Titans off-season evaluation: Defensive line

Titans off-season evaluation: Defensive line

With the 2016 season in the books for the Tennessee Titans, it is time to begin analyzing the roster for the coming season. TitanInsider.com will go through each position group to look at where the team is sound and where there are likely to be roster moves.

Defensive line

The defensive line was perhaps the deepest position on the Titans roster even before the 2016 season began. The Titans had Pro Bowl selection Jurrell Casey leading the way, re-signed nose tackle Al Woods to play the middle, and up-and-coming DaQuan Jones on the other side. That trio was bolstered by solid depth from pass rushing specialist Karl Klug and Angelo Blackson, who could play inside or out on the line.

That group then added three rookies, who showed they were capable of contributing as well. Second-round pick Austin Johnson started slowly, but by the end of the season was active every week and making a decent contribution, even playing ahead of Woods and Blackson at times. Late in the year when injuries hit, Abdesmad and Antwaun Woods came up from the practice squad and performed well enough to possibly be in the plans for 2017.

Casey leads the way for this group, and is heading to his second consecutive Pro Bowl. His sack numbers were down this season from 2015 – from seven to five – but Casey’s presence helped to create opportunities for outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan to combine for 19.5 sacks this past season.

Klug was also a blue collar pass rusher who again did solid work before suffering a torn Achilles that required surgery. The six-year vet is a free agent, but should be someone the Titans will work hard to retain in the off-season.

The Titans were also strong against the run, a credit to big bodies like Casey, Al Woods, Jones, Johnson and Blackson. Tennessee finished No. 2 against the run in the NFL in 2016.

The solidness of the defensive line even helped at times to offset some of the shortcomings the Titans had on the back end.

This is a solid group that could return almost completely intact for 2017.

Starters: Defensive end – Jurrell Casey; nose tackle – Al Woods; defensive end – DaQuan Jones.

Backups: Defensive end – Angelo Blackson, nose tackle Antwaun Woods, defensive end Austin Johnson, defensive end Mehdi Abdesmad, defensive end Karl Klug (free agent).

Likelihood position is addressed in free agency: Klug is a priority to try and retain despite his season-ending Achilles injury. Other than that, this position is deep enough that no holes really need to be filled

Likelihood position is addressed in the draft: A middle or late-round value player is possible to continue to stockpile talent here.

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