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Undrafted rookie Sharif Finch beginning to emerge as a playmaker for the Titans defense

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The young linebacker from Temple is starting to look like a long term piece to the Titans defensive puzzle.

New England Patriots v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

We, here at Derrick Henry Miracles, would like to take a brief break from gushing over the greatest running back performance in NFL history to talk about another young Titan on the rise, Sharif Finch. We will be back to your regularly scheduled Derrick Henry programming shortly.

When Titans training camp opened for the 2018 season, it wasn’t hard to notice Sharif Finch. Even among Tennessee’s other outside linebackers Finch physically stood out as the tallest and longest guy in the group. However, he really got my attention when he unleashed a string of six distinct pass rush moves on former Titan Byron Bell in a single drive during the preseason. Finch would make the team’s 53-man roster a couple weeks later.

Fourteen weeks later, Finch is still making plays. On Thursday night it was a strip sack of Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler that he also recovered to create the only turnover of the night for the Titans defense. Watch No. 56 come screaming off the edge here and then have the presence of mind to rip the ball out on the way down.

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Just a few days before that, he was making a big tackle for loss on a screen pass.

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A few weeks before that it was one of the best individual effort defensive plays I’ve seen all season as he beats Jack Doyle’s block and then somehow forces the fumble while diving over him to make the tackle.

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Just weeks before that he’s bullying Patriots blockers and smashing Sony Michel in the backfield.

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And finally, just a few weeks before that he’s getting his first career sack against Carson Wentz.

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Finch has only played 164 snaps on defense over the course of the season. That ranks him 17th among Titans defenders. For some context, the top guys — players that never leave the field like Kevin Byard and Logan Ryan — are approaching 900 snaps and Brian Orakpo, the leader at outside linebacker, has close to 600.

I point that out because Finch’s production far outstrips his opportunity so far. He’s 13th on the team in tackles with 23, tied for 5th on the team in tackles for loss with 3, tied for 8th on the team in sacks with 1.5, and tied for 1st on the team in forced fumbles with 2. However, if you look at those stats on a per snap basis, he’s 2nd on the team in tackles, 2nd in tackles for loss, 4th in sacks, and 1st in forced fumbles. That’s a lot of bang for your buck when you have 56 in the game.

Pro Football Focus currently rates Finch as the Titans highest graded player on both defense and special teams with a 88.2 score on defense and a 84.5 on special teams. He hasn’t played enough snaps to qualify for their positional rankings, but if he did, he would currently stand as the NFL’s 10th best edge defender, slotting in between DeMarcus Lawrence and Jerry Hughes. That’s pretty elite company for an undrafted rookie.

Small sample size disclaimers apply here of course, but it’s hard not to look at Finch’s impact as an undrafted rookie playing limited snaps and be excited for his future in Tennessee. He’s slowly climbing the depth chart at outside linebacker for the Titans, now ranking 4th in the pecking order behind veterans Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan in addition to fellow rookie Harold Landry. If he keeps playing like he did against Jacksonville on Thursday night, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to keep him off the field.