Views on Titans' evolving slot position from Adoree' Jackson, Kenny Vaccaro

NASHVILLE. Tenn. – Logan Ryan has manned the slot for the Titans' defense for the better part of three years.

It seemed clear early in the offseason the Titans wouldn’t be working to re-sign Ryan, as significant a player as he’d been for the franchise. And Mike Vrabel pretty much sealed it on April 20th when he spoke of how offensive deployment and the route being called for inside receivers have redefined the demands of the slot corner position.

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“Now we’re seeing a lot more vertical routes that are coming out of the slot," Vrabel said, "so I think that is something that is always a challenge when you are looking for players that do all those things and do them very well.”

Ryan was a better horizontal defender and now the Titans want to have more speed to withstand a threat like Tyreek Hill lined up inside, ready to take off. [Unlocked.}

The Titans drafted Kristian Fulton in the second round to be a top-three cornerback, and he was sticky at LSU against some premier college receivers. But the Titans will need to see him, Adoree’ Jackson and Malcolm Butler all work together in order to sort things out.

They could well play matchup, depending on who they are defending out of the slot, or go big nickel against a tight end and little nickel against Hill types, who aren’t just running quick underneath stuff now, but threatening deep..

Jackson seems likely to figure into the mix.

“When I’m in the meetings, I’m answering the questions, so if that’s what comes into play, that’s what’s going to happen,” he said in a Zoom chat with reporters Friday. “But as of right now, it hasn’t been a set in stone, straight answer for what it’s going to be going down.”

“If I’m going to be playing more inside at nickel, and the difference is it’s more about being more aware of your surroundings for what the safeties may have, or the linebackers and everything, because you all play on one accord. You all are together, that’s the big difference. When you’re playing corner you pretty much have to worry about yourself in those aspects, and playing the nickel is a lot of different assignments and alignments and techniques that come into play. Being able to go in these virtual meetings and listen in and see the picture, and the virtual classroom and things that we do to help get a better understanding and knowledge of the role and position just in case I’m needed.”

Kenny Vaccaro, heading into his eighth season in the NFL, said he’s increasingly seen primary options take turns lining up inside.

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“I think the evolution is sometimes guys are putting their No. 1 receiver in the slot,” he said. “Do you want to move a guy that plays outside all the time into the slot? Then you’re kind of limited to those man coverages, and you may not be able to run those blitzes and those zone pressures that you usually can run with a traditional nickel.

He's not talking specifically about his close friend Ryan there. But Ryan was that traditional nickel, who ran those blitzes and zone pressures with great effect, but sometimes with sacrifices in the man coverage.

apple icon 144x144 precomposed“If you have a guy that can kind of do both, play outside and inside, then you’re not as limited in what you can do,” Vaccaro continued. “I get what Vrabel is saying. I think a lot of times teams are looking at matchups and they’re putting their No. 1 guy in the slot for a big percentage of the game.

“Somebody like Michael Thomas will go to the slot sometimes. Davante Adams, you’ll see him in the slot. You see a number of guys try to take advantage of that matchup. I definitely could see what Vrabel is talking about there.”

The Titans don't have an ideal situation as their corners aren't walking through scenarios with new position coach Anthony Midget at this stage.

But they know two of their three options very well, just scouted the third very closely and know well the talents and threats of just who they are trying to get past having lost to the Super Bowl champion Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

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