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Safety Kevin Byard Proving to be Mr. Dependable for Titans



NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Making plays is at the top of Kevin Byard's list, and in his last outing, the Titans safety put on a show.

Byard intercepted three passes against the Browns. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week as a result. Byard now has five takeaways in the team's last four games -- he had an interception at Houston and a fumble recovery at Miami as well.

"We knew he was going to be one of our best players, most dominant players," Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard said of Byard. "KB is growing, and he'll keep getting better. It is always amazing to see a young kid like that to start to come of age and take over. He is going to keep getting better every game."

Byard, who starred at MTSU and was a third-round pick by the Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft, believes dependability will be the key to his success in the NFL, along with his work ethic.

And he's proving to be as dependable as they come.

Through the first seven games, Byard has played every single defensive snap for the Titans – 480 in all.

He played 73 of 73 snaps vs the Browns, and he didn't leave the field the first six weeks of the season either. Some snap counts have been higher than others – Oakland (66 of 66), Jacksonville (67 of 67), Seattle (73 of 73), Houston (84 of 84), Miami (59 of 59), Indianapolis (58 of 58) – but he's been available every play.

And he's been making plays.

"He's been ballin' all year long," defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said of Byard. "He's been putting in the work all season."

Titans coach Mike Mularkey agreed.

"Kevin has had a good year," Mularkey said. "He's in the right place all the time. I try to tell these guys, it's not that hard, just be where you're supposed to be and plays will come and that's what he does. (He) doesn't make it any harder than it has to be. It's a matter of being there, but then making them is the big part. He's made them."

On the season, Byard has 38 tackles, with four interceptions and a fumble recovery while starting all seven games.

As a rookie last season, Byard played in all 16 games, with seven starts, and recorded 63 tackles and a sack, but he didn't force a turnover. It was one of his missions heading into the season.

Byard spent a lot of time in the classroom studying the defense, in addition to studying some of the best safeties in the game, from Earl Thomas to Eric Berry to Reshad Jones to Eric Weddle.

He also did a lot of working out at Saint Thomas Sports Park and his former school, MTSU, to improve his conditioning, and stamina. He even added some boxing classes to give him more punch in his second NFL season.

He wants to be on the field every snap.

"It is something I am kind of used to," Byard said. "I kind of condition by body where I can go every play of every season. Dependability is the best asset you can have on a team, being available to help the team."

Heading into Byard's second NFL season, Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau raved about Byard's potential.

With his performance against the Browns, Byard became the first Titan defender to record three interceptions in the same game since 2007, when linebacker Keith Bulluck did it on a Monday night in New Orleans.

Byard became the first NFL player in 2017 to record three interceptions in a game and the first NFL player to do so since Eagles safety Kurt Coleman at Washington in 2011.

"I think the sky is the limit on him,'' LeBeau said of Byard. "I don't want to put a lot of pressure on a young player, but he had a great season for a first year player and he is going to do nothing but grow.

"He has an exceptional football mind and I think that is one of his strengths. He is going to grow and he is going to be a coach on the field, there is no question about that."

Recently, LeBeau said the early season injury to safety Johnathan Cyprien contributed to the team's need to have Byard on the field every snap.

Byard has no complaints.

He feels good, and he's ready to do more.

"I feel like it is week one every week," Byard said. "I feel great. I just pretty much take care of my body all week so I can play every play on Sunday."

Titans safety Kevin Byard tied a single-game franchise record with three interceptions against the Browns. (Donn Jones Photography, AP)

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