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Titans DB Kevin Byard: Defenses are going to 'have a lot of trouble' game planning after Julio Jones trade

Tennessee's acquisition of Julio Jones both ended the long-running speculation on where he might land, and also equipped Ryan Tannehill with a shiny, new weapon.

Titans safety Kevin Byard is going to see plenty of that pairing this summer during training camp. He's already dreaming about the potential capabilities of the team's offense, which said goodbye to Corey Davis and replaced him with Jones.

"I wouldn't compare the two as far as Corey Davis to Julio and what he didn't do and what he's not gonna do but what I will say is that, obviously, having Derrick [Henry] back there in the backfield, all defenses have to respect him, whether they're putting eight men in the box, at times, nine men in the box, whatever they have to do to stop the run," Byard explained Monday, "that's gonna be a lot of opportunity for Julio and A.J. and all the other receivers that we have to get 1-on-1 coverages, to get favorable matchups, to be able to win 1-on-1.

"Obviously, we've seen A.J. Brown take slants 80 yards to the house and, obviously, we've seen Julio do that numerous amount of times in his career. So, like I said, defenses are just gonna have a lot of trouble game planning against us every week because if you try to double Julio or slide the safety over to Julio's side and you have AJ Brown on the other side. I like our matchups but like I said, I know our offensive coordinator and all those guys and [coach Mike] Vrabel are gonna do a lot of different ways to line those guys up in different places. Julio in the slot, A.J. in the slot, we can move guys all around."

Versatility is key to staying one step ahead of defenses in today's game, and as Byard said, the addition of Jones will increase that dramatically. Already a run-first offense that benefits from opponents dedicating vast resources to stopping Derrick Henry, the Titans now have an arguably equal threat through the air.

Tennessee's offense will be rather capable of putting up points, then, and it will be Byard's group to return the favor when on the field. In an ideal scenario, Byard and Co. rack up takeaways to give this offense even more opportunities to score.

"Me personally, I think that we need to make sure we're getting off the field on third downs. If we can get off the field on third downs, create turnovers, win in the red zone, our offense will have more opportunities to score touchdowns and put up a lot of points," Byard said. "So, that's pretty much our main objective this year. Be better than we were on third downs last year and create some more turnovers."

This was an area in which the Titans excelled in 2020, finishing with the highest net differential between takeaways and giveaways at +11. Increasing that total will only improve Tennessee's chances of victory, and in what has become a near-annual fight with the Indianapolis Colts for the throne of the AFC South, these types of advantages can be the difference between a crucial win or loss.

Add in the presence of Jones, and those takeaways become even more valuable. And once a takeaway or two has helped the Titans build an advantage, everyone watching will know where Tennessee is going with the ball in crunch time.

"I think our offense is built to be physical, we're definitely built to want to run the ball, obviously with Derrick Henry in the backfield. He's a guy that, you know, give him, 20-30 carries a game, he's gonna get 150," Byard said. "I do think that it's more of a balance now. You have two dynamic receivers, a dynamic runner, obviously \[Ryan\] Tannehill's been throwing it all over the yard, he's been one of the best quarterbacks in the league since he's been here. So, it's just all about a balance. You don't want to be one-dimensional on either side of the ball, really. You want to be able to throw the ball all the over field but also have a balanced run game. It's definitely good for us."

Shutting down Henry was the key to beating the Titans in 2020. Defenses will need to do more than that in 2021, as long as Jones is healthy and playing at a level he's reached for the majority of his career.

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