TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
Offseason developments: The Titans jumped out and signed Dupree to a lucrative long-term deal with the hopes of him changing the pass rush. Dupree spent the offseason rehabbing and strengthening the torn ACL he suffered last season while with the Steelers, and he's edging closer to being ready to return. The Titans also added Adeniyi, Dupree's teammate with the Steelers who has performed well on special teams during his career. The Titans drafted Weaver, who played at the University of Pittsburgh, in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Roberson added size and strength this offseason, while Ray returned to the practice field following a season when he made contributions when called upon. Skipper was waived on Sunday, when the Titans added veteran edge rusher John Simon, who played the last three seasons with the Patriots. The Titans didn't re-sign Jadeveon Clowney, who landed with the Browns. Former OLBs coach Shane Bowen, meanwhile, was promoted to defensive coordinator, and Mike Vrabel promoted Ryan Crow to OLBS coach to replace him.
In the spotlight: Dupree. The 28-year-old Dupree was regarded as one of the top pass rushers in free agency when he signed with the Titans. Dupree recorded eight sacks in 11 games with the Steelers in 2020 before suffering the season-ending knee injury. He posted a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2019 with 17 quarterback hits and 16 tackles for loss, and his 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons rank eighth and his six strip sacks rank fourth in the NFL since 2019. So, can he make the same impact with the Titans? Well, that's the plan. Dupree has been mostly out of sight since signing with the Titans. He rehabbed and trained in Arizona, Atlanta and Nashville this offseason, getting himself ready. Dupree isn't quite ready yet – he'll begin camp on the team's Physically Unable to Perform list. But he should be fun to watch when he takes the field in No.48.
Battle to watch: Rotational players. Go ahead and insert Dupree and Landry into the starting lineup. Looking at the other edge rushers currently on the roster, Simon, Roberson and Weaver will battle to be in the mix as well. Weaver has already made strides, and he's a talented player, and his work ethic really showed in OTAs. Roberson has shown improvement this offseason as well. An eight-year veteran, Simon adds an intriguing option. He has experience, and has been productive in the league. The battle is for playing time, and for the 4th/5th spots at OLB. Ray will compete alongside Adeniyi, who has shown the ability to help on special teams, to try and move up in the pecking order.
Keep an eye on: Landry. Most of the offseason talk has been about the new additions in Dupree and Weaver, and those two guys should make a difference this fall. But the Titans are also counting on continued improvement and big things from Landry, the team's second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Landry has recorded 19 sacks in his first three NFL seasons, including nine in 2019 and 5.5 in 2020. He's been credited with 55 quarterback pressures in those two seasons as well, including a career-high 29 in 2020. With more potent pass rushers around him, Landry should be in a position to make even more of an impact this fall. By all accounts, Landry has played way too many snaps in recent years, so putting him in a position to do more with fewer snaps sounds like a great scenario.
Next up: Cornerbacks.