NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans safety Kevin Byard is just six games into his NFL career, and each time out he feels a little bit more comfortable.
Judging from his increased playing time – and coach Mike Mularkey's comments on Monday – the Titans like what they've seen from the rookie from Middle Tennessee State.
Byard played in 43 of the defense's 67 snaps (64%) in Sunday's win over the Browns. The total snaps eclipsed those played by fellow free safety Rashad Johnson (34) and strong safeties Daimion Stafford (39) and Da'Norris Searcy (30). It was Byard's highest snap count of the season.
"(It wasn't) designed, just the rotation of what they had in the game personnel-wise offensively,'' Mularkey said of Byard's snap count. "Kevin played extremely well. Kevin's been playing well for us all year. Really, the safety position has been playing well. (But) that's not purposely designed to get him more than any other reason but for what they were doing."
Nonetheless, it's safe to say Byard is gaining the trust of his coaching staff the more he plays. A third-round pick from MTSU, Byard has recorded 12 tackles and a tackle for loss in his six games. He had a pair of tackles against Cleveland. Byard has also been a key contributor on special teams.
Byard played in 21 defensive snaps in the opener against the Vikings. Since, he's seen steady playing time in games against the Lions (27 snaps), Raiders (32), Texans (39), Dolphins (26) and Browns (43).
"I am settling in pretty good, but I feel like I am leaving some plays out there on the field, plays that I know I can make, and I will make,'' Byard said. "I just have to continue to keep grinding things out and keep playing, and continue to play at the level I know I aspire to.
"… When you watch plays and see a play you can make, you just have to make adjustments and when you are in that situation again you know what to do to make those plays."
Byard was a playmaker at MTSU, where he set school records with 19 interceptions, 377 interception return yards and four interception returns for touchdowns.
Byard also proved to be a playmaker for the Titans during training camp and in the preseason. While he's still looking for his first interception as a pro, he's learned a lot already, and "I want to try and make more plays out there."
Byard said he's enthused about what he's seen with the Titans, who've won two games in a row. The Titans (3-3) have already matched their win total from a year ago, when Byard used to watch the team's games from his apartment in Murfreesboro.
"I think everybody in this building is a part of a culture change, from the front office to the guys giving us water on the sideline,'' Byard said. "Everybody is a part of this change, and everybody has a hand in this thing and that is the attitude we take. It's a team effort and a team thing and no individual is taking credit."
On Sunday, Byard will face quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts for the first time.
Byard was asked on Monday about what the Titans need to do to end a nine-game losing streak to the Colts. He was adamant about not wanting to discuss a past he wasn't a part of.
The focus is on the 2016 Titans, and the Colts.
"I just look at them like any other team,'' Byard said. "Every other team has a good quarterback and good receivers and good running back, and it's another game where we have to go out there and prove ourselves and get our respect and continue to play as hard as we can. At the end of the day, it is the NFL and you are going to have great players on both sides of the ball. We are going to go out there and do what we do.
"(With Luck), it always seems no matter what the score is (the Colts) are always in the game. … He is a great guy, somebody we are going to have to contain and game plan for. But I have trust in our defense, our d-line, our front seven and with the DBs, that we'll be able to contain those guys."