Top 3 Tennessee Titans defenses of all time.
Since the Tennessee Titans became the Titans in 1999, they have had a few very good defensive teams. Players that stand out as all time Titans greats are Keith Bulluck, Michael Griffin, Jevon Kearse, Albert Haynesworth, Samari Rolle, and many more. Over the last 21 years, these players shaped the Tennessee Titans legacy. So, which Titans defense is the best of all time?
1. 2008 Titans defense
In 2008, the Tennessee Titans finished with a record of 13-3. This just so happens to be the last time the Titans won the AFC South division. The Titans offense in 2008 was basically Chris Johnson (9 touchdowns) and LenDale White (15 touchdowns) behind a strong o-line. On defense is where the Titans really dominated that year, though. The 2008 Titans were second in the league in points allowed and eighth in the league in percentage of drives ending in a turnover. Let’s take a look at who made this defense so great.
Michael Griffin was a two time Pro Bowler during his time with the Tennessee Titans. 2008 just happened to be one of those seasons. The 2008 season was easily Griffins best season with 7 interceptions, 1 pick six, 1 forced fumble, and 1 sack.
The Titans secondary seems almost unfair when you combine Griffin with another all time Titans great in Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan also played his best season in 2008, when he was selected for his one and only Pro Bowl and was a first team all pro. Finnegan finished the season with 5 interceptions, 1 pick six, 1 sack, and 4 TFL.
It wasn’t just the secondary that made this defense so tough. 6’6 335 lb DT Albert Haynesworth posted 8.5 sacks and 15 TFL through just 14 games. Haynesworth anchored the defensive line and finished the season as a Pro Bowler and first team all pro.
The defense was not just a 3 man show, though. When talking about this team don’t forget to mention all time great Keith Bulluck who racked up 98 total tackles that season. Some other players to mention are Chris Hope, Stephen Tulloch, Kyle Vanden Bosch, and a 32 year-old Jevon Kearse who racked up 74 sacks throughout his career.
The 2008 Tennessee Titans were one of the most fun teams to watch in the NFL at that time. Chris Johnson and LenDale White offensively made for a great “Smash N Dash” combination. Even with that, the Titans hard nosed defense wearing down opponents was the best part of the 2008 team.
2. 2000 Titans defense
If you’re just looking from a statistical standpoint, the 2000 Titans defense is easily #1 on this list. The team ranked 1st in total yards allowed and in first downs allowed. They weren’t as likely to cause a turnover as the 2008 team, but teams struggled to move the ball against the Titans at the turn of the century.
The Titans finished the 2000 season with a 13-3 record. This team had a much better offense than the 2008 team, with Steve McNair and Eddie George leading the charge it’s hard not to. Even with these two, the defense was still a large part of the 13-3 season for the Titans.
Samari Rolle had the best season of his career in 2000. 7 interceptions, 1 pick six, and 1.5 sacks notched him a Pro Bowl appearance and first team all pro honors. Rolle was a lockdown corner and several times throughout the season he would make the opposing team’s best receiver disappear throughout the game.
Jevon Kearse set the rookie record for sacks in 1999 with 14.5. In 2000, he looked to build upon his rookie season. Kearse didn’t quite meet the production he had in the previous season, but he did still make the Pro Bowl. In 2000, Kearse ended the season with 11.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Jevon Kearse is one of the all time great Tennessee Titans and he was nothing short of that during the 2000 NFL season.
3. 2017 Titans defense
In 2017, we saw what was probably one of the best Tennessee Titans run defenses of all time. The team was ranked 1st in rushing touchdowns allowed and 4th in rushing yards allowed. Running backs did not want to make a trip to Nashville in 2017.
2017 was in the midst of the Titans 9-7 spell, which is still going on. For 4 straight years the Tennessee Titans have finished the regular season 9-7, so this team was not near as accomplished as the two teams above, but the did make the playoffs. They even beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the wildcard round to make it to the divisional round, which is the same as the other two teams.
You can’t mention the 2017 Titans defense without mentioning Kevin Byard. Byard is known as the “Mayor of Murfreesboro” and he has definitely earned that title. In 2017, Byard had what is still his best season to this date. Byard was ball hawking all season long, finishing the regular season with 8 interceptions. He also played his role in the run game, finishing with 3 tackles for loss and 87 total tackles. Kevin Byard played well enough in 2017 to make the Pro Bowl and be named first team all pro.
What Jurrell Casey and Brian Orakpo did during the 2017 season can’t go unrecognized. Casey managed to get 6 sacks and force one fumble while getting in the backfield for 12 tackles for loss. Orakpo made it a point to get after the quarterback getting 7 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. These two veterans really anchored the Titans front seven throughout the season.
Neither of the players above led the Titans in sacks in 2017, though. That would be LB Derrick Morgan. Morgan barely finished above Orakpo with 7.5 sacks. Morgan reaped the benefits of a Dick LeBeau defense, which schemed players into position to get sacks. In fact, the majority of the front seven benefitted majorly from Lebeau. Six of the Titans front seven ended the season with more than 3 sacks.
The Tennessee Titans have had some great defenses over the years, but these three stood out above the rest to me. Hopefully after some new additions and a promising draft pick in Kristian Fulton, the 2020 Titans defense can make this list.
Be sure to go back and listen to Titans Time where we rank our top 5 favorite Tennessee Titans of all time.
Featured Image: “Titans Training Camp ’09” by Elijah Light licensed by (CC BY 2.0)
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