At this season-ending press conference on Monday, Kevin Byard focused on standards and expectations.
The Tennessee Titans safety admitted what has been known for some time: the defense struggled collectively and did not live up to standards or meet expectations. The unit struggled against the pass and failed to get off the field on third down more often than not, among other deficiencies.
He also made it clear that he didn’t live up to his own personal standards and expectations.
“I don’t feel like I played up to my standard,” Byard said. “I didn’t find the ball as much this year. That was a little bit disappointing, but at the same time I just know for me personally and my personal standard, I can play a lot better.”
While he led the team in tackles this season with a career-high 111, Byard only contributed one interception this season (the Titans had 15 total), and it took him until the Week 15 victory over the Detroit Lions to get it. He didn’t have many other chances as he only broke up seven passes this season, the fewest he has had since his rookie season (2016).
It was particularly odd for Byard, the 2017 Pro Bowler, because he has been one of the best ball-hawking safeties since he entered the league.
The third-round pick out of Middle Tennessee State led the league in interceptions over the previous three seasons. He topped the Titans in that regard in each of the last three seasons, and his eight in 2017 tied for the league lead and were the most by any Titans/Oilers player in a single season since 1990, when Richard Johnson registered eight.
Byard has 18 career interceptions in all.
“I want to make sure that coming into next year, I am working on myself, working on my body, working on my mind and my spirit to make sure that I can have that high level of play I am accustomed to,” Byard said. “Leading the team in tackles, leading the team in interceptions, doing everything possible to win ball games. That is what I get paid to do and that’s the type of player I am.
“… I am harder on myself than anyone. I take everything personal. And next year, that’s going to be my main goal, trying to play to the highest standard that I can possibly play at.”