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VOL. 44 | NO. 46 | Friday, November 13, 2020

Titans get addition by subtraction on defense

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Cornerback Desmond King, traded  to the Titans last week, scored on a 63-yard fumble recovery during his debut with the team.

-- Photo By Ben Margot | Ap

Sometimes simpler is better. With so many new faces in new places on the defense, the Titans really had little choice but to simplify their assignments as much as possible and communicate with each other to make certain that all 11 players on the field understood what to do.

Nowhere was that more evident than the situation that arose this week with one of the newest Titans, nickelback Desmond King.

King was acquired Nov. 2 from the Los Angeles Chargers, where he had fallen out of favor just a couple of years removed from an All-Pro season. The Titans, desperate for help in the secondary, were more than willing to ship a sixth-round pick to LA to see if King could fill a need on an embattled Tennessee defense.

“When I heard about the trade, I absolutely loved it,’’ King says. “I knew it was going to be a great opportunity for me. It was already a great defense, and adding me to it made it even better.’’

A great defense? Hardly, but the addition of King certainly seems to have made things better at least for one week – thanks in part to his 63-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

Just the hoops King had to jump through in order to play Sunday is enough to show a little bit about his makeup. Thanks to COVID-19, King, who was acquired Monday and arrived in Nashville Tuesday, was confined to a hotel room until Saturday and allowed contact with his new teammates only through Zoom meetings.

“It’s a business here, and you have to be professional,” King says. “You have to come here and be prepared and ready. It was a tough week for me, but I got it done with the help of my teammates out there on the field. It made everything a lot better.”

With nowhere to go and nothing else to do, King said he dedicated himself to learning as much of the Titans scheme as he could during the week.

“When I was in the hotel, me and this chair became best friends, and that’s where I’ve been sitting at literally for the past week. I just put my head in the playbook,” King says.

“I knew I had a short week of getting this down and not letting it be a distraction. I used that as motivation to know I have to get it down to go out there and play and have my teammates trust me when I’m out there.”

King’s arrival coincided with the jettisoning of disappointing linebacker Vic Beasley and release of step-slow cornerback Johnathan Joseph last week as the Titans desperately began to look for ways to correct their terrible defense.

In addition to King, Titans GM Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel decided it was time to gamble with some other unproven pieces, as well. After all, how much worse could the likes of Derick Roberson, Breon Borders or Teair Tart be than those they were replacing?

It also meant going simpler in order to get the job done, linebacker Jayon Brown says.

“We just treated everybody as if it was their first day because we haven’t played with a lot of the new guys, and they performed really good today for us,” Brown says. “A lot of dudes made plays all over the field, and the communication was a big part of that.”

King notes emphasis on communication made all the difference in the world for him as he was getting his Titans career started Sunday.

“Going out there with my teammates, they helped me communicate as a team, but that’s what we are here for, that’s what we are supposed to do as teammates out there,” King says.

“You want to communicate with the person next to you. Like Coach (Vrabel) said in our team meeting (Saturday), ‘Don’t act like it’s just one person that came in, act like everybody just came in.

“That’s how we need to communicate to make sure everybody is on the same page.’”

While that communication might not have fixed everything the Titans defense has had going against it, it lets Titans fans know that the unit might not be a lost cause after all.

Even Vrabel acknowledges the players’ preparation and execution of that game plan when their number is called – no matter who it is or what the circumstances might be.

“Everybody that comes to work, players or whatever roster they’re on, active roster, practice squad, they’re expected to be ready to play in the game. They never know when their opportunity is going to come and I think the guys started to realize that,” Vrabel says. “Practice is critical, so was preparation, the meetings, watching film, but then performance is always the key.”

And to Vrabel, King’s preparedness under such difficult circumstances speaks volumes to him about the type of player the Titans have added.

“The professionalism that he showed, he was excited to be a part of our team. I think he was excited for a fresh start. Looks like his teammates have certainly embraced him,” Vrabel notes of King.

“Probably was – earned a lot of respect of theirs by understanding what we were doing, by going through those Zoom meetings, and when he came in and met with them and they talked and they were in the film room on Saturday, they probably respected him for the way that he prepared to get to that point.”

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