NASHVILLE – Rashaan Evans played like a man possessed in 2019.
The Titans linebacker led the team in tackles with 139, posting double-digit tackles in half of the team's contest. He recorded sacks, made tackles in the backfield, scored a touchdown, and in the team's playoff win at New England, was a force at the goal-line in a critical series of plays.
So, what did he do when the season ended?
Well, he acted like a man obsessed.
"I haven't stopped training since the (AFC Championship Game)," Evans said. "I took maybe a week off to kind of heal up, but ever since then I've been rolling. To be honest with you, I'm ready to play. I'm ready to go.
"Just the simple fact of just as a team we got so close to the Super Bowl game. By me having that first experience being in the NFL and having that opportunity to get to that last game, I think it definitely gave me even a bigger motivation because I know how to get there now."
Evans, the team's first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Alabama, in 2019 doubled his tackle numbers from his rookie season, when he tallied 63.
Playing alongside fellow inside linebacker Jayon Brown, Evans was a difference maker all season. His fumble recovery and return for touchdown in the team's regular season win over the Chiefs was his most memorable play of the year, but his two stops in the goal-line stand at Foxborough also provided more signs about what's ahead. Evans had 12 tackles in the win at New England.
Evans said he learned a lot about himself in his second year in the NFL, and it has him even more excited about his third NFL season.
"Being able to fight through anything, whether it's injuries, whether it's anything that may be trying to cause me to not be at the best of my game," Evans said. "Just my perseverance and being able to just adapt. Any situation that you get put in in the NFL is something that you can't train for, it's something that just happens out of the blue, but being able to adapt, being able to do it on the run, I think that's the main thing that I've been really proud of myself for. Then, just really as far as me, just continue to keep doing what I've been doing. Being a leader, doing all of the things as far as being in the locker room and encouraging younger guys to be the best players they can possibly be, continue to level up in that aspect, continue to do more and more and more while I'm there just to impact and help out as many people as I can and that I come across."
New Titans inside linebackers coach Jim Haslett can hardly wait to coach Evans on the field, and help him grow. Up until this point, they've only been allowed to work in the virtual offseason program.
"Rashaan was an outside linebacker at Alabama who's moved inside, so obviously he's got pass rush ability," Haslett said. "He can cover a lot of ground, he's strong, he's got power in his play and he plays hard. He plays like his hair is on fire."
Evans said he wants to be even more of a leader in 2020.
And he wants to go to the Super Bowl after coming so close last season.
He knows taking his game to another level would help the cause.
"I just feel like for any player including myself, just having your own personal goals I feel like it just helps the team collectively because if every person is striving for their own individual goals, it just makes everybody else good," Evans said. "For me personally … (striving to be) All-Pro, Pro Bowl, being the leading tackler, all those other things are definitely something I definitely strive for, to just be the best at the things that I do.
"I feel like with the leadership thing, I think that's something that's natural. It has to be earned. It's something that you don't obtain overnight. For me, right now I'm still pursuing the journey of trying to be a guy that guys can count on. Be a guy that when a play needs to be made, they're looking for me or if they're looking for some type of person, at least be vocal in a situation like that. Not only just on the field, but off the field as well. I know I keep myself to a high standard as far as those things because I know just from the things that I do off the field, I feel like it should definitely match on the field as well. Just with the leadership thing, I think as I'm getting older, maturing, learning more and more about this organization and about this city. I think when you get those types of understanding it comes with greater responsibility for yourself to pass some of the same things you experienced and the knowledge you obtained to guys that are coming in. I think that's where that leadership role comes in and plays a big part."
Titans Online looks back at linebacker Rashaan Evans' 2019 season (Photos: Donald Page)