Dick LeBeau's journey to restore the Titans' secondary

From ESPN - August 12, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Adoree' Jackson first met Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau during an April pre-draft team visit. This marked the start of what has quickly become a strong relationship built on confidence.

That day the two discussed Jackson's 5-foot-10 height, a common knock against the former USC cornerback. LeBeau heard the negatives but had his own opinions. He told Jackson to stand up. He did. Then LeBeau assured Jackson that he was not too short to play cornerback for him.

"That competitive spirit attracted me to him," LeBeau said. "He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's tough and he's very, very athletic."

Jackson has been dunking since the eighth grade when he was 5-6, but the height criticisms occasionally bother him. It was special for Jackson to hear those words from LeBeau, and a few weeks later he was a Titan.

"When I saw that he believed in me, that was the best thing I could ever have," Jackson said. "It just gives me a little more confidence."

LeBeau glides across the Titans practice field like a man half his age, teaching and sharing pieces of wisdom. He's chipper. It's not a coincidence that Jackson and a few other defensive backs are getting some extra work after practice.

The Titans will go as far as Marcus Mariota takes them, but that journey could be thwarted or extended based on the play of this secondary. They were bad last season and are undergoing significant restoration. Luckily they have the perfect man to lead it.

"We have to cut off the big plays," LeBeau said without hesitation. "That's an 11-man proposition, but it usually comes down on the secondary even if it is not their fault. You will know pretty damn quick -- are we cutting off those deep passes or are they getting them?"

The Titans had the NFL's third-worst passing defense last season, giving up an average of 269.2 yards per game. They also were in the bottom seven in 20-plus-yard (56) and 40-plus-yard (12) passing plays allowed last season.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson opened up the checkbook to add cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Johnathan Cyprien, two solid veteran starters. Second-year safety Kevin Byard is moving into a full-time starting role for the first time, but several Titans coaches and players believe he's on his way to stardom. That leaves the other cornerback spots as the last major question mark.

The incumbent and current leader in the clubhouse is the physical, long-armed LeShaun Sims. His teammates call him "Mouse" because of his quiet, reserved demeanor. On the field, he's a disciplined press cornerback who played well as a rookie last season.

"LeShaun, he's good at the line. He will get his hands on you," receiver Rishard Matthews said. "LeShaun works his technique and uses his feet to his advantage."


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