INDIANAPOLIS – Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is still getting to know some of his players.
At this point, he hasn’t met them all.
One player he has met is linebacker Kevin Dodd, and here at the NFL Combine, Vrabel spoke in a positive manner about the rising third-year pro moving forward.
Dodd, a second-round pick by the Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft, hasn’t made a huge contribution in his first two NFL seasons. Injuries kept Dodd from making an impact as a rookie, and since he’s found himself playing limited snaps behind veterans, in part because he hasn’t earned additional playing time with production.
But Vrabel believes Dodd has value.
“Sometimes it happens quicker for some guys. It took me a couple of years,” said Vrabel, a highly-productive NFL linebacker with the Steelers, Patriots and Chiefs. “I’m excited to work with Kevin. I’ve talked to him. If he’s willing to work and put the work and the time and the effort in, I think we’re going to be more than happy to help him develop.”
Selected 33rd overall in 2016, Dodd has played in 18 games in his first two seasons, and he has 20 tackles, a sack, and six quarterback pressures to his name. Dodd’s rookie season was cut short because of a foot injury, and last season he played in just nine games as veterans like Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan and Erik Walden played ahead of him.
Dodd needs to improve his technique. At the end of last season, Dodd worked some with his hand on the ground, lining up on the line of scrimmage. Vrabel said he envisions Dodd working on the outside heading into year three under the team’s new defensive coordinator, Dean Pees. It’s where he’s played most of his NFL career.
In college, Dodd blossomed into one of the nation’s top pass rushers at Clemson, where he racked up 12 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss in his final college season. Dodd had three sacks in a national title game win over Alabama.
“I think right now we’re looking at some sort of outside rush player,” Vrabel said of Dodd. “In our experience in this defense with Dean and going back to New England and what he’s done in Baltimore and what we did in Houston, we had those defensive ends that became outside linebackers, rushers, whether that be Willie McGinest, Terrell Suggs, (Jadeveon Clowney), Whitney Mercilus. You take those college defensive ends and you make them outside linebackers. Using myself as an example, that’s not a transition that happens overnight.
“Anytime that you look at a skillset of a player, you try to do what the player does well. You put him there first. You start working on what he does best first. And then you develop and you fix and you change the things that they don’t do well. Instead of overloading him with a bunch of stuff, I think we just need to concentrate and evaluate on what he does well, and try to enhance that, and then fix and change the stuff that are areas of focus.”
Titans GM Jon Robinson and new head coach Mike Vrabel make media rounds at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. (Photos: Gary Glenn)