NASHVILLE – Derick Roberson got a taste of the NFL during his rookie season in 2019, and the Titans got a further peek into his potential.
Despite playing in just three regular season games – and 29 defensive snaps – the undrafted rookie edge rusher got himself noticed.
In the team's Week 16 contest against the Saints, Roberson twice sacked quarterback Drew Brees. In doing so, he became the first Titans rookie with two or more sacks in a game since linebacker Avery Williamson accomplished the feat as a rookie against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014.
Roberson, who spent 10 weeks on the practice squad earlier in the year and three more weeks as an inactive on Sundays, followed that up with a sack the following week at Houston.
His final stat line: three sacks in three regular season games. Not bad, huh?
Now the Titans hope they can get even more out of Sam Houston State product moving forward.
"Roby from the gate flashed some ability to rush the passer," Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen said. "I think the main thing with him right now ... (is) consistency, and ultimately just development. Being a first-, second-down player, the run game, some of that type of stuff, taking the next step there has been what's held him back a little bit in terms of that playtime, but he definitely has value on third down in passing situations."
The Titans added veteran Vic Beasley at the position this offseason, while re-signing Kamalei Correa. The team returns its top pass rusher from a year ago in Harold Landry, who led the team with nine sacks. Outside backers D'Andre Walker, Reggie Gilbert will be joined in the competition by Josh Smith and Jordan Williams in training camp.
Roberson, who played in all three of the team's postseason contests, hopes to earn more playing time and opportunities in 2020.
Plenty hinges on his development this offseason, but so far, Bowen has liked what he's seen from afar. Bowen regrets not having the opportunity to work with Roberson more. The Titans continue to work in Zoom meetings instead of on the field in OTAs and minicamps.
Roberson appeared in 32 games with 20 starts over three seasons at Sam Houston State, where he totaled 123 tackles, 23 sacks, eight passes defensed, one interception and seven forced fumbles.
"I think the first, second down stuff in terms of scheme, understanding, and the technique – which he's come a long way," Bowen said. "He really has, and he's bought in, and he's dialed in this offseason.
"That's kind of one of the more disappointing things about not having this offseason, like Year 1 to Year 2, like you saw with Harold and some of these guys, that offseason is huge for development," Bowen said. "That's where we're going to have to strive to hopefully get caught back up. Hopefully these guys are doing what they say they're doing in terms of working out and all the drills, and all that type of stuff. That's going to be a challenge for us and that's something that we're going to have to continue to stress, probably more so even going into the season than what we normally do in terms of time allotment just because of this, not being able to do it this offseason."