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Another Edge Rusher Added to the Mix

Takkarist McKinley, a first-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons, joins the practice squad as ripples from Harold Landry's injury continue.

NASHVILLE – It’s been a lively couple of weeks at the edge position for the Tennessee Titans.

What remains to be seen is whether they have gained more than they have lost since Harold Landry's season-ending knee injury. One intriguing rookie – David Anenih – is gone. Two experienced players – Takk McKinley and Derrek Tuszka – have arrived.

The latest move came Friday, when the Titans added the 6-foot-2, 260-pound McKinley to the team’s practice squad.

A first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, McKinley returns to the game after a season-ending Achilles injury last December while playing for Cleveland. He totaled 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 11 games for the Browns last season. McKinley had been inactive for three of the Browns’ final seven games before sustaining the injury.

The 26th overall pick in 2017, McKinley put up some intriguing numbers during his first two seasons with the Falcons, totaling a combined 13.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hits.

His sack total slipped to 3.5 in 2019. In 2020 McKinley went public with a trade request – saying he’d also asked the Falcons to move him in 2019. Atlanta finally released McKinley in November of 2020 following that situation, and Cincinnati claimed him off waivers. He failed a physical for the Bengals and didn’t play again that season.

Cleveland signed McKinley to a one-year, $4 million deal prior to last season.

The addition of McKinley came in the aftermath of what wound up being a player swap between the Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers.

It began Sept. 2, when the Titans grabbed the 6-foot-5, 246-pound Tuskza off waivers from the Steelers. Pittsburgh returned the favor earlier this week and plucked Anenih, a promising undrafted free-agent, from the Titans and signed him to the team’s 53-man roster.

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Anenih had put up some impressive preseason numbers, totaling seven tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes defensed while playing against offensive reserves. But the Titans were deep on the edge, so he didn’t make the team’s initial 53-man roster and was signed to the practice squad.

“David did a great job for us in the preseason, the rush ability,” defensive coordinator Shane Bowen said. “He was progressing. He was improving every day. We saw that from training camp on through.”

There was some thought the Titans would add Anenih to the 53-man roster when Landry was ruled out for the season. But they opted not to do so, likely figuring the practice squad was a better spot to polish his raw potential.

That may or may not have played into Anenih’s decision to sign with Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster – without giving the Titans much of a chance to keep him in Nashville.

“Without getting into a whole lot of detail, I don't know if we really had an opportunity to even do that,” head coach Mike Vrabel said.

Veteran Titans edge rusher Bud Dupree was a fan of Anenih, who was one of the more highly touted undrafted free agents to sign with Tennessee.

“He kind of reminded me of me, very explosive off the ball,” said Dupree, who has 43.5 career sacks. “He came in, was ready to learn and eager to learn. (He was) definitely picking our brain as far as me and (Landry) on the field. So he’s one of those players, the ceiling is high for him.”

Tuszka offered more NFL experience than Anenih, as he’s played 24 games over two seasons for Denver and Pittsburgh – totaling 24 tackles (two for loss) and two quarterback hits. He was inactive for the season opener, having only recently signed. But Bowen likes what he’s seen so far from Tuszka, who was a seventh-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2020.

“Tuszka has been good,” Bowen said. “He’s bought in, he’s learning as we go. Just like all these guys, they’re trying to carve out a role for themselves. And he’s done a good job, everything we’ve asked of him to this point.”

Next up for edge review will be McKinley.