathering 19 interceptions in his MTSU career. Byard has a chance to become one of the best safeties in the NFL.
Johnathan Cyprien came over from Jacksonville in free agency and will likely start at strong safety across from Byard. I wrote a ton about Cyprien as well and you can check that out here. I think Dick LeBeau’s scheme will put Cyprien in a much better position to succeed than Gus Bradley’s Seattle Cover 3 did in Jacksonville. Cyprien is a monster near the line of scrimmage and will help the already good Titans run defense be even better in 2017.
In Johnathan Cyprien, the Tennessee Titans added our highest graded safety against the run from the 2016 season. pic.twitter.com/NW8iWa7Zh3— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 18, 2017
I know PFF isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but the film bears this grade out. Cyprien is a stud against the run.
That leaves Da’Norris Searcy as a backup for the first time in his tenure in Tennessee, but I still think he will get plenty of snaps. Searcy is experienced and capable of playing both safety spots so I would expect him to be the first guy off the bench if anything happens to either Byard or Cyprien, but he will also get some time in the Titans 3 safety personnel packages. They did this quite a bit last year, usually featuring Stafford as a hybrid safety-linebacker type role. I would expect Cyprien to slide in to that role with Byard and Searcy at the more traditional safety spots when the Titans go to this look.
Behind that group is Brynden Trawick and Curtis Riley. Trawick is a special teams ace who was signed early in free agency to come in and help fix the woeful kick coverage and kick return units in 2017. He profiles more as a strong safety type when asked to take snaps on defense, but I don’t expect him to rotate in to the mix unless forced by injuries. Riley is a guy who has split time between corner and free safety in the past. He was on the Titans practice squad for much of the past two seasons and has flashed in preseason games from time to time. I’m guessing he will work at safety this year given the numbers at the two positions, but he will have to force out an extra linebacker or defensive lineman most likely to make the 53 man roster.
I am very high on Byard and Cyprien as a starting tandem and while I wasn’t Searcy’s biggest fan the last couple years, he certainly qualifies as one of the best backup safeties in the NFL so I think this is a very good unit.