NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Titans defense took huge strides in 2021, and as they packed up for the summer Thursday at the conclusion of mini-camp they have one goal in mind for the 2022 season.
“Number one,” outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi said. “That’s the goal for this year. Number one.”
The Titans ranked 12th in total defense last season, up from 24th in 2020. They ranked sixth in scoring defense, allowing fewer than 21 points per game.
The biggest improvement came up front where a fearsome front four led by Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry ranked second In the NFL against the run, holding opponents to 84.6 yards per game, just a tenth of a yard more than the Ravens allowed.
Now they’ll try to be even better this season with 10 starters returning on defense.
“Everyone wants to see how we’ll bounce back after last year,” outside linebacker Bud Dupree said. “Was it a fluke? Was it not? Everyone wants to see, so we’ve got to continue to dominate and show that we’re a presence in the league.”
The Titans have spent the spring installing their base schemes and coverages. Despite having several key contributors skip voluntary OTAs, they believe they got a lot accomplished. But they also know the work is far from over if they want to reach the goals they’ve set for themselves.
“We’re starting from ground zero with everybody,” defensive coordinator Shane Bowen said at the start of mini-camp Tuesday. “It’s still the spring and that will continue early in training camp. Laying the foundation. Creating our culture. Building our identity. Figuring out who we are.”
Tennessee hopes part of that identity is a better unit against the pass. The Titans struggled at times a year ago, allowing more than 245 yards per game through the air.
But with a fierce pass rush led by Simmons, Dupree and Harold Landry, the Titans recorded 43 sacks last season, and then nine more – matching a NFL record – in the playoff loss to the Bengals. Couple that with a young, talented secondary and they believe the sky’s the limit this year.
“I think we can be a really great defense,” safety Amani Hooker said. “I think we can be a team that comes out and holds teams to limited touchdowns, flying around making plays and making turnovers, and giving the ball back to our offense.”
If the defense is able to take another step forward the Titans should be right back in the mix amongst the AFC contenders again, as they look to put the disappointment of the divisional round loss to Cincinnati as the conference’s top seed behind them.
“We know what we brought back this year, everybody really,” cornerback Kristian Fulton said. “So we just want to keep going. We know we can be a special group. We’re not worried about last year. We see that there’s potential.”
Asked what that potential is, Fulton didn’t hesitate.
“We can go all the way,” Fulton said. “Usually the best defense makes it all the way to the Super Bowl.”