NASHVILLE – It's July 4th weekend, so it's a perfect time to take a look at some Titans who make fireworks on the field.
Today, I'm ranking the team's five most explosive players …
1. WR A.J. Brown
The human highlight reel from Ole Miss made an immediate impact during his rookie season, and there's reason to believe more big things are in store for 2020.
While the player who is No.2 on this list is a big-time playmaker himself, these stats from Brown are tough to top, and it's why he tops this list:
Of the team's 30 plays of 30 yards or more in 2019, Brown was responsible for 12 of them during a season when he tallied 52 receptions for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns. Brown's 91-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill against the Raiders was the biggest play of the year, but he also had catches of 47, 47, 49, 51, 51, 55, 60 and 65 yards, along with a 49-yard touchdown run.
Brown averaged a whopping 20.2 yards per catch.
2. RB Derrick Henry
Henry has been part workhorse, part racehorse over the past few seasons with the Titans. His 99-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars during the 2018 season will forever be atop in the team's record books.
Henry keeps on keeping on. In 2019, Henry led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards, along with 16 rushing touchdowns.
The big man provides a punch, and a lot of pop. Henry busted loose for seven plays of 30-plus yards in 2019, including runs of 53, 68, and 74 in the regular season, and the 66-yard run at Baltimore in the playoffs, when he stiff-armed Earl Thomas into a spinning top. Henry also had a 75-yard touchdown catch vs the Browns in the opener.
How's this for a stat: Henry's seven 65-yard plus plays from scrimmage from 2017-19 ranks first in the NFL over that time frame, ahead of Kansas City's Tyreek Hill.
3. TE Jonnu Smith
In a Monday Night Football game at Houston in 2018, the Titans tight end offered a big hint of things to come when he took a short pass and outraced everyone 61 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. It led to a plenty of: "I didn't realize Jonnu's that fast" takes.
Well, Smith has shown it on multiple occasions since.
In 2019, Smith turned in four plays of 35 yards or more, including a 57-yard catch and run vs the Bills, and a 57-yard run after lining up in the backfield against the Texans. Per Pro Football Focus, Smith ranked second in the NFL (behind Noah Fant) in 2019 with 8.1-yard average yards after catch.
On a side note, how about that juggling catch Smith made in the end zone in the playoff win at Baltimore?
4. S Kevin Byard
Sure, I could've made this an offense-only list, and the team has enough players on the offensive side of the ball to make it doable.
But I didn't feel right ignoring the defense, and an argument could be made Byard and other defenders deserve to be higher on this list. Linebacker Rashaan Evans led the team with 139 tackles in 2019, and edge rusher Harold Landry finished the year with a team-high 10 sacks, counting playoffs.
I'm going with Byard, though, based on the fact he has 17 interceptions in the past three seasons.
In 2019, Byard led the Titans with five interceptions in the regular season, and he added another in the playoff win at Baltimore.
Byard is a dependable playmaker on defense, with plenty of explosiveness.
5. WR Kalif Raymond
Surprised to see Raymond here?
Sure, I get it. Raymond played in just eight regular season games in 2019, and he didn't get a whole lot of opportunities.
But looking back at the season, Raymond's big plays are impossible to ignore.
Raymond's 45-yard touchdown catch in the team's playoff win at Baltimore – on a Tannehill bomb – was one of the biggest plays of the season. His 40-yard touchdown catch from Tannehill in a late season win at Indianapolis was a game-changer as well. Raymond also had a 52-yard catch in the regular season win vs the Chiefs, and a 23-yard catch vs the Saints.
On the year, Raymond had just 10 catches. But the team's primary punt returner/kickoff returner averaged 18.9 yards per catch in the regular season, and 45.0 yards per catch in the postseason. Not bad, Kalif, not bad.
Happy 4th everyone!