There weren’t many positive takeaways from the Tennessee Titans’ lowly defeat to the Houston Texans on Sunday. A rare bright spot is the current play of undrafted linebacker Otis Reese IV. Reese is taking advantage of his opportunity.
Primarily reduced to a special teams role throughout the majority of his rookie campaign, Reese is now receiving an opportunity to start in base defense. The Titans currently have four linebackers on IR — Chance Campbell, Jack Gibbens, Joe Jones, and Luke Gifford. Reese played a combined 60 snaps against the Texans and Seattle Seahawks as a result.
The first-year contributor from Ole Miss has recorded 15 total tackles this year, including a season-high 10 takedowns against the Texans. Reese was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded Titans defender against Houston, earning an elite overall grade of 89.9. Reese scored an 82.5 as a run defender, an 81.7 tackling grade, and a 76.2 score in coverage. Reese was credited with allowing three receptions for a total of just eight receiving yards, or 2.7 yards per catch.
Reese’s play caught the attention of the NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger. Baldinger conducted one of his acclaimed ‘Baldy’s Breakdowns’ on Reese’s plays versus the Texans. It’s worth a watch. Reese showcased outstanding change-of-direction ability and hitting power on the rep Baldinger highlighted.
The Titans don’t currently have many good linebackers under contract for the 2024 season. Reese, Campbell, Gifford, Jojo Domann, and Garrett Wallow are under contract. Leader-of-the-group Azeez Al-Shaair is scheduled for unrestricted free agency. Gibbens is scheduled for Exclusive Rights Free Agency (EFRA). Retaining Gibbens should be straightforward, and the Titans should make a valiant effort to re-sign Al-Shaair, too. But Reese is currently playing like the Titans have options at the position.
Reese should carry over his momentum to the Week 18 regular-season finale with the Jacksonville Jaguars.