NASHVILLE — Improvement on defense will hover over this entire season for the Tennessee Titans. Few better ways than to test a new-look group than squaring up against Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.
Tennessee opens their season in Nashville for the first time since 2017 in front of a home crowd chock full of expectations.
Week 1 presents the first legitimate look at Shane Bowen as a certified defensive coordinator. All the ineptitude of the 2020 Titans on that side of the ball falls away the minute this refurbished group takes the field. Unless, however, they fail to handle one of the league’s brightest stars in Murray.
If Tennessee gets punked on Sunday, the mob mentality will come back tenfold.
Murray vs the Titans
Arizona was one of the hottest teams in football at the start of 2020.
A season that was highlighted by a miraculous victory over the Buffalo Bills, a play now known as the “Hail Murray” and a 6-3 record collapsed in short order. Murray’s Cardinals dropped five of their last seven games last season and squandered a shot at the postseason.
Still, Murray remains an electric opponent with the ability to break a game wide open.
“(Murray’s) ability to be able to stretch plays and get out of the pocket,” said Titans inside linebacker Rashaan Evans when asked what stood out about their Week 1 opponent. “His elusiveness is very, very impressive. Seeing how he breaks tackles and gets yards after (contact). He kind of reminds me of a guy like Lamar Jackson. (Murray’s) not as tall or as big as him, but he’s still able to do and be as effective as Lamar Jackson.”
That height difference will be critical for Tennessee.
Arizona’s quarterback has a recorded height of 5-foot-10 ¹/₈. Plenty of doubters have accused Murray of vertically inflating himself on paper, but that’s not the only drawback of diminutive size. 16 of Murray’s passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage in 2020, the second most in the NFL.
Titans defensive lineman Jeff Simmons had five batted passes alone in 2020.
For a defense that excelled at creating turnovers, Murray’s stature presents a tip drill dream.
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