clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Roster Battle at Defensive Line to be Fierce Throughout Titans Training Camp

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

With the start of training camp two weeks away for the Tennessee Titans, it’s worth analyzing what promises to be one of the fiercest position battles throughout the Titans’ 90-man roster. Mike Vrabel’s Titans are entering training camp with several NFL-worthy talents across their defensive line. For the second consecutive season, this group will be spearheaded by the Pro Bowl-level talents of Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry. Simmons and Autry combined for 17.5 regular-season sacks in 2021, and more of the same is expected in 2022. Who will be joining them on Tennessee’s defensive line qualifies as a situation worth monitoring.

When the Titans are in four down-lineman looks, Simmons and Autry are typically joined by outside linebackers Harold Landry and Bud Dupree, who aren’t necessarily a part of this position group. Landry and Dupree are versatile enough to play both standing up and with their hand in the dirt, so it’s certainly worth mentioning. When the 2021 Titans were preparing to stuff the run, Autry and Simmons were typically joined on the line of scrimmage by nose tackle Teair Tart. A former undrafted free agent out of FIU, Tart routinely flashed as a sophomore while playing in a limited role. We’d stop short of claiming Tart is guaranteed a roster spot in 2022 due to an abundance of depth, but his positioning is likely safe.

Sophomore-to-be Naquan Jones was the Tart of 2021. General Manager Jon Robinson has routinely unearthed talented undrafted free agents and Jones joined that group as a first-year player out of Michigan State. Playing time was initially tough to come by for Jones, but he eventually grew into a role, recording 29 total tackles and 2.5 sacks as a rookie. Jones will be battling for a roster spot for the second consecutive offseason, but he should have a leg up on the competition.

This could be where the position battle truly begins. The Titans recently signed free-agent defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker to a contract. A former second-round selection out of FSU, Walker impressed the Titans’ coaching staff throughout organized team activities (OTAs). Walker’s versatility means he could play both inside and outside, something Vrabel and defensive line coach Terrell Williams value.

No Titans defensive lineman may be facing a more crucial summer than third-year player Larrell Murchison. The No. 174 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Murchison has recorded just 13 total tackles and zero sacks across two professional seasons while battling injuries and struggling to find consistent play time. Still just 25 years of age, Murchison was a raw product coming out of NC State. Murchison probably has more leeway with the front office than most fans think, but a fate-deciding iteration of training camp awaits him.

That brings us to a trio of undrafted free agents that really serve as the unpredictable wrench in Tennessee’s plans. Defensive lineman Sam Okuayinonu enjoyed a fruitful campaign for the Maryland Terps in 2021, having recorded 55 total tackles and 6.0 sacks in 12 appearances. Okuayinonu is a highly intriguing pass rusher with some juice. Former Texas A&M defensive lineman Jayden Peevy has been pegged as the UDFA with the most upside. Peevy was very productive with the Aggies, totaling 137 total tackles, 19.0 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks. And finally, Ohio State’s Haskell Garrett may be the most recognizable member of this group. A five-year member of the Buckeyes, Garrett enjoyed his best season in 2021. All three of these undrafted defenders carry the potential to make Tennessee’s roster in 2022.

Because the Titans possess all of this talent across their defensive line, we’re predicting Robinson keeps six down lineman. It would certainly be a heavier number than most teams around the league carry, but the Titans can get away with going significantly lighter at outside linebacker, partially due to Landry’s dominance, Dupree’s versatility, and Autry’s ability to kick outside when necessary. It’s a situation worth monitoring throughout training camp.