The 2021 Tennessee Titans need to do a better job of communicating on defense than the 2020 Titans did. This thought isn’t lost on their key players. In fact, communication has been a hot topic throughout training camp and the preseason.
Titans star safety Kevin Byard recently met with MCM while promoting his new partnership with Pepsi to discuss how the Titans can communicate at a higher level on defense in 2021 than they did a year ago. In a conversation with me, Byard was quick to point out how defensive coordinator Shane Bowen can serve as an asset in that department.
“Shane Bowen is the defensive coordinator and he holds that title now,” Byard said. ”Shane has been with us for a while now and continuity is a good thing. It helps guys like myself and Amani [Hooker] that have been here for a few years now. We value continuity.”
We are just two days away from Tennessee’s Week 1 matchup with a high-flying Arizona Cardinals team that possesses several dangerous weapons including quarterback Kyler Murray, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Chase Edmonds. It’s a long season, but we’re going to find out a lot about this new-look Titans unit on Sunday.
The Titans defense surrendered 4,439 passing yards, 36 touchdown passes and 439 points allowed in 2020. All of those numbers were among the worst in the league. The Titans fought their way to an 11-5 record and AFC South title. The national narrative was that their offense carried them as far as they went. It’s an accurate statement to make.
Depending on how much stock you put into the preseason, there appears to be reason for optimism. Through three exhibition games, the Titans defense recorded nine sacks, three interceptions and five forced fumbles. They allowed a total of 33 points, or 11 points per game. They didn’t allow a touchdown until the third and final game. Young players and newcomers such as Kristian Fulton, Teair Tart, Anthony Rush, Larrell Murchison, David Long Jr., Rashad Weaver and Ola Adeniyi were standout performers during the preseason. It certainly looks like the Titans have better depth on defense now than they did a year ago.
“I’ve been impressed with what the defense has done so far,” Byard said. “It was a small sample size but we played some great football during the preseason.”
Titans pass defense ready to take a step forward
General manager Jon Robinson made sweeping changes to the personnel on the backend this summer. He rid himself of the likes of Kenny Vaccaro, Malcolm Butler, Adoree Jackson, Desmond King and Tye Smith. Coming in are players such as Caleb Farley, Elijah Molden, Jackrabbit Jenkins and Brady Breeze. Amani Hooker isn’t a new addition, but will be counted on to play more snaps in 2021 than he did in 2020.
“Obviously we’ve gone through a lot of changes on that side of the ball”, Byard continued. “We’ve had some new guys come in. We brought in a great veteran in Jackrabbit Jenkins. We had some young guys that played some good football last year, guys like Amani Hooker and Chris Jackson who are ready to step into bigger roles. We’re stressing communication right now. It was an issue last year. We didn’t do that [communicate] to the best of our ability last year.”
There’s no denying that communication was an issue for the Titans defense on third down a year ago. Opposing offenses converted more than 50% of their third down attempts against the Titans defense (an astounding 111-of-214) last season.
“At the end of the day, I think we’re going to be a lot more detailed this year than we were in 2020”, Byard concluded. “I think the guys are really owning up and taking it upon themselves to make sure that we’re always locked in and paying attention to the small things on an everyday basis. That’s what I’ve been seeing at practice this year. I’m excited to watch it carry over to the field. What we did in the preseason doesn’t matter anymore. We have to go out and prove it during the regular season now. We have a big one coming up against Arizona and we’re excited to show the world what we’re all about.”
It all starts this Sunday.
Byard took time out of his busy schedule to speak with Music City Miracles while promoting his new partnership with Pepsi.
Pepsi knows that for football’s most loyal fans, game day is more than just tuning in at kickoff: it’s the weeklong preparation, from the lucky jersey to the perfect dish to keep you and your team fueled. This fall, Pepsi is celebrating fans’ unapologetic love of football watching with exclusive content from their favorite players and celebrity superfans showing off their go-to game day eats plus a chance to win plenty of prizes, from new gear and a year of free Pepsi to the ultimate “homegate” kit.
To get fans ready for football’s highly anticipated return, Pepsi is teaming up with NFL players to share their favorite recipes so fans can recreate the dishes at home in time for the game. Fans can visit MadeForFootballWatching.com for exclusive game day recipes from their favorite NFL stars including:
- Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley’s Game Day Nachos
- Miami Dolphins Defensive End Christian Wilkins’ Fried Chicken & BBQ Sauce
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers Linebacker Devin White’s Lemon Pepper Wings
- Tennessee Titans Safety Kevin Byard’s Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich
- Washington Football Team Wide Receiver Terry McLaurin’s Hawaiian Sliders
Pepsi is even bringing some of football’s most famous superfans into the fold to share their favorite game day eats including artists Flo Rida, Waka Flocka Flame and Blanco Brown, chef Duff Goldman, and wrestler Mojo Muhtadi.
“Pepsi has a rich history with the game of football, and, like any true fan, we take game day seriously. We’re excited to give fans across the South even more reasons to get amped up this season and enjoy the day unapologetically watching every play no matter where they are or who they are with,” said Jenny Figueroa, Senior Director of Marketing, South Division, PepsiCo Beverages North America (South Division).
In addition to the recipes, fans can check out unique AR filters to showcase their diehard fandom and enter for a chance to win one-of-a-kind football gear, and of course, a year’s supply of Pepsi. The grand prize winner will get an ultimate “homegate” kit to enjoy the tailgate experience from the comfort of their own home to further encourage their unapologetic watching.
This is part of Pepsi’s larger “Made for Football Watching” campaign celebrating loyal football watchers and their personal game day rituals. To join the fun and for official sweepstakes rules, fans can check out MadeForFootballWatching.com.
Prior to the highly anticipated NFL kick-off in Tampa Bay, Pepsi Stronger Together, PepsiCo’s series of grassroots initiatives bringing tailored programming and support to communities across the country, will be giving the city’s healthcare heroes their own game day meals. On September 9th, Pepsi Stronger Together will be donating 2,000 meals from local restaurants Bubbaque BBQ, Harpoon Harry’s, Datz, and 7th + Grove to thank workers at HCA Brandon Regional, Advent Wesley Chapel, and Baycare St. Joseph Main Hospitals in the Tampa Bay area.