Bud Dupree and Denico Autry do more than just fit the bill in the Tennessee Titans’ quest for an improved pass rush.
They also fit together.
Dupree, a 6-foot-4, 269-pound outside linebacker, and Autry, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive linemen, will be able to work in concert with one another to help solve what was one of the Titans’ most pressing problems of 2020, according to former NFL head coach Jim Mora Jr., who recently spoke to All Titans about some of Tennessee’s recent free-agent moves, including cornerback Janoris Jenkins' likely impact on the secondary.
“You added two guys there, in my opinion, in Dupree and Autry that really complement each other, and they fit perfectly in the scheme (the Titans) want to run,” Mora said. “… Certainly, they signed two guys that have been productive pass rushers, and they’re putting them in a scheme that is going to enhance what they do.”
For an eight-year span from 2012-19, which included four different head coaches, the Titans were remarkably consistent when it came to getting to opposing quarterbacks. In each of those seasons the defense registered between 36 and 43 sacks.
The bottom dropped out in 2020, when Tennessee recorded 19 sacks, tied for third fewest in the NFL. Only Cincinnati and Jacksonville had fewer.
That number was more perplexing given the fact that the Titans went 11-5 and finished first in the AFC South. Every other team that had a winning record finished with at least 32 quarterback sacks.
Thus, the need to address the issue quickly. Between them, Dupree and Autry had 15 1/2 sacks in 2020.
Dupree has been one of the NFL’s most productive pass rushers over the past two seasons with 19 1/2 sacks in 27 games as he regularly came off the edge in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ famously aggressive scheme. Only eight players across the league had more sacks over that span.
For his career, he has 39 1/2 sacks in 81 games and has continued what he started at the University of Kentucky, where he ranks second all-time with 23 1/2 career sacks. At the conclusion of his college career, Pittsburgh selected him 22nd overall in the 2015 draft.
“When you look at Bud Dupree and his sack totals the last two years … that right there – you just helped your pass rush,” Mora said. “And pass rush isn’t always going to be measured in sacks. It’s hurries. It’s hits. It’s affecting the quarterback. It’s forcing bad throws. It’s intimidating a little bit. It’s making them feel the pressure in the pocket. And I think they added a guy right there on the edge that can do those things.”
Autry is a guy who can play multiple positions along the defensive line but only recently has found his way to the quarterback from the inside with any consistency. Of his 30 1/2 career sacks, 20 came in the last three years, when he played for the Indianapolis Colts. In his first year with the Colts, he set a career-high with nine. Before that, the undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State had just 10 1/2 in four seasons with the Raiders.
“In the 3-4 scheme, you could put him at nose tackle, although I don’t think it’s an ideal position for him,” Mora said. “You could play him at one of the defensive end positions. … You’ve got a guy that is stout against the run but has also shown pass rush ability. So, you can leave him on the field all three downs, kick him out to – probably – the left end position on your nickel and have some pass rush ability. Or you can isolate him on a guard in your pass rush situations … and you can get some one-on-one matchups where he can use his quickness, his size, his strength and he has a more direct line to the quarterback.”
All the while, Dupree will be coming from the outside.