The Tennessee Titans entered the 2021 season with major question marks in the secondary. General manager Jon Robinson decided to overhaul the backend of his defense after they gave up an astounding 4,439 passing yards and 36 passing touchdowns a year ago. Robinson released not one, not two, but three 2020 starters in the secondary in former first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson, Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler, and veteran safety Kenny Vaccaro. Additionally, nickel cornerback Desmond King was allowed to walk in free agency.
The Titans made several notable additions in both free agency and the draft. Janoris Jenkins was signed to replace Butler’s veteran leadership on the outside and the team used their first-round pick on Caleb Farley, a supremely talented cornerback out of Virginia Tech. Elijah Molden, a do-it-all defender out of Washington was selected in the third round.
Jenkins has taken up a starting role on the boundary, but Farley continues to rehab from offseason back surgery while acclimating to life in the NFL.
For all the changes and transactions made, the biggest improvement has come from a cornerback that already resided in Nashville. Second-year player Kristian Fulton has stepped into an every-down position. Through two games, he’s excelled in that role.
Fulton spent the majority of Week 2 covering the machine that is D.K. Metcalf. Fulton was credited with being in coverage on five of Metcalf’s 11 targets, per Pro Football Focus. Metcalf caught one of those balls for an eight-yard gain. Metcalf was also called for three penalties on the day, as his frustration with Fulton’s performance started to boil over into mental mistakes.
The Titans’ defense had a bad day in Week 1, but Fulton was the lone bright spot in what was an embarrassing loss. Fulton spent the majority of the game against the Arizona Cardinals shadowing veteran receiver A.J. Green, who finished with two catches for 25 yards.
It’s early, but it certainly feels like Fulton is turning into the type of player the Titans hoped he’d become when they drafted him with the No. 61 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Fulton continue to play at a high level. The 2020 second-round pick offers a fantastic blend of size, length, and athleticism while being an ideal scheme fit in the Titans’ man-heavy approach.
Head coach Mike Vrabel, who is usually reserved when asked to praise his players, couldn’t hold back when asked about Fulton’s stark improvement in Year 2 on Wednesday afternoon.
“A lot of it has been the health to get reps and opportunities to work,” Vrabel said. “He’s built some consistency and confidence. He understands the techniques and our different schemes. He’s been available to work and therefore, he’s improved.”
The Titans are trusting Fulton to command their cornerback room in 2021, and the early return has exceeded expectations. With Fulton and Jenkins proving worthy of taking up starting roles so far, it’s allowed the team to bring Farley along slowly. It’s a testament to the Titans’ ability to mix-and-match veterans with ascending talent.
Fulton is starting to grow into his own and the Titans are reaping the benefits.
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022