July 1, 2022

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Titans Seeking Answers at Offensive Line

6 min read
Titans Seeking Answers at Offensive Line

NFL Offseason – For this May round of Four Downs, we will be looking at each team’s biggest remaining need as well as notable undrafted free agents who will be going to camp with each franchise. Here’s a look at AFC South needs.

Houston Texans

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Linebacker

The Texans needed help virtually everywhere entering the draft and came away from it better at multiple positions. Picking Derek Stingley Jr. third overall and then Jalen Pitre in the second round gives the Texans two potential cornerstones in their secondary and versatile defenders for Lovie Smith’s Cover-2 scheme. On offense, Kenyon Green is a physical and versatile guard who can start immediately and running back Dameon Pierce could be getting early playing time.

However, the linebacker group for the Texans still needs help. Houston drafted Christian Harris out of Alabama in the third round, but Smith’s scheme has a need for multiple linebackers who can carry a slot receiver or tight end over the middle of the field. Chris Kirksey and Kevin Pierre-Louis are both a bit longer in the tooth, and last year Houston finished last in defensive DVOA against tight ends. Protecting the middle of the field is very high priority for the Texans, and getting speedy linebackers who can cover is crucial.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

Sam Houston State cornerback Tristin McCollum might not have been drafted, but he fits the height, weight, and speed profile of a high-tier defensive back. His Relative Athletic Score was the second highest of any cornerback in this years’ draft class, finishing only behind his teammate (and twin brother) Zyon McCollum. Tristin McCollum was All-WAC second team in 2021, and has the speed and short-area burst (6.72s 3-cone) to potentially make an impact in a Texans secondary that could need cornerback depth.

Nebraska defensive tackle Damion Daniels was an honorable mention All-Big Ten defender on the interior despite missing time with multiple injuries. He’s a plus run defender right now who can help the Texans on early downs.

Indianapolis Colts

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Wide Receiver

Indianapolis filled some of their needs in the draft well considering that they didn’t have a first-round pick. Taking Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann in the third round should give them competition at left tackle, and Nick Cross was a great value addition in the third at the safety spot. Jelani Woods will team with Mo Alie-Cox to give Matt Ryan an imposing tight end duo.

Despite adding Alec Pierce in the second round, the depth of the wide receiver room in Indianapolis is thin to say the least. If T.Y. Hilton ends up not re-signing, that leaves Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patton, Parris Campbell, and Keke Coutee on the depth chart behind Pierce and Michael Pittman. Asking so much of a second-round pick such as Pierce may not be the best way to help Ryan be successful in Indy. Finding a wideout with a speed element should be the top priority for the Colts to give them a different type of receiver in their room.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

BYU wide receiver Samson Nacua is an interesting addition to the Colts receiver room. At 6-foot-3 inches and 206 pounds, Nacua brings a speed element that the Colts don’t have. Nacua only caught 21 passes at BYU in his final season, but averaged 15.7 yards a catch and flashed the ability to go up and get errant passes. Although his play style could be somewhat similar to Pierce’s, if Nacua can put together his athletic skills, he could factor into the Colts’ wide receiver rotation.

The Colts love playing multiple backs, and with Washington State’s Max Borghi now in the fold, they have insurance for if Jonathan Taylor or Nyheim Hines get injured. Borghi was a rushing and receiving threat out of the backfield at Washington State, and he can immediately contribute on special teams.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Safety

The Jaguars spent a good amount of draft capital on their defense, picking Georgia’s Travon Walker first overall, then trading back into the first round to draft linebacker Devin Lloyd. In addition, Jacksonville drafted linebacker Chad Muma in the third round, who along with Lloyd and free-agent signing Foye Oluokun could give Duval a fast and physical trio of linebackers.

Despite all of the attention given to the defense in free agency and the draft, safety is still a glaring hole. The Jaguars were second in the NFL in missed tackles according to Pro Football Reference, and starting safeties Andrew Wingard and Rayshawn Jenkins finished first and fourth on the team in missed tackles. Neither are especially good in coverage either, with the Jaguars finishing last in the NFL in DVOA against passes over the middle of the field. 2021 third-round pick Andre Cisco played well in the small number of reps he received, but the safety spot remains a large question mark.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

Notre Dame wide receiver Kevin Austin could be the outside threat that Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars have been looking for. Originally mocked to be a Day 3 pick, Austin fell out of the draft completely despite having one of the better athletic profiles of the wide receiver class. He didn’t produce much for the Fighting Irish in college, but when thrown the ball he flashed the ability to stack defenders vertically and make contested catches. Austin offers a different body type at the position for Jacksonville and a threat they sorely need.

Brown quarterback EJ Perry is an intriguing option as a backup for Doug Pederson. Behind Lawrence right now are C.J. Beathard and Jake Luton, neither of whom has impressed very much. Perry has the athletic ability to stick around as a backup.

Tennessee Titans:

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Offensive Line

Tennessee trading star wideout A.J. Brown to Philadelphia for the first-round pick they used to draft receiver Treylon Burks feels more like a retooling of the roster rather than a full-scale rebuild. By adding Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary in the second round, the Titans filled out a defense that came on strong in the back half of the 2021 season.

However, the Titans still have gaps along an offensive front that finished 24th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate. After letting Rodger Saffold walk in free agency, they’ll be relying on veteran Aaron Brewer or Jamarco Jones at left guard. Third-round tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere from Ohio State will compete with last years’ top draft pick Dillon Radunz for the right tackle spot. The question marks along the line will have to be solved before the season begins.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

Before tearing his ACL in 2020, SMU wide receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. was one of the most dynamic players in college football, averaging 18.7 yards a catch in 2019. Roberson tested poorly during the draft season, but if given time to recover from a previous knee injury, he could become a contributor in the Titans passing game. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Kyle Phillips, and Dez Fitzpatrick are going to be competing for the third receiver spot in the offense, and if Roberson can get back to the pre-injury explosiveness he had, it will open up underneath windows for Treylon Burks and Robert Woods to operate.

Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett was projected by many to be drafted on Day 3, but instead he signed with the Titans as a UDFA. Garrett’s ability to read gaps and get up the field should come in handy in a defensive line rotation as imposing as Tennessee’s.

Portions of this article previously appeared on ESPN+.