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VOL. 40 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 2, 2016

Cox release sends message: Get better or good-bye

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Tennessee Titans cornerback Perrish Cox, seen here giving up a completion to the  Colts’  Donte Moncrief, was released this week after becoming the most glaring deficiency in the Titans’ defensive backfield.

-- Ap Photo/Jeff Roberson

As the Tennessee Titans headed out the door for some long-overdue bye week days off, one veteran got more than he expected – the rest of the season off.

Perrish Cox was hardly the only member of the Titans secondary to have struggled this year, but his play, particularly in the past two games, was plenty suspect, and the guess here is that when he fell down on a first-and-goal play – bailed out only when Bears receiver Josh Bellamy inexplicably dropped a game-winning touchdown – that that was the final straw for Coach Mike Mularkey and general manager Jon Robinson.

It’s one thing to see Cox being targeted by Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck, but his time with the Titans reached its tipping point when career backup Matt Barkley – playing in his sixth game in four years with three different teams – started picking on the seventh-year player in the second half of Sunday’s game.

Cox will probably surface somewhere else in the NFL. Veteran cornerbacks are like left-handed relief pitchers in baseball – until you show that every last ounce of ability is gone, someone will give them a chance to play.

But Cox’s welcome was clearly worn out in Tennessee.

Mularkey insisted on Monday afternoon that Cox’s release was not to send a message to the team about performance. But in truth, it did just that.

The secondary has been the weak point of the Titans’ defense all season, and Cox was one of the most glaring examples of why the team must overhaul the defensive backfield in the offseason.

“It’s been consistency through the games. It wasn’t one particular thing,” Mularkey says. “It just hasn’t been consistent. I think players need to realize that. That’s what we want from them, that’s what we expect from them. I think they expect that from themselves.

“We were not getting it and we’re gonna go in a different direction,” he adds. “I think it’s best for both parties. That’s a fresh start for him. He’ll go somewhere, and that’s probably best for him.”

That it happened with four games to go in the season and the Titans in a surprising battle for the AFC South is probably the loudest part of that statement.

Cox was made an example of due to his poor play, but it really was an indictment of virtually the entire Titans secondary.

It’s a good bet that in the off-season anyone not named Kevin Byard in the Titans defensive backfield is going to have to prove to Mularkey and Robinson why they belong on the 2017 roster.

Which brings us to the other part of the message sent in Cox’s release.

With the veteran sent packing, it opens the door for rookies LeShaun Sims, who rotated with Cox on Sunday, and Kalan Reed, who bumps up now from the practice squad, to have a late-season audition to prove they belong.

It’s no secret the secondary is going to get a makeover that would make Ty Pennington proud. So now, even as the Titans try to slide in the back door of the playoffs, Sims and Reed will now get an extended audition for 2017 hoping to show Mularkey and Robinson that maybe – just maybe – they are good enough that the Titans can spend one less draft pick or one less free agent contract on a cornerback this off-season.

This opportunity, though it comes as a bit of a surprise, is much more valuable to them than next year in training camp when there will be eight other cornerbacks to compete with.

“(I told them) to take advantage of it. It’s there. They see where we’re going and what we demand, and they’re going to get some opportunities that maybe they weren’t expecting,” Mularkey says.

With the Titans headed to a bye week, there are no matchups to watch or keys to victory, so it’s time to do a little season review- even though we’re a little late for the mid-term given Tennessee’s Week 13 bye.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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