The Tennessee Titans’ all-time leading rusher Eddie George joined Rich Salgado in Big Daddy & Friends for an exclusive interview in which he discussed some of the team’s big moves and how the Titans are looking amid the 2021 offseason.
George told Sportsnaut that Bud Dupree adds much-needed juice to Tennessee’s pass rush, but raised some fair points about how it may prove to be a difficult road for the Titans to secure a third straight playoff berth.
Eddie George on Bud Dupree bolstering Titans’ defensive front
After finishing with the NFL’s third-lowest sack total in 2020, it’s no secret Tennessee needed to make a splash in free agency or the draft to land a premier edge-rusher. General manager Jon Robinson did just that by signing Dupree, who comes from a winning culture with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“That’s a big signing…the Titans are in dire need of a stronger pass rush,” George said of Dupree. “Ideally, they want to get to the quarterback with four [rushers]. […] I think he can be a difference-maker.”
Dupree is definitely capable of great things. He took a while to get going as a former first-round pick in Pittsburgh, but over the past two seasons, he really took off. after recording 11.5 sacks in 2019, Dupree followed that with eight sacks in 11 starts this past year.
It’s worth noting, though, that Dupree is coming off a torn ACL, so it make take a while for him to live up to his billing as the Titans’ No. 1 QB pressure specialist.
Don’t be surprised to see Robinson and the front office invest a high draft pick in another prospect at defensive end who Dupree can mentor and help bring along. If Tennessee has two viable edge defenders who can disrupt the opponent’s passing game, then the Titans are going to be a serious problem for years to come.
Eddie George says offseason losses will largely determine Titans’ 2021 fate
In addition to noting how defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ departure after the 2019 campaign appeared to contribute to a lack of urgency last year, George highlighted how much losing offensive play-caller Arthur Smith may hurt Tennessee.
Perhaps even more than adjusting in Year 2 without Pees, for the Titans to repeat as AFC South champions, they’ll need to keep their Derrick Henry-led offense quarterbacked by Ryan Tannehill producing at the level they have amid their spectacular past season-plus.
“Every year is different…you lose some key pieces,” George said. “You’ve got to wonder, ‘OK, how are they going to respond with a new signal-caller?’ Not quite the firepower that they had last year offensively.”
Smith is now the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, and his scheme depended heavily on Henry as the workhorse back, which set up Tannehill for some great opportunities off of play-action fakes.
Todd Downing is Tennessee’s new OC, and it’ll be interesting to see what wrinkles he brings to the game plans. Henry just ran for over 2,000 yards but got shut down by Baltimore in the playoffs, and Tannehill lost two of his biggest weapons to free agency in tight end Jonnu Smith and wide receiver Corey Davis.
Defenses will likely be able to focus Henry more now, and that may well compromise how effective Tannehill can be.