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Jurrell Casey high on Titans' future despite playoff exit

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jurrell Casey's Tennessee Titans fell one game short of the Super Bowl, but he sees bright things ahead for his team.

It didn't take much for him to explain why he's confident in Tennessee's future. The Pro Bowl defensive lineman loves the makeup of his squad, and especially his defensive teammates.

"Just the unbelievable trust and accountability that we hold for one another," Casey told Thursday when asked what makes his defense special. "I think our young guys, they understand that the veterans and the leaders of our defense want to win. We're not going to put them in bad situations. They trust what they tell us, they trust what we preach to them and they buy into our system.

"When you get young guys that can come in and not be too airheaded, not too cocky on themselves and can fall into their place and fall into their roles, it makes the ballgame that much (more) fun and that much (more) enjoyable to be around and I think that's what helped us this year going forward."

Tennessee's defense was effective in 2019 because it played with aggression and consistency at all three levels, finishing 12th in points allowed per game in the regular season. The unit flourished in January, riding an opportunistic style to five takeaways in three postseason contests and two playoff wins. The Titans' defensive numbers were skewed by their AFC Championship Game loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, who racked up 404 yards, but overall, Casey's group has plenty to be proud of as it enters the offseason.

"Oh man, I feel amazing. One of the best seasons I've had in Tennessee," Casey said. "Been there now nine years and to make a run the way we did was definitely unbelievable. Can't ask for nothing better this season than obviously make it to the Super Bowl and hope that we can continue to build on this season for next year. We've got a lot of work to do in the offseason getting guys and putting pieces together and once we get everything in place and we get our staples and everything we need, we're going to be ready to roll."

Two huge pieces (or staples, as Casey put it) are with him in Orlando this week as fellow Pro Bowlers and are facing potential trips to free agency. As is common with teammates of players who might be headed elsewhere, Casey was supportive of Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill -- but he undoubtedly wants them to remain in Nashville.

"Hey man, they're all Titans. I'm gonna love them forever," Casey said. "Whatever situation is for those boys, wish we can get them back, it's part of business so whatever comes down with that situation, wish we can get them boys back and you know, keep on doing what they did on the offensive side of the ball. They brought some power, they brought the heat for us this season, so definitely would love to have that firepower back."

Their contributions would ideally help the Titans maintain a level of play that saw them go from 2-4 after six games to a wild-card berth and an unexpected run to the AFC Championship Game. Then again, things can change drastically from year to year in this league, and the Tennessee defense already knows of one change it can expect in 2020 thanks to the retirement of defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

"It's going to be tough, man," Casey said of the unit's ability to overcome the loss of Pees. "Dean brought a lot to our building, brought a lot to our defense. His mindset and just the unbelievable person that he is, not even in football but just outside of football, it's going to definitely be tough to handle. But he had a great career, done great things. Just wish him and his family the best going forward."

These Titans could look very different at key positions in 2020, or very familiar. They can count on one reality, though: No. 99 causing problems for opposing offenses all season long.

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