AFC South: Casey having breakout season

AFC South: Casey having breakout season
December 5, 2013, 4:15 pm
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(USA Today Images)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jurrell Casey wants to record 19 sacks this year, one more than Titans assistant coach Keith Millard ever got in setting the NFL's single-season mark for defensive tackles.

Casey may not get there this year with four games left but insists he will one day.

With Elias Sports Bureau changing a sack in last week's game, Casey now has nine sacks tying him for the league-lead among defensive tackles with Jason Hatcher of Dallas. It's the most by a tackle for this franchise since 1993 when Ray Childress had nine a year after having 13 for the Oilers. Albert Haynesworth had only 8 in his best season.

"He just gets better," Titans coach Mike Munchak said Thursday. "He loves playing, he wants to be the best. That's what's fun about him. He wants to be the best, be in the Pro Bowl. He doesn't mind telling me he wants to be the best defensive tackle. He wants to beat Keith Millard's record."

The Titans thought they had gotten a good tackle in 2011 when they selected the 6-foot-1, 305-pound Casey in the third round out of Southern California in 2011. Casey started 15 of his 16 games as a rookie and every game in 2012 despite playing with an injured elbow and ankle most of the season.

Now fully healthy, Casey has been shredding offensive lines all season long.

He had eight tackles with two sacks and a tackle for loss in last week's 22-14 loss at Indianapolis. Elias awarded him the second sack Wednesday after reviewing film of a play originally given to Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan. Casey now has 71 tackles, two tackles for loss, nine quarterback pressures and three passes defended.

Casey's next challenge comes Sunday in Denver (10-2) against Peyton Manning, and coach John Fox said both Casey's name and No. 99 came up quite a bit during their game plan meetings. Manning said the Titans are a solid defense that starts up front disrupting both the run and pass.

"He's an excellent player," Manning said of Casey.

Munchak credits Casey with using his hands really well for leverage. But Casey also has surprising speed for his size that he showed off last week when he ran down Darrius Heyward-Bey for an 11-yard loss on a reverse in the third quarter. He also tackled T.Y. Hilton on a short pass along with sacking Andrew Luck on the previous drive.

Now Casey is only a sack away from becoming just the seventh tackle in either a 4-3 defense or a 3-4 nose tackle in the past 10 years to reach double digits. That group includes Ndamukong Suh for Detroit (10) in 2010, Warren Sapp (10) in 2006 with Oakland and Geno Atkins had the most with 12 for Cincinnati in 2012.

Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray says Casey is benefiting from competing hard in practice and games, never taking a play off.

"I think he expects himself to play at a high level, and that's what we like about him because he's only going to get better," Gray said. "You look at a guy who's only been in the league three years, and he's almost close to double-digit sacks. If he can keep getting better, I think he's only going to make the team better."

Casey has such high expectations of himself that he doesn't feel he's done enough because the Titans (5-7) aren't winning games. He wants more caused fumbles and recoveries to put the offense in better position to score.

"At the end of the day, I'm not helping the team to win," Casey said.

©2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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