NASHVILLE – Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons is a big man who, in the eyes of many, has some big shoes to fill following the departure of five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey.
Simmons doesn't see it that way, however.
The team's first-round pick from 2019 NFL Draft said on a Zoom conference call on Wednesday he's determined to step up and play a bigger role in his second NFL season. But he said that was always his plan, even before the team traded Casey to the Broncos back in March.
Simmons said he thanked Casey for his guidance during his rookie season.
"I told Jurrell I appreciate everything he did for me coming in as a rookie," Simmons said. "Jurrell took me under his wing and pretty much broke everything down for me – that was very helpful coming in as a rookie, especially coming in hurt.
"Me personally, I don't feel any pressure (to fill a void). I just have to be myself and continue to do what I do. This offseason right now, I am just working to get physically and mentally ready for next year."
Simmons, the 19th overall pick of the draft out of Mississippi State, said he's continued to work on strengthening his knee this offseason. Simmons spent the first six weeks of the 2019 season on the Non-Football Injury list while recovering from an ACL injury he suffered last February.
He said he's feeling good, while adding he's ditched the knee brace he wore last season.
"I haven't worn it one time (this offseason)," he said. "I honestly don't know where it's at. … I am just continuing to work hard to get my knee in the best possible shape as I can for the upcoming season. My knee if feeling good. I am feeling great right now. ... I am working my tail off this offseason."
He's also working to lower his playing weight from a year ago.
The 6-foot-4 Simmons played at 320 pounds last season and said he's now in the 310-pound range now. He'd like to play in the 300 to 305-pound range in 2020.
In 2019, Simmons played in nine games, with seven starts.
He finished the season with 40 tackles, two sacks and 14 quarterback pressures, with two tackles for a loss. He also played in all three of the team's playoff contests.
"I look at the film, and stuff I see … I know I can be a better player in the upcoming season for the team," Simmons said. "I don't feel pressure. Of course, we lost a big part of our defensive line (in Jurrell), but … there's no pressure on me to be more than what I am. I just have to play my game and go from there."
Titans Online looks back at defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons' 2019 rookie season (Photos: Donald Page)