NASHVILLE – The Titans drafted big defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons to be a disruptive force in the trenches, and during his first NFL season, it was mission accomplished.
During the month of August, Simmons has already shown he's capable of doing more in Year 2.
He's chasing down ball carriers downfield, and he's also stepped up in the leadership department.
"I think he's feeling better physical," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Simmons. "I think that his effort has been outstanding. We talked about it. When you track the GPS and you see the guy's mileage in practice, and maybe how fast they were going, to be able to see a guy 315-320 that's running 18 miles an hour is pretty impressive. He was just chasing 30 or 40 yards downfield on a screen, just playing with effort and trying to get his conditioning in, and so, that was something I think that maybe stood out early on."
Across the board, Vrabel said he' been impressed with Simmons, the 19th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
"I think just his maturity level just in all phases of our program, watching him work and watching him lead," Vrabel said. "That's been something that's really exciting for me to watch, his maturity level. His leadership with DaQuan (Jones) in that room as well as on our defense. That's been really positive, and obviously we're excited about what he can bring as a player. But it's all the other stuff, his studying, his understanding of our defense and our system, and I really think he's been a great leader for that room and the effort in which he's practiced with."
After finishing the 2019 season with 40 tackles, two sacks and 14 quarterback pressures, and two tackles for a loss, Simmons showed up for camp this year lighter, and faster. This after spending the first six weeks of the 2019 season on the Non-Football Injury list while recovering from an ACL injury he suffered last February.
The 6-foot-4 Simmons said earlier this offseason he dropped 10 pounds from his playing weight of 320 from a year ago, and on Monday he said he feels like a different person.
"I know I am moving around pretty good, and my body is feeling good," Simmons said. "I am feeling great, and now I am getting ready for Week One vs. the Broncos. And that is my main focus: How can I keep getting better as a player, and as a teammate? … I am just trying to stay focused, and do what I can."
Simmons, who has said on multiple occasions this offseason he wants to be more of a leader in his second NFL season, said again on Monday his plan is to set a good example for his younger teammates while setting the tone for those around him.
And that includes running down the field, at 18 miles per hour, when necessary.
"I have been told since college ball, when a team sees defensive linemen, big guys running to the ball like that, teams get wary, "Can we really throw screens?," Simmons said. "And it's not just me. It is the whole defensive line, and the whole team running to the ball. … If a leader is doing that, of course the other guys will follow. (My main thing) is, "How can I take the next step in my game? Running to the ball is taking another step in the game. That is something I take a lot of pride in, running to the ball, because you never know what may happen.
"…Every snap on the field I want to go full tilt, I want to be the best that I can be. I want to be the best Jeffery Simmons that I can be."
Titans Online looks back at defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons' 2019 rookie season (Photos: Donald Page)