TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE LINE
Offseason developments: The Titans added veteran Denico Autry early in free agency, and he was impressive during his work in June with the team. The team also signed veteran defensive linemen Woodrow Hamilton IV, who most recently played for the Panthers, along with veterans Abry Jones (Jaguars), Bruce Hector (Panthers) and Trevon Coley, who has spent time on six other NFL rosters. Abry Jones, however, was placed on the Reserve/Retired list on Saturday after practicing with the team in June. Following the NFL Draft, the Titans signed undrafted free agent Naquan Jones, who played collegiately at Michigan State. The Titans did not re-sign veteran DaQuan Jones, and he ended up signing with the Panthers. The Titans also didn't make a tender offer to Matt Dickerson, who joined the Raiders. Defensive lineman Jack Crawford, who played last season with the Titans, remains unsigned and on the market. Tart and Murchison, meanwhile, made strides in offseason work. Both are now stronger, as Murchison added some extra bulk. More to come on Simmons.
In the spotlight: Simmons. Heading into his third NFL season, Simmons is poised to have the best season of his young career. Simmons has also worked to get his body in prime condition to handle the rigors of the NFL season, and his knee is now feeling as good as ever post-ACL injury. The big man did it with a strict diet, and a grueling approach in the weight room. This offseason he continues to show great leadership, taking part in all the offseason workouts and leading the way in those sessions. With more talent around him on the defense, Simmons has a chance to have a monster year in 2021.
Battle to watch: Tart and others. Unheralded defensive lineman Teair Tart enters camp as the leader in the clubhouse to start at nose. The 2020 undrafted free agent from Florida International enjoyed a solid offseason after recording five tackles, two quarterback pressures and a tackle for a loss in seven games last year. But who will be in the mix alongside him? And who could make the team and add depth? Plenty of candidates are in the mix, including the veterans (Coley, Hector, Hamilton) added during the course of the offseason. Naquan Jones will be worth watching when the pads come on – he has quickness, and he's a big man. Hamilton improved during the offseason as well. Murchison's quickness and versatility – he can play inside and outside – is a plus.
Keep an eye on: Autry. A 6-5, 285-pounder, Autry was a force all over the defensive line for the Colts, where he registered 20 sacks in 40 games over the past three seasons. Autry posted nine sacks in 2018, 3.5 sacks in 2019 and 7.5 sacks in 2020. Now, he'll look to wreak havoc for the Titans. The addition of Autry maybe didn't get as much attention as the signing of Bud Dupree, but the veteran has a chance to make a big impact in Tennessee. During his NFL career, Autry has played in 96 games, with 56 starts, since entering the league as an undrafted free agent with the Raiders in 2014. In seven seasons, he's recorded 182 tackles and 30.5 sacks. It's been a while since the Titans have had a player with such a unique skill set. Autry is quick, he's long, versatile, he's strong, and he plays with great effort.
Next up: Inside Linebackers.