In rookie LeShaun Sims’ first game of extensive action in the Tennessee Titans’ secondary, the rookie was picked on.
In that first game, Sims was picked on by a not-so-experienced journeyman backup in Chicago’s Matt Barkley, no less.
But over the past two weeks since that game and the Titans’ bye, the fifth-round rookie as risen to the occasion, making a big play to bat away a red zone pass against Denver, and then contributing a key interception in the end zone off Kansas City’s Alex Smith.
Sims, a quiet low-key rookie from unheralded Southern Utah, is still plenty green, but he is doing well in his crash course of life as an NFL cornerback. With the release of Perrish Cox a few weeks ago, it was definitely sink or swim for Sims at cornerback.
So what has triggered the vast improvement so quickly for Sims? The rookie actually credits one of the Titans’ veteran players with having a hand in his success. Since that first week of action agianst the Bears, safety Rashad Johnson has taken Sims under his wing and studied film with him, to better help the rookie prepare himself for each week’s opponent.
Making the jump from FCS to the NFL is big, and one of the biggest adjustments is learning the nuances of the game.
“It was just an opportunity to sit down and go through the film. He’s a guy with tremendous talent and all the ability in the world,” Johnson said of Sims. “He played at a smaller school, so there’s not as much schemes and assignments of what’s being thrown at him here. I just tried to sit down with him and give him some tips of how I watch film here and how I study the opponent and different things like that.”
Sims is plenty grateful and eager to learn more.
“It’s really just a whole new way of breaking it down, breaking down as the week goes on, so when I’m out on the practice field I’m actually looking at stuff that I’m seeing in the film room. I see it on the practice field and then I see it on the game field as well,” Sims said.
The plan is for the film-watching sessions to continue a couple of times a week throughout the remainder of the season.
“We did that (studying together), and then we would get away from each other and then compare our notes the next day of what we saw and days like that,” Johnson said. “I just tried to walk him through how to watch film and how to understand how teams are going to try to attack you week end and week out. That’s going to be big for him as he continues to play more and more.”
Sims noticed a big difference after watching film with Johnson during the bye week as he prepared for the Broncos last week.
“It felt really good to be out there and contribute to the defense and have a better showing than the one I had against the Bears,” Sims said. “Watching a little bit more film. I had the bye week, so I watched a little bit more film and was more prepared.”
It has also made Sims a more confident player, because he is getting himself in the right spots, and making plays when the chances present themselves.
“I think the more he’s playing, the more confident he’s getting in his game if you watch him,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “This is not too big for him right now. I think you’ve seen him make really big plays in the red zone the last two weeks against really—especially with Denver—a really good receiver to make that play that he made, but I think he’s just feeling more confident in his play.”
Johnson agrees, saying, “He’s making a ton of progress, and he’s only going to make more as time goes on. This is a game of confidence,and the more plays he gets the better he’s gonna be for us for sure.”
Sims’ eyes have been opened to some of the tricks of the cornerback trade now, and he is glad for that.
“It helped out so that when I go on the field I’ll be able to see more,” he said.