Casey Kept On Without Regular Pass Rush Partner

David Boclair

NASHVILLE – In a way, Jurrell Casey flew solo throughout the entire 2019 season.

Sure, the Pro Bowler played alongside DaQuan Jones and first-round draft pick Jeffery Simmons on the Tennessee Titans’ defensive line and was – as usual – a central figure on a unit that was 12 in the NFL in points allowed.

For the first time, though, Casey did not have his favorite wingman when he took off in pursuit of opposing quarterbacks.

“In past years, a lot of (sacks) were me and Derrick Morgan working games together,” Casey said. “… We worked it great when he was here. It was definitely amazing. One of my best buds being here. He’s one guy that we worked hard together in the offseason. We also worked together in practice executing our [pass rush] games. It showed up in games for us and both of us did well doing them.”

Casey tied for second on the team this season with five sacks. It was the seventh straight year he registered at least five and the fourth made him the seventh player in franchise history with 50 for his career.

He did so despite injuries that caused him to miss two games and limited him in several others. And he did so without Morgan, an outside linebacker who retired following the 2018 season with 44.5 sacks of his own (No. 10 on the franchise’s career list). The Titans drafted Casey in the second round in 2011, a year after they made Morgan their first-round pick and in eight seasons together those two developed an understanding that went beyond the basics of the scheme.

“We didn’t even have to communicate,” Casey said. “A lot of times we knew. We’d see a certain formation and one of us would give a certain look, we knew what type of game we were going to do. … When you get a guy with that much experience that you’re working with, it makes the gameplan and the execution that much easier.”

It took time, but he eventually adjusted. Three of Casey’s sacks came in the final five weeks of the regular season, including one each in the last two contests.

Over his first eight games, he had two sacks and 19 quarterback pressures. In the final six, he had three sacks against 11 pressures.

“I kind of knew that we had some … good guys that were filling some empty shoes,” Casey said. “So, I wasn’t too worried. It was moreso getting that communication, getting that chemistry together. And as the year (went) on (we continued) to see that build.

“… The biggest thing is, when you get (sacks) – they’re so hard to come by – to be able to execute and get the quarterback down, you’ve got to enjoy it and be excited about those moments.”

Even if you don’t have someone with whom to celebrate them.