With the NFL season just around the corner, we continue our training camp preview series with today’s focus on the Titans cornerbacks for the 2020 season. The Titans cornerback group is headlined by Adoree Jackson, a fourth-year player who is quietly becoming a top cover corner in the league. Two veterans who are still in the mix for serious playing time and a rookie who comes to the team with a ton of big-time college experience round out the top four. The Titans cornerbacks also have big shoes to fill with the departure of Logan Ryan, a highly productive asset from last season.
Adoree’ Jackson has grown into his role as a cornerback
Titans General Manager Jon Robinson selected Jackson with the 18th overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. At the time, the pick drew some questions, as Jackson was viewed as a great athlete but with clear deficiencies as a cornerback. His value was primarily in his role as a return specialist, even garnering some snaps on offense as well.
As he has developed Jackson’s reps as a returner and gimmick offensive player have been drastically reduced, and his coverage game has improved. His short-area quickness and ability to drive on the ball has continued to improve over time. His technique to keep his arm in on the body and extend his free arm on vertical routes is very impressive for a cornerback who lacks ideal size. There are tackling issues that can be improved upon, but Jackson’s skill set in coverage has him rooted as the top corner in the room in Nashville.
The veteran cornerbacks will be needed in 2020
Malcolm Butler has been a headline name for years at the cornerback position, but he has struggled with consistency. That being said, Butler is a willing and capable open-field tackler. In addition, Butler has great bait ability on quarterbacks and disguises his coverage assignment very well. He needs to cut down on the touchdowns he allows but is still a very dangerous playmaker at the position.
Jonathan Joseph joins the Titans cornerbacks in 2020 and reunites with one of his old defensive coordinators in Mike Vrabel. Joseph’s game has understandably dropped some in recent years due to age, but his natural ability is there. He doesn’t possess the flip hips and run style he had early in his career, but if the play is in front of him, he can still make plays with his arm length. Joseph will see his playing time at the outside corner in nickel and dime situations.
How do the Titans replace Logan Ryan?
The Titans were faced with some tough decisions in the 2020 off-season, and letting Logan Ryan leave was one of the most difficult. His impact in the slot can’t be ignored, 113 tackles, four interceptions, four forced fumbles, and four and a half sacks. Rookie Kristian Fulton, taken in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, looks to get the first chance at taking over this role. One of the primary concerns with Fulton is his tackling. His consistency ran hot and cold in his college days at Baton Rouge. In the run game, Fulton understands his assignment but sometimes goes too low with his technique.
If Fulton struggles early on, Butler may get time inside, his intelligence and tackling ability have always been his calling cards. Second-year man Ahmani Hooker could contend for this spot as well. Listed as a safety, Hooker was tested like a cornerback and carries a well built 210-pound frame. With the Titans nickel position requiring blitzing, tight end coverage and physicality in the run game, Hooker seems like a good fit for this role. These were all things he was asked to do in his college days at Iowa.
Rounding out the Titans Cornerback room
Tye Smith is a player vying for more playing time, his special teams’ prowess and willingness to tackle have not gone unnoticed by the Titans staff. He started three games in 2019. In those three games, Smith held his own in coverage and did not miss a tackle. He also added two forced fumbles. Smith will be ready to go if the veterans show signs of decline on the outside.
Kareem Orr is most likely slated for special teams duty. Orr saw time on defense in one game last season but has technical flaws in his game. Orr has some struggles in the speed department. Besides, Orr is not a very gifted athlete either. Orr is one of many players that would have truly benefitted from a regular NFL off-season.
Chris Milton has been a predominant special teams player in the league. Milton played sparingly last year with the Titans. With the amount of depth in front of him, it seems very unlikely he will make the final 53 man roster for the Titans.