Which Tennessee Titans are breakout candidates in 2021? Eight names to watch
Which returning Tennessee Titans have benefited the most from the team’s personnel moves this offseason? What players are projected to take big steps forward in 2021?
Here are eight “breakout” candidates for the Titans this season:
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Wide receiver A.J. Brown
Opposing defenses were able to lock in on Brown the past couple of years as the Titans’ only true No. 1 receiver. He’ll have more one-on-one opportunities due to Julio Jones’ presence. And Brown is also embracing a challenge from new offensive coordinator Todd Downing: expanding his route tree. A first-time Pro Bowler last season, Brown should continue to ascend in 2021.
Tight end Anthony Firkser
With a Brown-Jones tandem at receiver and Jonnu Smith’s departure, Firkser not only has the opportunity to be the Titans’ starting tight end, but he also has a chance to thrive with little attention paid to him by opponents.
Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons
In a recent ESPN poll of more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players, Simmons was ranked the sixth-best interior defensive linemen in the NFL – and he’s played just 24 regular-season games.
Simmons, who was limited as a rookie in 2019 while recovering from a torn ACL, told reporters this offseason that he feels his best health-wise since entering the NFL. And with Denico Autry joining the defensive line, Simmons should have more playmaking opportunities.
Outside linebacker Harold Landry III
The biggest beneficiary of the Bud Dupree signing may be Landry. The Titans’ sacks leader the last two seasons, Landry’s 54 pressures in 2020 ranked third in the NFL among 25-and-under defenders, according to Pro Football Focus.
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Safety Amani Hooker
With Kenny Vaccaro out of the picture, Hooker has his chance to be a full-time starting safety after a four-interception 2020 season. Hooker appeared in all 16 games last year, including three starts, playing 42% of defensive snaps.
Cornerback Kristian Fulton
After appearing in just six games as a rookie, Fulton is firmly in the mix to start as a second-year pro. He could be the No. 1 option out of the slot and/or a starting outside corner alongside Janoris Jenkins, with the possibility 2021 first-round pick Caleb Farley remains sidelined to start the season. Titans general manager Jon Robinson raved about Fulton's showing in the offseason program.
Right guard Nate Davis
Titans offensive line coach Keith Carter said this offseason that Nate Davis’ next step is becoming a more consistent player. With two years under his belt as the Titans starting right guard, the 24-year-old Davis could be on the verge of stardom in Year 3.
Inside linebacker Jayon Brown
Jayon Brown knowingly bet on himself with a one-year, $5.25 million contract to return to the Titans. Now fully recovered from the fractured and dislocated elbow that cut short his 2020 season, Brown can cash in with a big contract next offseason with a big 2021 campaign.
Ben Arthur covers the Tennessee Titans for The USA TODAY Network. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @benyarthur.