Titans’ Kristian Fulton talks what has led to breakout start

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The Tennessee Titans have a superstar-in-the-making in their secondary, and his name is Kristian Fulton. The New Orleans, Louisiana native became a household name for the LSU Tigers defense before helping them win a National Championship.

And now, he’s doing everything possible to become a household name in the NFL.

The Titans drafted Fulton with the No. 61 overall pick in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was limited to just six games — including two starts — in his rookie season and was placed on injured reserve before returning for the end of the campaign.

The 5-foot-11, 197-pound defensive back was named a starter for the 2021 season, and through the first three weeks of the season, Fulton has arguably been the Titans’ best defensive back after allowing just five catches on 18 targets for 88 yards and one touchdown.

“Just being comfortable out there, getting a feel for the game,” Fulton said of what led to his breakout year. “Preseason helped a lot. I feel like, you know, I was getting those reps, and training camp all played a part in being comfortable out there and just playing my game, you know, believing in myself.”

Out of all qualifying NFL cornerbacks through Week 3 (min. 50 percent coverage snaps), Fulton owns the lowest percentage (27.8%) of receptions when targeted, per Pro Football Focus.

Against the Colts last week, he allowed just one completion on six targets, and PFF gave him the highest grade among all Titans defenders.

The second-year man has one of the best mentors in the secondary in safety Kevin Byard, who experienced a breakout year in his sophomore campaign as well, collecting a league-leading eight interceptions.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger, and just how much work he put in the offseason,” Byard said of his teammate. “Just getting his mind right, his body right, dealing with injuries last year – I think that’s just the main thing. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, he’s making plays. I talk to him all the time in the locker room about me needing to play big-time ball, and he’s been doing the same thing that he’s been [doing] all through training camp. [I’m] excited for him and to keep growing as a player this year.”

The Titans’ defense has given up its fair share of big plays this year, but they’ve slowly righted the ship within the last week and a half, especially with quarterbacks having a difficult time throwing toward Fulton.

After being integrated into a full-time role, he’s become Tennessee’s go-to man to shut down the opposing team’s No. 1 wide receivers.

In Week 2 against Seattle, Fulton allowed one reception for eight yards on five targets against DK Metcalf.

Last week, with the Colts facing a third-and-10, Fulton broke up a pass intended for Michael Pittman Jr. on what would have been a first down had the Colts’ receiver retained the ball. Pittman failed to record a catch on the two targets he saw while being covered by Fulton.

“It’s fun going against some of the top guys in the league, and just getting that opportunity each week,” Fulton said. “The coaches believe in me to face those guys, and I just wanted to put my best foot forward and just try to make as many plays as I can to help the team win.”

He limped off after the aforementioned play, which caused an initial scare, but returned for the Titans’ next defensive series. Fulton says he’ll be fine for this week against the New York Jets, though. He was limited in practice on Wednesday with an ankle issue.

“Had to play through injuries Sunday… I’ll be ready to go this Sunday,” Fulton said.

Health will be the operative word going forward. As long as Fulton can stay on the field, the sky is the limit for him.

The 23-year-old already has four pass break-ups this season, but he’s still waiting for that first interception of the year. Quarterback Zach Wilson has thrown seven interceptions thus far, so the Titans’ second-year pro has a good chance to get his first this week.

On Sunday, Fulton will be tasked with shutting down former Titan Corey Davis, who has done all the scoring for the New York Jets this season.

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