I don’t think you can overstate the impact that first round pick Jeffery Simmons made in his NFL debut on Sunday. Here’s one non-overstatement: the Titans are 2-5 without him.
I didn’t want to wait until the All-22 angles come out to review Simmons’ game so I pulled some good shots from the TV broadcast so we can go through them here. I’ll still include some of these plays in my All-22 Review of the defense — I promise there will be one this week — but Simmons’ dominance couldn’t wait another day.
A little bit of context that we should consider before jump into some of these clips. Simmons is just over eight months removed from tearing his ACL. Many thought that he would be back in late November or December at the earliest. Some thought he would miss the whole year. He missed six games. Prior to this game, Simmons got just one week of live practice with his teammates after being activated off the NFI list earlier in the week. He’d spent the rest of his time as a Titan rehabbing and working on side fields with strength and conditioning coaches. He’s got a grand total of three NFL practices under his belt.
(FYI: I’m flipping my order with clips on this article and the All-22 this week. Going to try putting the play first and then the analysis after to see if that flows better. Let me know how this reads.)
Simmons flashed his power in his very first snap as a Titan, taking Chargers center Dan Feeney and putting him on his rear end on the pass rush. This wouldn’t be the only time he embarrassed an offensive lineman in this game.
Later in the first quarter, Simmons whipped Feeney again, pushing him three yards deep in the backfield and then making the tackle for loss on Melvin Gordon. Incredible raw power.
Here’s another lineman getting dropped by Simmons in the pass rush. This time it’s Chargers right tackle Sam Tevi who gets bowled over.
Simmons’ first career sack came on a game with fellow defensive lineman DaQuan Jones. Simmons pushes up field against Tavi, but then loops back inside and meets Rivers as he tries to step up in the pocket. It’s not the most impressive sack — and it wasn’t his most impressive pass rush of the day — but it’s pretty good execution of a technique that he hadn’t gotten to rep much yet.
This play was actually the most impressive rush of the day from Simmons in my opinion. He is working against right guard Michael Schofield and he manages to get an edge inside, slither through a late double team attempt from the center, and then finish by pulling down Schofield’s inside shoulder, nearly getting to Rivers before the pass is released.
Let’s get into the biggest plays he made in this game though. The back to back snaps on the goal line stand both featured outstanding push from Simmons. He pushes the left guard back and makes first contact with Melvin Gordon on the first goal line rush attempt by the Chargers. You can see him in there, moving the line of scrimmage and getting a giant arm across Gordon’s midsection to slow him, allowing Rashaan Evans to come in and finish him off.
Finally, on the last defensive snap of the game, Simmons came up big again. He absolutely mauls Michael Schofield, putting him on the ground and disrupting Gordon’s path. The slight change of direction, pushes Gordon closer to a crashing Wesley Woodyard, who punches the ball free, sealing a dramatic win for the Titans.
Simmons made a massive impact on this game and looked borderline unblockable at points despite the fact that A) he played just 21 snaps, B) he is just eight months removed from ACL surgery, and C) he’s had just one week of live practice reps as an NFL player. Someone needs to create a stat that measures “offensive lineman put on their rear per snap” —OLPOTRPS rolls right off the tongue — because I’m pretty sure Simmons would lead the league this week.
Nobody is going to be putting Feeney or Schofield or Tavi in the Hall of Fame, but Simmons made veteran NFL linemen look completely overwhelmed in this game and if that continues, it completely changes the ceiling for the Titans already outstanding defense. We know how valuable interior pressure is and if this defense can create that pressure without weakening the run defense or blitzing... look out.