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Front Page - Friday, October 28, 2022

Hooker’s move to nickelback pays dividends

Amani Hooker’s “full grasp of our defense” allowed the Titans to make a clever switch. - Photo by Wade Payne | AP

The Titans had a little trick up their sleeves Sunday to help shore up a leaky pass defense. The Titans knew Amani Hooker had cleared the concussion protocol and would be available.

The assumption was that Hooker would return to his normal strong safety position.

But with the Titans struggling at cornerback, they made a bold decision – one that paid big dividends.

They moved Hooker down to the nickelback spot and kept Andrew Adams at safety. The move to Hooker in the nickel allowed rookie Roger McCreary to play outside at cornerback, where the team had surrendered several big plays with the fill-in tandem of Caleb Farley and Terrance Mitchell.

The plan worked to perfection. Adams returned an interception for a touchdown and had 10 tackles, while Hooker – in his new role – had a fumble recovery that effectively snuffed the life out of the Colts in the fourth quarter.

Also, the defense, which had been burned for big plays in prior weeks, allowed a 20-yard pass as the Colts longest play of the day. Not bad for a defense that was dead last in the NFL coming into the game.

Hooker had some familiarity with the position, having played nickelback his final year at Iowa, and says it wasn’t anything new to him and was excited to play there Sunday.

“It’s definitely a little different view being back down in the box again,” Hooker says.

Coach Mike Vrabel had no problem putting Hooker in that spot to help shore up the secondary.

“He really has a full grasp of our defense,” Vrabel says of Hooker’s ability to switch positions. “Whether it is what the corner is supposed to do, what the safety is supposed to do, or what the nickel is supposed to do. He has a versatile skill set. He has shown that since he has been with us.”