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Why did the Titans bother starting CB Kristian Fulton?

The Tennessee Titans were quick to yank Kristian Fulton from the starting lineup in Sunday’s defeat

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Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Tennessee Titans head coach benched starting cornerback Kristian Fulton approximately midway through Sunday’s 24-16 defeat to the Baltimore Ravens. Fulton still managed to play 55 total snaps, but was replaced on the boundary by sophomore corner Tre Avery. The numbers indicate Fulton was on an extremely short leash.

There’s no denying that Fulton has been abysmal this season. Pro Football Focus has credited Fulton with allowing 18 receptions on 23 targets. That’s “good” for a target-to-catch conversion rate of 78.2%. Opposing quarterbacks have enjoyed a passer rating of 133.2 when targeting Fulton in coverage. The former LSU standout has allowed 16.4 yards per reception.

Fulton’s play didn’t appear to be an issue versus the Ravens. He was credited with allowing four receptions for 24 receiving yards, or a season-low 6.0 yards per catch. The longest gain Fulton had allowed went for eight yards. Fulton’s coverage grade of 54.6 was his second-highest of the 2023 campaign. Vrabel’s timing of benching Fulton was curious.

Avery played quality football as Fulton’s replacement. The former undrafted free agent out of Rutgers allowed just one catch for a 4-yard gain. Avery played approximately 25% of Tennessee’s defensive snaps.

It insinuates Vrabel and his coaching staff had pre-planned to give Avery an extended look. That would be understandable given Fulton’s struggles this season. It was just surprising to witness Fulton get benched in the midst of one of his better showings, albeit Vrabel noted the Ravens hadn’t really tested Fulton down the field like previous passing attacks have.

Vrabel and defensive coordinator Shane Bowen will likely make a more definitive decision ahead of Week 8’s date with the Atlanta Falcons. Will we see Fulton and Avery continue to split reps on the boundary? Doubtful. We expect Avery to officially replace Fulton on a more permanent basis.