The Tennessee Titans were fortunate enough to have a few players still on their rookie deals break through last season. Jeffery Simmons, Amani Hooker, and Kristian Fulton are just a few examples. There are a few breakout candidates for the Titans in the upcoming season, but NFL.com has pinpointed LB David Long Jr. as the team’s “2022 breakout star.”
Adam Rank of NFL.com, the guy who famously fails when predicting the Titans’ record, wrote a piece on the team heading into the 2022 season. In it he broke down the team MVP, VIPs, key games, and more.
Rank explains why he has pegged Long to breakout this year:
“The Titans had some critical losses on defense, including linebackers Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans. That leaves Long, who needs to step up and show the promise he flashed last season, when injuries limited him to just 10 games. Long is one of those guys who has always risen to the occasion. After initially redshirting at West Virginia, he eventually emerged to become Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. And despite being the 188th overall player — and second David Long — selected in the 2019 draft, the ‘backer has been a factor, making some key plays in his young career. If he stays healthy — I know, always the caveat — Long could be a big-time leader for the Titans this season.”
I’ll admit that it’s rare for me to see eye-to-eye with Rank, but he is spot on with this one. Long has consistently outplayed expectations ever since his college days at West Virginia University.
Drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Long did not see a ton of action in his rookie season. However, when former Titans LB Jayon Brown went down with an injury in the playoffs, Long burst onto the scene with one of the best performances in the team’s road win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round.
#Titans rookie LB #51 David Long made his 1st career start this weekend after playing a grand total of 67 snaps during the season, finishing with 6 tackles and a huge 4th down stop.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) January 14, 2020
Look at how clued he is on the #Ravens formations and motions. Fun game from the 6th-rounder. pic.twitter.com/9zw2XuZ9qt
Long’s impact in the run game is what put him on the map coming out of college, but has proven to be reliable when targeted in the passing game as well. In 2021, Long posted career-bests in completion percentage against (70.7%) and passer rating allowed (61.0).
David Long has become one of the more underrated cover LBs in the NFL. Great sense for routes developing behind him & can cover so much ground while still facing the QB pic.twitter.com/BmQNLd22oL— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) June 22, 2022
Entering his fourth season in the league, all with the Titans, Long has enough experience under his belt to put together his best year as a pro. Though his season was shortened due to injury in 2021, Long played in 10 games, starting in nine.
He will be playing alongside one of the NFL’s best run-stoppers in Zach Cunningham, who is sure to make life easier on Long. Long has admitted that he is working on becoming more of a vocal leader in 2022, which is important in case Cunningham is to ever miss any time.
Playing in his contract year, Long could set himself up for a pay day if he can take a big leap this season. I believe that if Long can stay healthy for a full season the Titans will have the best run defense in the NFL in 2022.
Featured image via Steve Roberts – USA TODAY Sports