NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans rookie linebacker Sharif Finch never believed in the whole “rookie wall” thing.
During a long season, he’s just kept working.
And it’s paying off for the Titans.
An undrafted free agent out of Temple, Finch has played in all 13 games, and he's showing up more and more. Against the Jaguars, Finch recorded a half sack and his first career fumble recovery after knocking the ball out of the hands of Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler.
“It feels good to go in there and make an impact with the opportunities given to me,” said Finch, who has 18 tackles, and 1.5 sacks on the season. “I feel like with the help of coach (Shane) Bowen, I have been steadily improving during the season. It is starting to come together with me as I get older and get more experience.”
Finch (6-4, 250) has played in 180 total defensive snaps this season, which ranks third in the NFL among all undrafted rookie linebackers. Jets outside linebacker Frankie Luvu is first on the list with 329 defensive snaps, followed by Giants inside linebacker Tae Davis (183), who the Titans are scheduled to face this week.
Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen said Finch’s work ethic has helped him.
“He’s done a good job,” Bowen said. “He is quiet, and he is very smart. He takes everything in and processes it. He’s bought into what we are doing, what we are teaching. And he’s done a good job when he’s had his chances, getting out there and producing.”
Finch, who has also contributed on special teams, made the transition from a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end in college to an outside linebackers with the Titans.
Since May, Finch has worked on his technique, especially hand placement on his pass rush. He's focused on his fundamentals, including his pad level.
It wasn’t easy.
“I think that any time that you look at those types of guys, that’s the transition even going all the way back to Willie McGinest, me and all these guys that are outside linebackers in the NFL and defensive ends in college,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “You have to kind of give them some time. (Sharif) Finch and Harold (Landry III) have tried to take the coaching and do some good stuff. He has a great attitude. He plays hard. He practices hard. He prepares. Hopefully, he keeps getting better.”
Finch, who posted 14.5 sacks and 32 tackles for a loss at Temple, said the veterans have helped him along the way.
Born in Queens, N.Y., Finch returns to the area this weekend when the Titans face the Giants. Up to 20 family members are expected at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
“It should be fun,” Finch said. “I just want to keep improving, and do what I can to help the team.”
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the New York Giants. (Photos: AP, Donn Jones)