It is easy to see why the Tennessee Titans signed linebacker Bud Dupree.
They needed to improve one of the NFL’s worst pass rushes. General manager Jon Robinson placed a premium on retooling a defense that recorded only 19 sacks last season.
With Dupree, Tennessee hopes that the problems of last season quickly become a distant memory. And with his personal expectations for what he wants to do, he believes that will be the case.
“I am going to go out there and play with my hair on fire,” Dupree said Friday after the team formally announced his addition. “I’m going try to get to the quarterback as much as I can, creating pressure and trying to get the ball out. I just want to do everything I can do to keep the train rolling and to help those guys on D.”
At outside linebacker, Dupree seemingly provides everything Tennessee needs. In his last season in Pittsburgh, he recorded 31 tackles and eight sacks in only 11 games played. For his career, he has notched 39 1/2 sacks in 81 games.
In 2019, when he last played a full season, Dupree tallied 68 tackles, 11 1/2 sacks, 17 quarterback hits and two recovered fumbles. His sack total ranked among the NFL’s top 10 and his 16 tackles for loss were fourth in the league.
Dupree added eight more sacks in 11 games last season before he sustained a season-ending knee injury. He has had at least half a sack in 12 of his last 17 contests.
The way he sees it, anyone who analyzes his play will be hard-pressed to find flaws in his game.
“Just turn the tape on, if I get a one-on-one, I win. With chips, I win. In the run game, no outside linebacker is playing the run game like me in the league,” Dupree said. “If you turn the tape on you’ll see me hit the running back three yards behind the line of scrimmage.”
Still, there are critics who claim he benefited from the Steelers’ aggressive scheme. Or that T.J. Watt, his fellow outside linebacker the past three seasons with Pittsburgh and a three-time Pro Bowler, created opportunities for him that he won’t have with Tennessee … or anywhere else.
Doubt is nothing new for Dupree.
“Being overlooked my whole life, and people thinking that you’re not going to amount to anything. That started the chip,” he said. “Ever since then, I wanted to make sure I was one of the ones people talk about. So, every year I am trying to see growth in my game until it’s time for me to give it up.”
That approach earned him $82.5 million over the next five years from the Titans. And it’s that same attitude that can help transform an ailing Tennessee pass rush into something that can be feared by offenses around the NFL.
The payoff for Tennessee will be to see opposing quarterbacks on the ground.
“Staying within the scheme, it’s the want-to [to get to the quarterback],” Dupree said. “You have to be able to make sure you want to calculate the risk and calculate what move you want to do and just beat them to the spot.”
Tennessee wanted to get better defensively. Dupree’s talent gives it a chance.
“As long as everybody is on the same page, it’s going to be a great time,” he said. “I will come in and bring a couple of things from my game. … We will come collectively together and make something special.”