NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Kevin Byard made a big leap in Year 2.
The Titans safety went from zero interceptions as a rookie to an NFL-best eight picks in 2017. He led the league in takeaways during a season when he was named All-Pro.
“I would say I am pretty proud of what I have done,” Byard said at the end of the season. “Of course I always feel like I could do more, and I want to do even more.”
So what’s next for Byard?
“I just have to keep going up,” Byard said. “I fell short of the Pro Bowl this year, and that is always a goal. I just have to keep elevating my game, and try to be the best safety, the best player, I can be. And not only be the best player I can be, but try and be a better leader for this team. In year three I want to take even more of a vocal leadership role.
“But I have grown a lot, just as a player and as a person. My confidence has grown, you can see it from the stats this year. But at the end of the day I have to set even higher goals for myself next year, trying to get to double-digit interceptions and just try to get even better than I did this year. That is always the goal as long as I am in the NFL.”
A third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Middle Tennessee State, Byard made an impact as a rookie. He played in all 16 games, with seven starts, and he finished the year with 63 tackles, a sack, and four passes defensed.
Last offseason, he set a goal of making the playoffs, and the Pro Bowl.
Byard and the Titans made the playoffs, but Byard was snubbed for the Pro Bowl despite leading all free safeties in Pro Bowl voting by fans.
Byard tallied 87 tackles in 2017, along with the eight interceptions and 18 passes defensed. He tied with Detroit’s Darius Slay for the NFL-lead in interceptions, but Byard’s two fumble recoveries and eight picks combined made him second to none in takeaways. Byard had three interceptions in a game at Cleveland, and had a pair of two-interception games (vs. Baltimore and Jacksonville).
“I haven’t really been able to reflect on (the year) as much as I want to,” Byard said. “But at the end of the day I think about my teammates and everybody that helped me get to this point. Because it wasn’t just me out there, it is definitely a team game. I understand the nature of the game – it is not going to be the same team next year, so the guys I played with this year, it was a pleasure to play with all those guys.”
Byard said he’s optimistic about the future, especially in the secondary.
“We have a lot of optimism, a lot to be proud of, a lot of things we accomplished in all phases of the game this year,” Byard said. “We have a lot of great young corners, and I think me and Cyp will grow another year. I definitely think me and him as a pair, we will grow and be a great pair together.
“We have three starting corners, with Tye Smith coming in, he had a great impact. We have a lot of guys to build around and I know the guys upstairs will definitely do a great job with this offseason, getting the pieces to help us get faster and better on defense.”