S.W.O.T. Analysis: Defensive Line

The legal tampering period of free agency starts Monday, March 14. It will be here in no time. So it’s time to take a look at the state of the Titans’s roster is currently at, and what could be in store for the future.

To do that we are going to use tried and true method of analysis used in business, a S.W.O.T. analysis. For those not familiar with this I will keep it simple a S.W.O.T. analysis analyzes the strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats to either a business, strategy, product, etc. 

For analyzing the Titans position groups, I will be selecting one thing to highlight under each category:

  • Strength: What is the main strength of the position group heading into 2022
  • Weakness: What is the biggest weakness of the position group heading into 2022
  • Opportunity: What’s an area of opportunity that the position group can improve upon, or an opportunity the team can exploit to improve
  • Threat: What is an external or internal threat to the position group that can bring them crashing down

Previous position groups covered:

Today I finally begin with the defensive side of the ball, as I take a look at the defensive line.

Position Review

The defensive line analysis is not going to include the EDGE rushers, but specifically those players that fall under the typical defensive end, defensive tackle positions.

No other position exceeded their worth on the field moreso than the defensive line. According to PFF premium stats, the players on the defensive line lead the league in sacks with 35, and were 4th in total pressures generating 156 pressures.

Jeffery Simmons became one of the best defensive tackles in the league, and Denico Autry was a force on the field himself while also using his powers of good for other members of the defense.

Naquan Jones was impressive as a rookie UDFA who emerged from camp with high praise from the coaching staff. Teair Tart was one of the more promising names coming into camp. However, after an injury plagued season, in the games he did play he just didn’t live up to modest expectations.

Kyle Peko was a preseason guy, who the Titans ended up bringing back in the regular season, and he made some regular plays. Murchison is still struggling with consistency of making a strong impact. He may not be more than just a role-player heading into his third year.

Position Preview

  • Positional Spending: $16,138,812 (28th)
  • Top Cap Hit: Denico Autry – $8,650,000
  • Under Contract (6)
    • Denico Autry: 2 yrs left, $13.9m cash left owed
    • Jeffery Simmons: Final year of rookie deal, 5th year option available
    • Larrell Murchison: 2 years left on rookie deal
    • Naquan Jones: 1 year left on UDFA deal
    • Da’Shawn Hand: reclamation project
    • Kevin Strong: Just a guy
    • Kobe Jones: Just a guy
  • Pending Free Agents
    • Teair Tart: ERFA
    • Kyle Peko: UFA
    • Trevon Coley: UFA

One of the few position groups without any really big question marks heading into 2022. I think the Titans will end up using the ERFA tag on Tart to lock him in on a minimum contract.

They will also bring back Peko to help shore up the depth. It will be interesting to see what they get out of a guy like Da’Shawn Hand. They’ve gotten more out of guys with less talent in the past, and this could end up being a good landing spot for him.

You have to hope Naquan Jones continues his trajectory, and the way that the staff glowed about his prep work last offseason, I expect him to continue growing as a bigger presence on the defensive line.

Lastly I fully expect the Titans to exercise Simmons’s 5th-year option by the deadline. No reason not to, and that cap hit goes into effect in 2023. Also gives you time to workout a long term extension next offseason.

Strength: Running it Back

All the starters will be back for this defensive line, and that’s not something you can say about most of the other positions groups.

Weakness: Consistency

I am truly nitpicking when it comes to this fact, because as the stats, and film show, this was as close to a flawless defensive position group as I’ve seen, but they did have one chink in the armor: Consistency.

While they weren’t completely disappearing, they would definitely go from unstoppable rage monsters to average joes very often throughout the season.

For example, Simmons had 2 games where he had 0 pressures, but in-between that is a game where has 5 pressures. That’s just one player, but for this position group to really become elite, the players themselves, individually and as a unit, need to become more consistent performers week in and week out.

Again this felt really nitpicky, but also felt like a valid weakness.

Opportunity: Developing Depth

I think the biggest opportunity for the defensive line is continuing the development of the depth players. Jones, Tart, Big Murch and Hand are all guys that have show the ability to be able to be a contributor on the defensive line.

In 2018, Hand’s rookie year he had 25 total pressures in Detroit. I think what happened with him is the fact that he can’t be THE guy on a defensive line, but he can be a guy.

Vrabel and this staff definitely think they are going to be able to get more out of him in camp, and I do too. They have that luxury.

With all three guys they have an extreme luxury to keep investing time into them, they’re all young and most of them still raw. A healthier Tart and a more experience Jones can go along way to improving the consistency of the defensive line.

Having Simmons and Autry, and the way they deploy the defense, those young guys are merely rotational, but they can be developed into pieces that when inserted into the rotation can be a disruptive force for the defense.

Threat: Coverage Regression

Is it the coverage or is it the pass rush. It feels veery chicken or the egg, but I think a lot of sacks that happened this year, or pressures, were because this team that rarely blitzes, was able to get to the opposing quarterback due to the coverage down the field.

If the coverage this year struggles, that could really hurt the impact of the defensive line. Jackrabbit is on the chopping block, and you could be seeing what ultimately is a rookie in Caleb Farley starting outside.

Hopefully, Farley will have the same sophomore jump that Fulton did, and we won’t have to worry about this, but it is possible that the cornerbacks could end up struggling to give the defensive line time, which puts an even bigger burden on the defensive line that often time struggles with consistency.

Conclusion

If the Titans staff can develop the young guys behind Simmons and Autry, and the whole line generates some consistency, the defensive line unit for the Titans will take a massive jump.

It would vault them from a top-5 unit, to number one, and I think it is a real possibility with them able to run it back with the same group of guys, and maybe bring in cheaper free agents to compete.

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