Snap Judgements: Drawing Conclusions Based on Playing Time at Indianapolis

David Boclair

NASHVILLE – Maybe Tye Smith and Kareem Orr probably figured they would get the opportunity to ease into things with the Tennessee Titans defense. If so, too bad.

The backup cornerbacks each played at least two-thirds of the defensive snaps in Sunday’s 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts despite the fact that neither had any real role on the defense – outside of practice – prior to that contest.

Smith was tapped to be the nickel cornerback when it was determined late last week that LeShaun Sims would not be able to play because of an ankle injury. The veteran appeared in just four of the previous 11 games and in those his primary role was on special teams. He ultimately logged 64 snaps on defense (out of 72) against Indianapolis, which was more than anyone in the front seven.

Orr made his NFL debut and was thrust into action when Adoreé Jackson was injured. He played 48 snaps.

Each did more than just take up space on the field. Orr made nine tackles, according to review of the game film by Titans coaches, and Smith made eight. Smith also forced a fumble that ended Indianapolis’ final possession. It was his first forced fumble in a career that now consists of 24 appearances for two franchises.

“I think that you saw some good things, and some things that we need to clean up and improve on,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “(Smith) finishing that play at the end of the game was a huge play. It was a physical play. Tye did not turn down contact whatsoever. He went in there, looked for contact. He hammered the football out.”

The two also had roles on special teams and there Smith made arguably the biggest play of the game when he returned a blocked field goal attempt 63 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The Titans claimed veteran cornerback Tramaine Brock off waivers Tuesday, so Smith and Orr playing together so much might turn out to be a one-time thing. If that’s the case, they made the most of the most playing time each has seen.

Other observations based on playing time against the Colts:

Make the most of it: Cody Hollister was in uniform for the second time this season (the second time in his career) but played only sparingly. He got six snaps on special teams and two with the offense. However, he caught two passes (the first receptions of his career) for 13 yards, which means every time he broke the huddle with the offense the ball came his way.

Hollister made his NFL debut Nov. 10 against Kansas City but played only on special teams that day. So, for now he can honestly say that he has caught a pass every time he has had the opportunity.

Before Tennessee, he spent two seasons with New England, one on the practice squad and one on injured reserve.

Staying busy, Part I: For the second straight game, inside linebacker Jayon Brown was on the field for nearly every defensive snap – 71 of 72, to be exact. That was 16 more than Rashaan Evans, the other starter on the inside and 12 more than Harold Landry, the leader in playing time among the outside linebackers.

Simply put: No player got more out of the bye week. In two games since, Brown played 153 out of a possible 156 snaps, made a team-high 26 tackles, broke up one pass and recorded one quarterback pressure. He missed two of the last four games prior to the break with an injury and had not had 10 or more tackles in a contest since mid-September.

Staying busy, Part II: Rookie A.J. Brown is not just the Titans’ leader in receiving yards (626) and receiving touchdowns (four). He’s also their No. 1 guy at the position. The second-round pick out of Ole Miss played 54 snaps out of 60 on offense (90 percent), which 13 more than Corey Davis, who led the wide receivers in playing time until a recent injury caused him to miss a game. Davis’ brief absence allowed Brown to assume a larger role and he has maintained that presence in the two weeks since.