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The focus on the Titans’ season rightfully centered on quarterback Marcus Mariota. In his third year, the expectations began to inflate and the offense was expected to take the leap. That leap has only occurred in stops and starts this season, yet the Titans remain atop the AFC South. A big part of that is the emergence of a solid defense led by second-year safety Kevin Byard. Byard leads a young defense that is finally beginning to gel.

In yesterday’s game against the 4-3 Baltimore Ravens, Kevin Byard had a breakout game. His two interceptions brought his season total to six. Byard is the star of a young defense along with first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson. Jackson has struggled early but is finding himself as a cover corner.

Wesley Woodyard had fourteen total tackles against the Ravens, in what is becoming a Pro Bowl caliber season. Bayard and Jackson make up a secondary that includes veteran Logan Ryan.

The defense did have support from an efficient if not dominant offense. Mariota had two touchdowns and a stellar 8 for 8 in play action. Eric Weddle did pick Mariota off which almost fueled a comeback. Joe Flacco was able to throw for two touchdowns but Mariota rallied with a game-clinching drive.

The Titans stand at 5-3 and now that Deshaun Watson is out for the year it’s their division to lose. They are the most complete team left in the division. If the offense can come together they conceivably win not just the division but a playoff game or two.

For now the Titans have to be optimistic as the defense is no longer a liability. Kevin Byard and the rest of the defense have rebounded well after getting crushed in Houston in week four. They next face a Bengals offense that could give them yet another tough test. The evidence shows that they are more than up to the challenge.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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