Dick Lebeau’s defensive scheme is always at it’s peak when it has a playmaking safety patrolling the secondary. His most iconic player ever, is likely former Pittsburgh Steelers’ great, Troy Polamalu. Coach Lebeau left the land of the Yinzers, and travelled south to Nashville to mastermind a defensive turnaround for the Tennessee Titans.
In the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Titans braintrust selected a safety from Middle Tennessee State, Kevin Byard. Dick Lebeau was very impressed with him and said, “He has an exceptional football mind and I think that is one of his strengths. He is going to grow and he is going to be a coach on the field, there is no question about that.” That’s glowing praise from a legendary coordinator.
Byard went on to validate much of it in his rookie season, playing in all 16 games and starting in 7. He had 63 tackles and four passes defended. According to Pro Football Focus, in the 7 games he started, Byard gave up the second fewest receiving yards per snap (.22) in the NFL. Byard will start all 16 games next season, barring injury, and will have plenty of opportunities to build on a good rookie campaign.
The Tennessee Titans secondary has a new look this year, after several key additions. With the Titans signing Logan Ryan (former New England Patriot) and drafting Adoree Jackson (USC) in the first round, cornerback play should be much improved from the travesty that was fielded last season. When Byard learns to trust his cornerbacks, he’ll be able to attack the ball more frequently. Another season within Lebeau’s scheme will see him grow as a player. By the end of next season, expect Kevin Byard’s name to be in the conversation with some of the best safeties in the league.
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