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Houston Figured Heavily in Titans' 2021 Success

Players whose NFL careers started in Houston accounted for more than 10 percent of Tennessee's total snaps played last season.

NASHVILLE – Nobody loves ex-Texans like the Tennessee Titans.

But it’s hard to blame them based on the value they provided in Tennessee last year.

NFL data scientist Tom Bliss earlier this month researched where each team’s snaps came from during the 2021 season. More specifically, he examined the percentage of 2021 snaps by the player’s team that originally drafted them or signed them as undrafted free agents.

It might come as a surprise that only 49.8 percent of the Titans’ 2021 snaps came from players they drafted. That figure was third lowest of any team in the NFL, ahead of only the Arizona Cardinals (49 percent) and the New York Jets (42 percent).

It probably won’t come as a surprise that 11.2 percent of the Titans’ 2021 snaps came from players who originally were drafted or signed by Houston. The Titans were the only team in the league to have another team’s originally drafted or signed players make up at least 10 percent of their snaps last year.

Why such a collection of Texans in Tennessee?

One obvious factor is that so much of the team’s coaching staff – starting with head coach Mike Vrabel and including defensive coordinator Shane Bowen, secondary coach Anthony Midget, quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara, inside linebackers coach Bobby King and passing-game coordinator Tim Kelly – spent time in the Houston organization and became familiar with the Texans’ personnel. (King and Kelly just arrived this offseason.)

But before you start bashing the Titans for collecting cast-offs from a mediocre organization, it’s worth reviewing the impact original Texans provided in 2021:

RANDY BULLOCK. K

Original Houston background: Drafted by Texans in 2012 fifth round

Titans in 2021: He wasn’t perfect, but Bullock did provide some consistency and stability at the position for the Titans. He connected on 26-of-31 field-goal attempts, an 83.9 percent success rate that was a significant step up from the team’s 71.4 percent success rate in 2020. Bullock led the team in scoring with 120 points.

DYLAN COLE, ILB

Original Houston background: Signed as undrafted free agent by Texans in 2017

Titans in 2021: Though he didn’t play his first game for the Titans until Nov. 7, Cole still finishdc third in special teams tackles with 10, trailing only Matthias Farley (11) and Nick Dzubnar (11). Cole forced a fumble that led to a touchdown in last year’s win over the Saints.

ZACH CUNNINGHAM, ILB

Original Houston background: Drafted by Texans in 2017 second round

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Titans in 2021: In the five regular-season games Cunningham played for the Titans, he led the team with 35 tackles. Cunningham had more solo tackles during that stretch (26) than any of his other teammates had combined tackles.

D’ONTA FOREMAN, RB

Original Houston background: Drafted by Texans in 2017 third round

Titans in 2021: Foreman proved hugely valuable in 2021 when starter Derrick Henry went down with a broken foot. In nine games, he carried 133 times for 566 yards and three touchdowns. His 4.3 yards-per-carry average was the same as Henry’s was prior to the injury.

BEN JONES, C

Original Houston background: Drafted by Texans in 2012 fourth round

Titans in 2021: He anchored the Titans’ line for a sixth straight season, playing in all 17 games. Jones’ overall blocking grade of 77.8 was seventh-best in the NFL among centers who played at least half their team’s games, per Pro Football Focus. He allowed just one sack, which came in the season opener.

KENDALL LAMM, T

Original Houston background: Signed as an undrafted free agent by Texans in 2015

Titans in 2021: Lamm served as an outlier in this group last season, as there wasn’t much good at all to stay about his one-year stint with the Titans. After signing a two-year, $6.8 million-deal with Tennessee, Lamm played just 87 snaps in 2021 and allowed two sacks. He was cut in the offseason.

DAVID QUESSENBERRY, T

Original Houston background: Drafted by Texans in 2013 sixth round

Titans in 2021: Quessenberry wasn’t expected to be a starter in 2021, but he wound up playing every offensive snap except one over 17 games. The eye-catching negative stat is that Quessenberry surrendered 11 sacks, the most of any lineman in the NFL, per PFF. But Quessenberry did also post an 89.1 run-blocking grade, the fifth-highest mark among league tackles. Quessenberry’s overall 80.6 blocking grade was the highest on the Titans.

So who’s next on the original Texans’ train to Nashville?

The Titans earlier this offseason signed defensive back A.J. Moore, who spent four years in Houston after signing with the Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Moore is expected to play a significant special-teams role for the Titans.

Tennessee also claimed offensive lineman Carson Green off waivers from the Texans earlier this month. Houston originally signed Green as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2021. The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Green will face an uphill climb just to earn a Titans roster spot this season.

But based on what original Texans did in Tennessee last year, one never knows.