The new guy on the Tennessee Titans’ defensive line is also the old guy. Or at least the oldest guy.
Already, Denico Autry has shown he is willing to be a voice of experience.
“He even coached me up,” Jeffery Simmons, the lone returning starter on that unit, said during last month’s organized team activities (OTAs). “… Him being the vet he is, he is out there coaching up the young guys, and I think that’s the most exciting part about it. Just coming in, he doesn’t really know anybody, but he is willing to (share) what he knows about the game up front to us young guys.”
At 30 years old, Autry is the senior member of the defensive line. Over seven seasons with the Oakland Raiders (2014-17) and the Indianapolis Colts (2018-20) he appeared in 96 games and started 56. Another free-agent addition, Abry Jones, has played more games (105) but is just 29 and has not started as many games as Autry.
Simmons, in contrast, has been in Tennessee’s defense longer than any of the other defensive linemen. The 2019 first-round draft pick’s tenure consists of 24 appearances (22 starts).
Plus, Autry’s staying power is hard-earned. The Mississippi State product made it in the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Raiders in 2014. By now, only three defensive linemen drafted that year have played more games in the NFL than he has, including three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald (110 games) and former Titans nose tackle DaQuan Jones (99 games).
Autry effectively filled Jones’ spot when signed a three-year, $21.5 million free-agent deal in March. But his versatility will allow him to line up at different spots along the front and speaks to why franchise officials moved quickly to add him once the signing period began.
“The thing I liked about him them and I like about him now is that he is he’s all business, works his butt off and he’s willing to do whatever we ask him to do,” Tennessee’s defensive line coach Terrell Williams, who had the same job with Oakland in 2014, said. “I’m excited to get back with him.
“… He brings NFL experience. He’s been a starter. He’s played in multiple schemes. He can do a lot of different things from a football standpoint.”
And having watched him play for an AFC South rival and having seen him up-close in offseason training, Simmons is eager to hear what he has to say.
“I’ve seen him twice a year for the last two years that I’ve been with the Titans, and I just know he can be disruptive,” Simmons said. “You can tell from the way gets off the ball, the way he does the drills.
“It’s been good just to watch him and be out there on the field and communicate with him. I think it’s going to be a great year up front with us.”