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McCreary Piles Up Takedowns

The cornerback is tied for the team lead in tackles and is among the most productive NFL rookies in that regard through the first three weeks of the season.

NASHVILLE – Roger McCreary told the Tennessee Titans exactly what they could expect if they drafted him, which they did.

Shortly after the Titans used their second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft on the cornerback out of Auburn, general manager Jon Robinson recalled an interview between franchise officials and the player during the pre-draft process.

“I try to cover my guy, Coach, and don't let him catch it,” Robinson recalled McCreary saying. “When they throw it to him, I tackle him.”

Three games into the season, McCreary has played more snaps than anyone else on the Titans defense. During all of that action, the New York Giants, Buffalo Bills and Las Vegas Raiders all threw the ball in his direction at times.

McCreary has been targeted 16 times and has allowed 13 receptions – also team-highs. However, he has allowed just 7.3 yards per target, which is best among the five Tennessee players who have been targeted at least 10 times.

Generally speaking, when he has allowed a catch, he has gotten the receiver to the ground quickly. Even when the ball has not come his way, though, there have been times when he has made his way to the ball carrier and gotten him to the ground.

The result is that McCreary currently is tied with safety Kevin Byard for the team lead in tackles with 23, which is tied for second among all rookies.

And he has gotten there pretty much on his own. Of those 23 tackles, 21 have been solo stops. In that regard, he is second in the NFL only to New Orleans linebacker Pete Werner (24). Byard, by comparison, has just 15 solo stops. No one else on Tennessee’s defense has more than 10.

Among all NFL rookies, McCreary is second to Jacksonville linebacker Devin Lloyd in total tackles and first in solo stops.

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“It’s a little surprising because I’m not a big fan of tackling that much, really,” McCreary said. “But it’s just how our defense is: everybody runs to the ball. I didn’t know I had that many tackles, but that’s all I try to think of – run to the ball and just make the tackle.”

A look at the NFL leaders in tackles by a rookie (through Week 3):

Player, TeamPos.TacklesSoloAssisted

Devin Lloyd, Jacksonville

LB

24

16

8

Roger McCreary, Tennessee

CB

23

21

2

Jalen Pitre, Houston

S

23

12

11

Malcolm Rodriguez, Detroit

LB

22

17

5

Jaquan Brisker, Chicago

S

20

15

5

McCreary’s workload is a product of his versatility. A starter on the outside, the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder has moved into the slot when extra defensive backs have been employed.

That same thing has factored into his tackle numbers. Consider that Elijah Molden was primarily a slot specialist last year as a rookie, and he finished the season fifth on the defense with 60 tackles.

“We have played some zone with (McCreary) in there and the nickel. First and second down nickel, that player is a glorified linebacker,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “… I would say that his production in there has come from, triggering in the run game or whether it's a screen or a vice tackle, they catch it in front of you.

“He has made a lot of tackles.”

McCreary is quick to acknowledge that not all of those tackles are textbook in form or technique. But a tackle is a tackle – and he has gotten more than most through the first three games.

“Get the guy to the ground, whatever it takes,” he said. “That’s my mindset. And I feel like I’m doing good with that.”