The Titans defense has been a revelation this season. Many expected the unit to struggle mightily, similarly to much of last season. Some believed it may even be worse considering the lack of experience for much of the secondary. All that aside, that hasn’t been the case whatsoever. The defensive line is arguably the best in the NFL, and the back end has been extremely consistent. Kevin Byard is at the lead of that charge in the secondary.
Pro Football Focus named Byard the best player in pass coverage for this season. Additionally, he was their highest-rated safety in the entire NFL. That points to both his impressive play against the pass, but he also finds success against the run. He’s willing to come up and make tackles. Quarterbacks also know he is one of the soundest defensive backs on the mental side of the game.
Go to 33:30 for a roundtable discussion on PFF’s coverage grading system and Byard’s success.
Which DB has been the best in pass coverage this season?
— PFF (@PFF) January 13, 2022
Numbers & Impact
According to PFF, Byard missed only five of 95 attempted tackles this season. He also added five interceptions and seven pass breakups in coverage. The Titans’ safety added two forced fumbles as well. His balance of skills in the secondary is unlike any other safety in the league right now.
Byard was often tasked this season with defending the opponent’s top skill position player, too. In most instances, he flourished. Additionally, he made some clutch plays in games that were vital to the Titans securing the division as well as the top seed in the AFC. His overtime interception of Carson Wentz, his pick-six off Matthew Stafford against the Rams, and his early interception against the Ravens are just a few examples. He was a game-changer on defense for the Titans consistently.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) October 25, 2021
Byard and fellow safety Amani Hooker combined to be one of the best safety duos in the NFL, too. Hooker finished the year fifth among all safeties with a PFF grade of 83.3. Their impressive play coupled with the growth of Kristian Fulton has given the Titans an impressive boost on defense.
Where would the Titans be without him?
The following play against the Chiefs may have been the biggest of the season for Byard, though. It was a momentum swing for the Titans against Kansas City. As we now know, Tennessee holds the top seed in the AFC entering the playoffs while the Chiefs own the second seed and must play in the first round of the postseason.
Kevin Byard: PFF’s highest-graded safety forces another Mahomes turnover 👀
— PFF (@PFF) October 24, 2021
Go ahead and enjoy this interception one more time (or many more times) as well, Titans fans.
Carson Wentz connects with Kevin Byard in OT 🎯
— PFF (@PFF) October 31, 2021
Overall, Byard returned to elite status this season. After a somewhat inconsistent 2020, he once again looks like a key cog for the defense in Tennessee for years to come. Byard may even get some Defensive Player of the Year votes once the time for awards comes around. He and the Titans defense will look to build on their success in the playoffs.