Kevin Byard Named To First Team All-Pro By Associated Press, Jeffery Simmons Named To Second Team

Kevin Byard. Photo: By Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

Titan’s Pro Bowl safety Kevin Byard has been named to this year’s First Team All-Pro by the Associated Press while teammate Jeffery Simmons was named to the Second Team All-Pro.

Byard received 41 of 50 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members. He was previously voted to the first-team All-Pro by AP and the Pro Football Writers Association in 2017. The MTSU alum started all 17 games for the Titans in 2021 and finished the regular season with a team-high 88 tackles, five interceptions, and 13 passes defensed. Byard’s five interceptions led the Titans, and he was tied for fourth in the NFL.

Byard led or tied for the team lead in passes defensed in five of the team’s 17 games. He was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month in October after registering 27 tackles, three interceptions, along with the two touchdowns.

Simmons also had a big year with the Titans coming up huge many times for the team. He finished the regular season with 54 tackles and 8.5 sacks while starting all 17 games. He was also credited with 58 quarterback pressures and six passes defensed. Simmons was named as an alternate for this year’s Pro Bowl.

For the full list of both the first and second teams, head to the AP’s website.

Column: Why Mike Vrabel Is The Clear Choice For NFL Coach Of The Year

Mike Vrabel. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Tennessee Titans

This year’s choice for NFL Coach of the Year shouldn’t be too difficult when you look at who has had the most success with the most adversity.

Titan’s head coach, Mike Vrabel, saw his fair share of struggles this season. Among them, he lost his best player in Derrick Henry to injury in Week 8, dealt with injuries and players coming in and out of COVID protocol, and coached over 90 different players who saw action.

With all these issues, Vrabel was still able to lead the Titans to one of its best seasons ever, winning the AFC South and clinching the conference’s No. 1 seed.

It shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that Vrabel is the clear choice for Coach of the Year.

“I laugh at Vrabel because I bet he doesn’t care at all about that coach of the year award,” said offensive tackle Taylor Lewan at a postgame press conference on Sunday, Jan. 8. “If he wins it, it’ll be pretty cool and he’ll be very deserving.”

Vrabel was able to combat countless injuries and pick up a win against the Rams in Los Angeles just a week after Henry’s injury, which was a key victory to lift morale.

Offensive lineman Taylor Lewan and head coach Mike Vrabel. Photo: Courtesy of the Tennessee Titans

Matt LaFluer led the Packers to yet another amazing season as well as No. 1 seed in the NFC. However, he didn’t lose his best players in Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams for more than one game.

Another top choice the top Coach of the Year is the Bengals’ Zac Taylor who led a last place team to a division championship for the first time in five years. Once again, though, his best player in Joe Burrow didn’t miss more than a game.

If either the Packers or Bengals lost their best players, they most likely wouldn’t have made the playoffs, let alone the No. 1 seed. Yet somehow, Vrabel and the Titans did even when every media pundit was counting the team out.

Even with the hardest stretch of their season over and two wins over the Colts, on the surface it didn’t look like the Titans could survive without their Pro Bowl running back.

Without Henry, the team’s offense was forced to rely on Ryan Tannehill and his passing game with new wide receiver Julio Jones, who struggled all season to stay healthy and perform on the field. Receiver AJ Brown came up big for Tennessee many times throughout the season, but was on and off the injured list.

Another factor for Vrabel’s cause is how the team’s defense came through time after time to carry the Titans. This year’s defense gave up 5,607 yards, as opposed to last year where the Titans gave up 6,372 yards. This year’s team also gave up 60 less first downs, averaging about 3.5 less first downs per game than in 2020-21. The Titans’ defense finished as the sixth best this season after its 24th place finish in 2020.

Going into this season, Vrabel promoted Shane Bowen to Defensive Coordinator, and the difference has been astronomical.

Other Coach of the Year candidates simply didn’t have to overcome as many obstacles this season as Vrabel did. The Titans played 90 players this season, which is the most in NFL history. Trying to build a team each week from scratch with guys who had never played before can only be assumed to have presented quite the feat for this Tennessee coaching staff.

When you add up all these factors, it’s clear that Vrabel has been the best coach this season and, undoubtedly, the most deserving for 2022’s NFL Coach of the Year.

Ryan Tannehill Finishes Regular Season Strong, Named AFC Player Of The Week

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Photo: Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

Ryan Tannehill finished off the regular season strong, being named AFC Player of the Week after throwing four touchdown for 287 yards in the Titans 28-25 win over the Texans on Sunday (Jan. 10.)

Tannehill had a quarterback rating of 138.9, his highest of the season.

“That was a hell of a job by Ryan,” said Titans head coach Mike Vrabel in a postgame press conference. “He came up with some huge plays. He was in command most of the day executing… We tried to hit some throws down the field. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to, but his ability to keep some plays live in the pocket was really cool.”

He continues, “We took care of the football. All credit goes the players and Ryan, obviously. Nick Westbrook [came] up with a huge play when we were leaking oil, and they understood the situation there at the end to be able to finish the game in four minutes.”

Tannehill has struggled at times this season, throwing 14 interceptions, his most since joining Tennessee in 2019 and double for what he threw last season. He had his worst game of the year against Houston on Nov. 21, throwing four interceptions. However, since then he’s only thrown two interceptions in the past six games and none in the past four.

Since the injury of Derrick Henry and the lack of offensive weapons for Tannehilly, the team’s defense showed up big in wins against Jacksonville and San Fransisco. These past two weeks, though, Tannehill showed off his offensive talent, leading the Titans to victory after a Houston rally late in Sunday’s game.

“We fell asleep at the wheel on both sides of the ball,” shared offensive tackle Taylor Lewan in a postgame press conference. “Tannehill willing us into that [game] was very impressive.”

Tannehill’s late touchdown and final drive first downs helped clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC, giving the Titans a first round bye for the playoffs.

Titans Defeat Houston, Claim No. 1 Seed In AFC

Photo: Brad Moore/Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans held off a Houston Texans comeback to pull off a 28-25 win, claiming the AFC’s top seed in the 2022 NFL Playoffs.

The Titans fought off injuries and slumps this season to finish with a record of 12-5, which earned the team a playoff bye week. This year, only the top seed in each conference earns a bye week.

“It feels good,” says starting offensive tackle Taylor Lewan. “There are a lot of guys on this team that need that bye, including myself.”

Going into Sunday’s game, Tennessee needed a win to clinch the top seed as Kansas City won its Saturday game against the Bengals. Now, the Titans will get a week to gear up for the winner of Saturday’s (Jan.15) game between the AFC North division winner Bengals and Wild Card team Raiders.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is not coming off his best year and statistically is having a down year. However, his leadership throughout the season has helped keep the Titans in the discussion for the top spot. Sunday’s win against the Texans was a great example of how he led the team to victory.

Tannehill through for 287 yards, four touchdowns, and had a 92.3 quarterback rating Though Houston got within three points with four minutes to go, Tannehill led the Titans to three first downs to run the clock out and secure the win.

“It was a hell of a job by Ryan is what I just told the team,” said head coach Mike Vrabel in a postgame press conference. “He came up with some huge plays. I thought he was in command most of the day… I think his toughness continues to show up and that’s what you have to have in this league to play quarterback.”

With this extra week off, the Titans can now focus on getting players healthy, including Derrick Henry who returned to practice last week after being out for two months with a foot injury.

The Titans will face either the Bengals or Raiders on Jan. 22 or 23 at Nissan Stadium.

Two TSU Football Players To Attend NFL HBCU Combine

The NFL, in partnership with the Senior Bowl, is hosting the 2022 HBCU Combine. Tennessee State’s Cam Durley and Cory Rahman are among those attending.

Rahman was one of the Tigers best defensive players during the 2021 season. He played in 11 games and had 41 solo tackles, 24 assisted tackles, and two interceptions. Rahman was also named to the All-OVC Second Team for his performance this past season.

Durley was instrumental in first year head coach Eddie George‘s offense in 2021, helping Devon Starling to run for  848 yards in 180 attempts. Starling found the end zone three times with an average of 72.73 yards/carry behind Durley and the Tigers offensive line. He was named to the 2019 All-OVC First Team.

The combine is presented by Microsoft Surface, and will be held Friday, Jan. 28 and Saturday, Jan. 29 at the University of South Alabama Jaguar Training Center in Mobile, Alabama.

Titans’ Linebacker Bud Dupree Charged With Misdemeanor Assault

Photo: Courtesy of the Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Alvin “Bud” Dupree Jr. has been cited for a misdemeanor assault charge after an altercation with a Walgreens’ employee on Sunday (Jan. 2) evening, according to a press release from Metro Nashville Police.

Dupree was reportedly with a group when the altercation occurred at the store located at 1104 Rosa L. Parks Blvd.

The narrative on the citation states:

“On 1/2/2002, around 2000 hours, the victim was working at the Walgreens located at 1104 Rosa L. Parks Blvd. A group of subjects entered the store to shop. Some of the subjects got into a verbal argument with the victim. The subjects left, then re-entered the store with the defendant. The defendant then grabbed the victim and his phone. They then got into a physical altercation before the defendant left the location. Due to the victim being assaulted, the defendant is being charged with assault-fear of bodily injury.”

The 20-year-old victim signed the citation as the prosecutor. Dupree is to report for booking on the citation in three weeks.

Dupree signed a five-year, $85 million contract this past offseason. He’s played in 10 games in the 2021-22 season.

Report: Derrick Henry Could Return For Playoffs

Derrick Henry. Photo: Donald Page/Tennessee Titans

Derrick Henry, NFL’s best running back, could be returning just in time for the playoffs after being sidelined for two months with a foot injury.

“We’ve discussed it. We’ll see where that goes,” said Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel at a press conference on Monday (Jan. 3). “[Henry’s] doing some work today. We’ll see when that window opens. We’ll probably make a decision midweek.”

Henry hasn’t played in a game or participated in football activities after suffering a foot injury against the Indianapolis Colt on Oct. 31. He’s since had surgery and was expected to be out for 6-9 weeks.

Prior to being put on the injured reserve list, Henry led the league in rushing yards with 937 yards after Week 8 and is currently sixth on the season.

2021 Music City Bowl Shines With Attendance Record

Photo: Courtesy of University of Tennessee Athletics

The 2021 TransPerfect Music City Bowl was one for the history books–not just for the exciting overtime game between Tennessee and Purdue, but also for the records the event broke.

Nissan Stadium welcomed 69, 489 fans, the most ever to attend a Music City Bowl.

“The passion of our fan base is just not surpassed anywhere in college football,” said Volunteers first year head coach Josh Heupel in a postgame press conference. “They were on fire. Driving up with the buses tonight was a special scene, as good as I’ve ever been a part of. [We] appreciate all of their support tonight and through the bowl season, but really all season long. [We] appreciated them being on this journey with us.”

The intense matchup ended after Purdue kicked a game-winning field goal in the team’s first possession of overtime with a final score of 48-45.

UT redshirt senior quarterback Hendon Hooker had a record-breaking night. He threw for a career-high 378 yards and five touchdowns, completing 26-of-41 passes with no interceptions. With the addition 56 rushing yards, Hooker set the Tennessee bowl record for individual total offense at 434.

Hooker’s five touchdown’s also tied a Music City Bowl record for most touchdown’s thrown in the game’s history.

Junior wide receiver Cedric Tillman broke some records himself with seven catches for 150 yards and a Music City Bowl record three receiving touchdowns. His first-quarter touchdown also set a Tennessee single-season record, becoming the first player in program history to haul in a receiving touchdown in seven consecutive contests.

This season’s Volunteers finished the season with a record of 7-6, and set program records for points scored (511) and touchdowns (67) in a single season.