NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Von Miller, Khalil Mack, and Dee Ford combined for 40 sacks last season. Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Harold Landry has a way to go before he’s mentioned along with those names, but they are some of the edge defenders the Titans asked him to study closely.
“Our coaches did a great job putting clips of Khalil Mack, Von [Miller], Dee Ford … all of these different types of moves that I can start putting into my game on my iPad. Being able to watch them every single day and go out on the field to work them live has really helped my game,” Landry said.
Despite starting only three games last season, Landry had the third-most sacks on the team (4.5) and his 14 QB hits were a team high. Most of sacks and pressures came from sheer athleticism and beating opponents with speed.
Landry is a lot like a phenom pitcher who generated a lot of strikeouts with his fastball as a rookie. The pitcher has to find a complementary pitch to catch batters off-guard. Likewise, Landry relied last year on his speed to the outside to generate pressure, so now he’s working on broadening his pass-rush moves — specifically, a countermove to the inside that could make him a lethal pass-rusher. It’s something Landry sees in the endless iPad cutups of Miller, Mack and Ford.
The team signed 38-year-old free agent Cameron Wake in the offseason to help with the pass rush. But after finishing with 39 team sacks last season (Ford’s Chiefs led the NFL with 54 sacks), the Titans will be relying heavily on Landry in 2019.
Being called upon to be his team’s top pass-rusher doesn’t faze Landry because he has higher expectations for himself than anyone else. Having a plan is an area where Landry feels he’s matured entering his second season. He is learning to study his opponents and figure out different moves that will work against his opponent’s weaknesses.
“The game speed has slowed down,” Landry said. “Last year was a big learning experience for me. I am much more relaxed, and it’s much more reactionary; flying off the ball it’s a lot more read-and-react. I am developing these moves so when I am preparing for a game and see a guy that’s a low puncher, that’s good for a chop. When I see a high puncher, that’s good for a dip. I can get under him. I want to go into a game and be able to use more than one move that I know will work. It might not be the best time to go to a dip and corner on him. I might have to stab him or do something else. Building my overall repertoire of moves helps me go against the tackles or tight ends.”
When asked if he is experimenting with new moves during training camp, Landry smiled. He’s been working on perfecting his new moves during the offseason after testing them during OTAs and minicamp. He can’t wait to unleash them.
“It’s time to make those things [new pass-rush moves] my thing,” Landry said. “I’ve worked on them so much, and now it’s time to perfect it and make it ready to go.”
Landry dealt with a mild ankle sprain during camp last year. It kept him from being able to go full speed through drills which was a setback early in his rookie season. “I get better at my moves when I am doing drills full speed in live-action and team period,” Landry said.
A noticeably more defined Landry stepped to the podium and spoke to the media on the first day of training camp, saying he regularly weighs in around 255 pounds after hovering around 250 pounds during his rookie season. The second-year pass-rusher stayed in Nashville this offseason and spent a lot of time with veteran teammate DaQuan Jones working on strength training. He was also reunited this summer with his college strength and conditioning coach, Frank Piraino, who took on the same role with the Titans. Landry called his summer of training with Jones and Piraino “the most work he’s done in a while.” His work in the weight room should help with the kind of ferocious punch that is needed to go against bigger offensive linemen.
Added Jones, “Just the lifts alone, man, that was an animal. After the lift, you’re spent. Then we went out to the field and did our thing. You put all of them together, it’s tough. If you’re not mentally strong, that will break you.”
Landry’s confidence continues to grow in his second year in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ elaborate scheme. He is ready to be a difference-maker.
“I just want to do my part. Make plays, create turnovers and get the ball to my offense as much as I can,” Landry said. “I am excited. I feel like we’ve been away from football for so long.”