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Front Page - Friday, November 19, 2021

McCormick column: Simmons is the big one Titans didn’t let get away

“I love this team,” says defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, who is emerging as one of the best young players in the NFL. “So each and every week, I am just trying to get better.” - Photo by Jeffrey Brown | Icon Sportswire via AP

Titans general manager Jon Robinson did not hesitate to draft Jeffery Simmons in the 2019 NFL draft, even after he had fallen down the draft boards.

Simmons, a projected Top 10 talent in that year’s draft, dropped to the Titans at No. 19 in part because of a knee injury suffered two months before the draft while training and, in part, because of an assault issue involving a woman from his college days at Mississippi State.

The Titans said they were confident Simmons was repentant of the assault and that it was an isolated incident. They also said they were confident Simmons’ knee injury would heal enough to allow him to play some in 2019.

And with those two issues accounted for, the Titans also were confident they were getting a player that someday would be a game-changer on the defensive line.

Given how Simmons has performed the past two weeks, someday might be now for Robinson and the Titans in terms of what they are getting from the star defensive tackle.

Simmons introduced himself to a national television audience two weeks ago when he sacked Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, a potential MVP candidate, three times and also got pressure on another play to force an interception. On Sunday, against the New Orleans Saints, Simmons got to Trevor Siemian twice, giving him five sacks in the past two games and 7.5 sacks for the season.

Simmons’ dominance extends far beyond sacks and the stat sheet, as he is usually double-teamed on the interior, freeing single blocks for guys like Harold Landry or Denico Autry, who have put up strong numbers, as well.

Simmons also is a force in stopping the run, and in his third NFL season appears to be tapping into the potential Robinson saw when he took him in that 2019 draft.

For Simmons, coming into his own as a pass rusher and dominant defender is a process and is something that remains a constant focus.

“I think that’s just a part of this game,’’ Simmons says. “Each year, each game, each day, I want to get better. I want to play better each and every week.

“Hopefully next week I play at a higher standard. I hold myself to higher standards. I love what I do, so each and every week, I know my teammates hold me to a high standard. I hold myself to a high standard, as well as the coaches. So, eventually it’s got to get better.”

Coach Mike Vrabel sees that buy-in from Simmons and says it is one of the reasons he enjoys coaching him.

“Jeffery will always raise the standards or expectations. He is such a great guy to be around. Love seeing him every morning,” Vrabel points out. “We would miss him if we came to work and he wasn’t here one day. Just his attitude, his demeanor, his leadership and, obviously, the production.”

Some of Simmons’ success has come because of the arrival of Autry as a free agent from Indianapolis.

“I just think that they are great people. They are great teammates. Talented players. They are finding ways to work together,” Vrabel adds.

And that means putting the latest win on the shelf and preparing for the Houston Texans to arrive Sunday at Nissan Stadium.

“We know we’ve got to fix a lot of things on film and go and see what we can do better, especially in the second half, driving and scoring points or whatever it may be,” Simmons says. “But I love this team.

“So each and every week, I am just trying to get better.”

Terry McCormick publishes TitanInsider.com and appears 2-4 p.m. weekdays on the George Plaster Show on WNSR-AM 560/95.9 FM.