Dick LeBeau’s journey to restore the Titans’ secondary

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Updated: August 12, 2017

Aug 10, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Adoree’ Jackson first met Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau during an April pre-draft team visit. This marked the start of what has quickly become a strong relationship built on confidence.

That day the two discussed Jackson’s 5-foot-10 height, a common knock against the former USC cornerback. LeBeau heard the negatives but had his own opinions. He told Jackson to stand up. He did. Then LeBeau assured Jackson that he wasn’t too short to play cornerback for him.

“That competitive spirit attracted me to him,” LeBeau said. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s tough and he’s very, very athletic.”

Jackson has been dunking since the eighth grade when he was 5-6, but the height criticisms occasionally bother him. It was special for Jackson to hear those words from LeBeau, and a few weeks later he was a Titan.

“When I saw that he believed in me, that was the best thing I could ever have,” Jackson said. “It just gives me a little more confidence.”

LeBeau glides across the Titans practice field like a man half his age, teaching and sharing pieces of wisdom. He’s chipper. It’s not a coincidence that Jackson and a few other defensive backs are getting some extra work after practice.

Where Sims has the advantage over Jackson right now is consistency. Jackson’s potential is tantalizing, but he’ll be caught out of position when he loses his technique or guesses too much. Titans coach Mike Mularkey said consistency will determine whether Jackson wins a starting role.

Two-thirds of the Titans’ 2016 defensive snaps were against sets with three or more receivers, LeBeau said. It means the competition is less about Sims and McCain vs. Jackson and more about needing all three plus Ryan. The nickel cornerback is a starter in today’s NFL, and the dime cornerback is a top reserve.

All four cornerbacks have different strengths, proving there’s no universal LeBeau cornerback. It does pose the question of what makes a cornerback successful in LeBeau’s blitz-happy scheme.

“I coached Rod Woodson and I played with Lem Barney. Anybody who displays those characteristics are what you’re looking for,” LeBeau said. “The basics are can they stay close to guys? Every corner is going to get himself into a little trouble every now and then; how quickly can he get himself out of trouble? Then can you get a guy on the ground?”

The Titans front seven remains the heart of their defense with Jurrell Casey, Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan and Avery Williamson taking leadership roles. The secondary’s job is just to focus on playing.

Opposing offenses know how much the Titans struggled against the pass last season, and the secondary will certainly be tested often in 2017. LeBeau can’t wait to see which players embrace it and who retreats.

“How players face adversity is the trust test for how far they’ve come,” LeBeau said. “I know Kevin Byard is going to fight through it because I’ve seen him do it. With Adoree’ and the other first-year players, we’re going to have to see.”

Article source: http://www.espn.com/blog/tennessee-titans/post/_/id/22815/dick-lebeaus-journey-to-restore-the-titans-secondary