With a torn ACL, an emotional draft night and an impressive rookie season behind him Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons is ready for more in 2020.
The Titans are going to need it.
Simmons finished his rookie campaign with 32 tackles and 2 sacks after missing the first 6 games. He flashed the raw power and potential that had the Titans drooling when they picked him 19th overall in 2019.
Simmons has ditched the knee brace he wore last year and continues to work out in St. Thomas Sports Park while rehabbing it for the coming season, a season that does not include Jurrell Casey in two-tone blue.
The Titans cleared over $10-million in cap space this off-season dumping Casey to Denver for a 7th round pick.
It was stunning news for Titans fans who were looking forward to seeing Casey and Simmons line up side by side for years to come.
Simmons said it’s a business, “I didn’t know that it was going to happen, especially with Jurrell (Casey) being a leader, nine-year vet going on his 10th year with the Titans. Of course it was a surprise, he’d been with the Titans for nine years. I didn’t see that coming, but like I said, even when I got hurt in college it’s called – I just say, ‘Next man up.’ It’s just how it goes, it’s the game you play. This is a business, so you just go from there.”
That “next man up” is Simmons though and he is not just replacing a starter on the defensive line, he is replacing a guy who had been to four Pro Bowls and was arguably their identity on defense.
“I don’t feel like it’s going to be a big leap coming from me.” Simmons said, “I think a lot of guys – especially guys that we’ve got coming in this year, I feel like everyone is going to play a big part of this season here coming up. Me personally, I don’t feel any pressure for me. Just be myself and continue to do what I do.”
One of the things he has done is avoid a single O-T-A or Mini-Camp. Simmons missed last year while he rehabbed from a knee injury suffered training for the draft and this year has been wiped out by Covid-19. That is a lot of practice time to miss, but Simmons did not seem bothered in the least,”I don’t think it’s a concern, I don’t think it’s setting me back at all. I’ve been in college before, I know what basic camp is, it’s pretty much what it is. I’ve been through spring football, it’s kind of like spring football we’re going through right now but virtual. It’s nothing but football, nothing to be surprised about.”
Simmons is looking to be even better than he was in 2019 and part of that is changing his body. He looked chiseled last year, but said he played at 320 pounds and was not comfortable. He says he was about 310 right now and hopes to be between 300 and 305 during the season.
He is a large, large man, with huge expectations and even a bigger shadow to fill.