Hooker 'Taking That Next Step'

Third-year safety not only figures to be a starter but also a leader on the defense.
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Amani Hooker is ready to lead by words and actions, as he expects a larger role within the Tennessee Titans secondary this season.

The third-year safety is more vocal than ever this throughout this offseason. His leadership and work ethic have caught the eye of the safety coach, Scott Booker, who anticipates a big season from his secondary and the now veteran Hooker.

“I’ve been happy with his progression on and off the field,” Booker said. “There are always opportunities to lead. And with his personality, he will find those opportunities. This year he’s trying to take that next step, and that is something exciting that he’s taking on.”

Hooker and Kevin Byard, Tennessee’s starting free safety for the past four seasons, routinely call out defensive formations and motion plays during practice. And with communication being a central theme to Tennessee’s defense this offseason, Hooker is taking it to the next level.

“In our defense, it’s been big for our safeties to be like the quarterbacks back there, communicating our defense and communicating the offense as well,” Booker said. “That is our expectation for them out there. That’s what we need to do out there every play, and it’s definitely something that we will keep on demanding from those guys.”

During the recently completed offseason training program, Hooker said he is comfortable and confident in doing more for the revamped Titans secondary, and not just in the number of snaps he expects to play.

He’s now proving it to his positions coach on the field.

Hooker played in 41 percent of the defensive snaps for the Titans last season and started three games when Kenny Vaccaro was injured. He tied for the team lead with four interceptions and set a career-high with 44 tackles.

His limited role nurtured him for this moment in his career. Vaccaro was released early in the offseason to save money under the salary cap, and there is no one between Hooker and a starting spot. The only possible competition looks to be Matthias Farley, a veteran free agent addition who has a connection to Booker.

Hooker has stayed patient and waited his turn. Now with the spotlight on Byard and him, Hooker isn’t leading this secondary by chance. It’s intentional.

“Hook’s been good,” secondary coach Anthony Midget said. “He got a chance to play some valuable snaps for us last year. [He] had some interceptions, some big plays for us, got a chance to play when (Vaccaro) was hurt and also was playing a role in our sub defense. So, he’s taken on this role, this chance to compete to be a starter alongside (Byard).

“And he’s done a good job this offseason. I’m excited to see him come back for [training] camp and progress from what he’s done so far.”