NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Murray/Henry pairing in the Titans’ offensive backfield has dominated conversations about the team since Jon Robinson tabbed the Heisman Trophy winner in the second round on draft weekend.
However, there is a very similar situation on the other side of the ball that could also pay big dividends for the Titans this season.
The team cut loose veteran Michael Griffin this spring and replaced him with veteran free agent Rashad Johnson from the Arizona Cardinals. He was presumed to be the starter and then the Titans took MTSU safety Kevin Byard with the first pick of the third round.
Byard has impressed from the get go, showing off his 4.4 speed and the ball skills that led to 19 interceptions for the Blue Raiders.
In some locker rooms, this dynamic can be a problem. Some vets don’t like the threat of being replaced, but just like Murray with Henry, it seems Johnson has embraced the situation. That’s probably because like Murray, Johnson has faced this situation before.
Johnson was already a starter for the Cardinals when they drafted Tyran Mathieu in the third round. Mathieu went on to be a star, but it wasn’t at Johnson’s expense, he went on to start the next three years and became an even more productive player. The last four seasons Johnson had 2,3,4 and 5 interceptions.
Johnson has also competed well this summer and sounds surprisingly positive.
He said, “There’s gonna be plenty of snaps, plenty of ball, the way this game is adapted now where three safeties, sometimes four safeties are on the field. There’s enough room for guys to be on the field of play a lot, so I’m not really worried about that… when I’m on the field doing what I can to help this team win”
Byard has been confident from the moment he walked in the door, and even though he’s tried to learn from the veteran, he’s not taking a backseat.
He said, “I just treat like I’m coming to work every day, just like I said. I’m not trying to come in here, day one and be a backup. You know, I’m trying to come out and play this year. We’re just pushing each other, I’m making him better and he’s making me better. So, it’s all good for the team and it’s all about winning.”
Both players should be on the field a lot this year, but the rookie has opened eyes this summer and is creating expectations for a big year.