Colin McCarthy has proven to be a very good football player as a Titans’ rookie middle linebacker. So much so he might wind up a magician, too. He might make injured veteran Barrett Ruud disappear.
McCarthy’s been the Titans' guy in the middle for the bulk of the past three games, and he’s been an upgrade over Ruud, who has missed time with a groin injury.
A fourth-round pick out of Miami, McCarthy’s an instinctive playmaker who is Tennessee's third rookie in the starting lineup on defense, joining defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers.
Wednesday, both defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and linebackers coach Frank Bush offered big praise of McCarthy, who’s been reporting to work as early as 5:30 a.m.
“I think if he had come from another university other than the University of Miami -- those guys work with a swagger, and I am serious,” Gray said. “He feels like he belongs there. He’s not afraid to get up in front of the huddle and tell those guys, 'Shut up, let’s go.' That’s what it takes out of a middle linebacker -- ‘Just because I am a rookie doesn’t mean I am going to be a shy guy.’”
Said Bush: “He’s done an excellent job coming in and really not being intimidated by the gravity of the whole situation. It’s a tough job to come into a veteran group and be a rookie leader, and he’s done a good job being himself. He’s got a little bit of swagger, a little bit of confidence and all the guys seem to be listening to him.”
McCarthy’s more of a force in the run defense, but he’s also on the field when the Titans go to two linebackers in nickel or just one in dime, so he’s able against the pass as well.
In the three games -- two starts and an early entry as Ruud’s replacement when he aggravated his injury -- McCarthy’s got 33 tackles, four for a loss and an interception.
So long as he's healthy, McCarthy should remain in the spot.
His production is earning him the ultimate, simple praise from teammates that means a lot at the start of a career.
“He’s a player,” safety Jordan Babineaux said.