The Titans’ defensive front is on the rise with the draft selections of Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry in this year’s draft. I happen to be really high on both players, and that the front office managed to haul the two prospects in is sensational.
Now the defensive line is richer in talent and depth, and the guy leading that pack is none other than Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey
If you recall, I already wrote on Kevin Byard being arguably the most valuable defender on the Titans. The only other franchise veteran allowed in this debate just happens to be Casey, who will be entering his eight season in the league, all with the Titans. Each of Casey’s last three seasons have resulted in Pro Bowl selections, and if his 2017 season is of any indication, he is worthy of this honor and then some.
When it comes to defensive tackles in the NFL, there are two tiers. The highest tier is Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams, and everyone else is at tier two. Donald’s combination of power, elusiveness, violence, hesitance, and balance are all in a league of their own, and he is the best all-around defensive player in the game.
Guys in the ballpark of Donald include Geno Atkins and Grady Jarrett, and Jurrell Casey is worthy of being in that company. Aaron Donald’s level of play has spoiled football fans, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only defensive tackle worth watching.
Keeping that in mind, let’s dive into the case for Jurrell Casey being the most valuable defensive player on the Tennessee Titans.
When watching Casey, I noticed how the Titans positioned him all over the defensive line, a testament to how he can create pressure from any position and any angle. Thus, this column will be dedicated to his versatility.
Casey is used as a defensive end on a stunt on this play, being assigned to go up the B-gap between the right tackle and the right guard. Casey and Derrick Morgan (#91)’s paths cross on the stunt, as Morgan pushes off the left tackle and cuts inside.
Casey catches the right guard...off guard...by also going after the right tackle, giving him the outside edge on the right guard. With this, he pressures Russell Wilson and forces him into an errant throw. That this is against the Seahawks offensive line while also being an impressive play is not mutually exclusive.
This play is sensational, but we’ll dive into the details of how Casey creates the pressure a little later.
Here, Casey is lined up as a defensive tackle in the A-gap, or the space in between the center and guard (in this case, the left guard). It’s important to note Casey is dragging his right foot before the snap, indicating he’s got something up his sleeve.
Indeed, as the ball is snapped, Casey uses his dragged foot to step outside. As the center charges towards him, Casey pushes off his right foot and makes a jab move, completely owning the center in the process. But that’s not the end of it, as Casey slows himself down to confuse the blocking back. As the blocking back charges forward, Casey shuffles his feet and passes by the back, allowing him to create pressure on Jacoby Brissett while making it look easy.
Casey is a very swift pass rusher. He has the quick footwork and instincts to adjust his approach against the offensive line while being in complete control of his speed and patience when approaching a blocker. This is also true of him against the run.
On this play, Casey is again lined up as a defensive tackle. From what I can tell, the center thinks Casey is attacking his outside shoulder, when in actuality Casey is attacking inside. If you look closely, you’ll notice Casey’s left foot is dragging before the snap. When the ball is snapped, this gives him inside leverage, allowing him to burst past the line of scrimmage and stuff the run play.
Most hardcore defensive analysts will talk about Casey’s ability in the 3-technique (where a player aligned on the outside shoulder of a guard). Notable players in said technique include guys like Geno Atkins and Aaron Donald.
On this 3-tech example, Casey is positioned in the B-gap. But just before the snap, he moves a little over to the left, creating the illusion that he’s going up the A-gap. The left guard falls for Casey’s trap, and as the ball is snapped he pushes off his left foot and goes up the B-gap to the guard’s outside shoulder. This creates a massive opening in said gap, allowing Casey to crank up the accelerator and pressure Jared Goff.
And just for the hell of it, let’s show one of Casey’s six sacks on the year.
With possible exception to Kevin Byard, Jurrell Casey is the face of the Titans’ defense. He’s very powerful and his athleticism is criminally underrated, allowing him to be a highly versatile player that can go up any gap and cause instantaneous pressure. He’s a great defensive tackle and an all-around great defensive player that has gotten some respect but not close to the amount he deserves.
Combine Casey’s versatility with guys like the newly drafted Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, and the Titans’ defensive front is going to be a lot more fun to watch in 2018.