NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Pro Bowl lineman Jurrell Casey loves the sounds of opposing quarterbacks groaning as he grabs them, followed quickly by the thud of their pads smacking the ground.
“It’s nothing more satisfying than getting a sack, period, ” Casey said. “At the end of the day, any quarterback who’s back there backup, third-string, fourth-string, I don’t care who you are. I get a sack on you, I’m going to be the happiest guy in the world.”
The Titans have rounded up a solid group of defenders who have shown they know how to get to quarterbacks.
Casey has 33 career sacks through his first six seasons playing inside. Then there’s Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo who had a career-best 10 ½ sacks last season alone along with linebacker Derrick Morgan coming off his best year with nine himself. Orakpo and Morgan ranked seventh in the NFL last season for most sacks by a pair of teammates.
Then the Titans added veteran linebacker Erik Walden in late July coming off a season where he had 11 sacks himself. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau immediately started dreaming up ways to put the trio of linebackers together with Casey for a front to scare any quarterback.
“You can’t have too many guys like that on your football team,” LeBeau said. “It was a great addition for us defensively and for us, the Tennessee Titans’ franchise.”
The Titans, who tied for sixth in the NFL last season with 40 sacks, even showed the lineup in a 34-27 preseason win over Carolina. Orakpo said they got great pressure using himself, Morgan and Walden.
“And we got a few more things in store as well throughout that package,” Orakpo said. “But it’s just a nice change-up, gets our premier pass rushers on the field at the same time instead of rotating.”
Orakpo has the flexibility to even move inside to catch offensive linemen off-guard, really confusing the blockers.
“The one time we did showcase it in a game, we all came real free to the quarterback, able to get the ball out of his hands. Those (are) the types of stuff we want. Mismatches, misdirection, disguises, and we’ll go from there.”
Before signing Walden, linebacker Kevin Dodd had been a possibility to join Morgan and Orakpo in a special pass rush scheme. Dodd was the 33rd pick overall out of Clemson in 2016, but Walden has passed him up as the first option when using the three linebackers to rush the quarterback.
The Titans’ first test comes Sunday in the season opener with Oakland. The Raiders protected Derek Carr the best in the NFL last season, allowing only 18 sacks and going 10 games giving up one sack or less. Orakpo got the one sack the Titans managed in a 17-10 loss to Oakland in Nashville last September.
Now Tennessee has a little something extra to chase Carr.
“Well, it’s hard to block all of them,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “You’re trying to get chips and double-teams and backs. It’s hard to do when you’ve got that many guys that can rush the passer. Very difficult.”
Notes: CB LeShaun Sims (groin) missed a second straight practice Thursday. Mularkey said the Titans will see if Sims can run Friday, but the coach refused to indicate if rookie Adoree Jackson would start if Sims can’t play. LT Taylor Lewan (ankle) was limited.
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