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Titans opt for cornerback Caleb Farley at No. 22 overall

April 30, 2021 GMT
FILE - Caleb Farley smiles during Virginia Tech NFL football pro day in Blacksburg, Va., in this Friday, March 26, 2021, file photo. Farley is a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft, April 19-May 1, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Gentry, File)
FILE - Caleb Farley smiles during Virginia Tech NFL football pro day in Blacksburg, Va., in this Friday, March 26, 2021, file photo. Farley is a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft, April 19-May 1, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Gentry, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have bolstered their defense by drafting cornerback Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech at No. 22 overall.

General manager Jon Robinson focused on defense Thursday night after releasing starting cornerbacks Adoree Jackson and Malcolm Butler to free up salary cap space in March.

The 6-foot-2, 197-pound Farley announced his decision to opt out of the 2020 season last July because of the coronavirus pandemic. He lost his mother to cancer in 2018 and was unwilling to put another loved one at risk.

The cornerback also had surgery in March to repair a herniated disc just before the Hokies’ Pro Day, though he is expected to be ready for the start of training camp and has no regrets on his decision. He also tore an ACL in 2017.

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Farley didn’t attend the draft because he announced Wednesday he had tested positive for COVID-19.

The Titans had to revamp their defense despite coming off their best season in 12 years when they won the AFC South and hosted their first home playoff game since 2008.

Robinson started the process in March by cutting Butler, Jackson and safety Kenny Vaccaro. That made room to sign outside linebacker Bud Dupree and defensive lineman Denico Autry to try and improve a pass rush with just 19 sacks last season. Tennessee was better than only Cincinnati and Jacksonville in that category.

The Titans also were dead last in the NFL on third down, allowing opponents to convert 51.8% of them. They gave up 398.3 yards a game (28th in the league) and allowed 277.4 yards passing a game (29th in the NFL).

The one thing they did well was take the ball away. They had 23 takeaways with 15 different players having at least one, helping Tennessee lead the league with a plus-11 turnover margin.

Coach Mike Vrabel gave the defensive coordinator title to Shane Bowen, who called the defensive scheme last season without the title. V rabel also hired Jim Schwartz, former Eagles defensive coordinator and Detroit head coach, as a senior defensive assistant.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker

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