2021 NFL Draft: Defense clear focus as Tennessee Titans add new players

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An image of Virginia Tech defensive back Caleb Farley is displayed as a Tennessee Titans fan cheers on stage after Farley was chosen by the Titans with the 22nd pick in the first round of the NFL football draft Thursday April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It is no secret, the Tennessee Titans had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. That is why the team focused on fixing those deficiencies in the 2021 NFL Draft.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Titans ranked 28th in total defense and allowed an average of 398 yards per game. So coming into this year’s draft, Titans GM Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel spoke to the media and addressed how they rehauled their defense.

“I think anytime you go into free agency, and the draft, and the roster turnover every year, and we added players in the free agency there after the season was over, and we added some guys this weekend via the draft. We’re excited to work with all these guys when we can get back and get rolling,” Robinson said.

Of their eight draft picks, the Titans selected five defensive players to help retool their defense, starting with the 22nd overall pick Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley.

Farley opted out the 2020 season, but in 2019, recorded 20 tackles and four interceptions. He was a top-rated cornerback but due to a back injury, he slipped through the draft and landed in the Titans’ lap.

Tennessee is optimistic that Farley can be a dynamic player who can have an immediate impact on the secondary.

Robinson said he feels like his team improved after making the selections they made in the 2021 NFL Draft.

“I think we’re a better football team after this weekend,” Robinson said. “I said it last night, and I said it this morning to the group, these guys that we selected this weekend, we love watching those guys play football. We love watching putting the tape on and watching them do a job we are now going to hire them to do.”

With seven players gone who started in games last season, and new faces from both the draft and free agency, the Titans will have to work on their chemistry to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Vrabel admitted that it can be difficult trying to do that virtually and said they’re doing everything they can to make sure guys are ready prior to camp.

“In a virtual setting to start the program, that’s challenging,” Vrabel said. “We only get so much time with them virtually, so that’s been something that I had to sacrifice a little bit now is my time with them as a team and to be able to transfer that time to position and unit meetings, so I think you start there.”

The Titans drafted three defensive backs with their eight picks and with their first four picks, they focused on the defensive side of the ball.

In addition to adding more prospects to the defense in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Titans also added two wide receivers, Dez Fitzpatrick of Louisville at No. 109 and Racey McMath of LSU at No. 205.

The Titans traded up to pick up Fitzpatrick. Robinson said they liked what they saw from the 109th pick.

“We watched a lot on Dez,” Robinson said. “We like his size, we like his speed, we like his length. He’s got good route running skills (and) he got some things he gotta clean up (and) I love his toughness.”

Robinson said everyone in Louisville raved about Fitzpatrick’s work ethic, and he told him to bring that energy to Nashville.

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