NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Establishing a physical, aggressive style of play was a priority for Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson last season.
Given that Vrabel was a linebacker for 14 years in the NFL and Robinson an offensive lineman at Southeast Missouri State University, it's no surprise that the free agents the have added so far fit that mentality.
“It’s stamped in our pillars ... tough, dependable, team first, and it’s guys with an edge to them," Robinson said. "Guys who are going to be able to stand in there and throw punches with the best of them, between the whistles."
At 6-foot-5 and 323 pounds, guard Rodger Saffold is the big free-agent catch for the Titans. The nine-year pro is known as a punishing run-blocker and immediately upgrades the offensive line. He was third among all guards in ESPN's pass-block win rate powered by NFL Next Gen Stats last season.
"I love to be aggressive," said Saffold, who helped the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl in February said. "With the help of offensive line coach Keith Carter, I will be able to use my talent to help them do it a little bit more. We will be able to open up really great lanes for [running back] Derrick Henry. I feel like this is a good fit. It's comparable across the board."
First-year Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith wants to feature Henry and the ground attack. Getting an opportunity to go toe-to-toe and fire off the ball helps offensive linemen like Saffold get into their groove.
"There's no better feeling in the world than moving a guy against their will. For me, I love being aggressive off the ball. I love shooting my hands into somebody and creating space," Saffold said.
Safety Kenny Vaccaro is one of the guys Robinson identified as a priority free agent when he spoke at the combine. Vaccaro's self-sacrificing style of play meshed perfectly with the Titans after he joined the team last summer. The seventh-year safety quickly won over his coaches and teammates with willingness to take on much bigger offensive linemen. Vaccaro's hit on Patriots running back James White set the tone in a 34-10 win over the eventual Super Bowl champions last season.
Newly acquired Adam Humphries may be a wide receiver but he has proven to be gritty and durable in four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, Humphries manages to hold on to passes from the slot despite linebackers or defensive backs delivering hard hits. That's one trait that makes him such a reliable target for quarterbacks, especially on third downs.
"I've taken some hits in my career. It's not fun, but it is fun moving the sticks and that's something I take pride in," Humphries said.
Humphries is a high-effort player who goes hard on every snap because he cherishes the opportunity to play the game. He wasn't a highly recruited player in high school and didn't get an invite to the NFL combine out of Clemson. Being regularly overlooked makes Humphries play with an edge.
"I always carry a chip on my shoulder," Humphries said. "Being a rookie tryout guy, a two-star receiver coming out of high school. Even after this contract, I am going to have a chip on my shoulder. That's my mentality."