Outside linebacker Bud Dupree's confidence is at an all-time high heading into his second year as a Titan, and he's ready to take his gameplay up a notch.
"My confidence is at a different level (now). And that's what it takes to play the game -- having confidence can help take things to a different level," Dupree said after minicamp this week, via the team's website.
Dupree arrived in Tennessee last March after spending the first six years of his career in Pittsburgh. The Titans took a chance on Dupree, signing him to a five-year, $82.5 million contract, despite the fact that the he was only three months removed from a torn ACL. While his 2021 season was average, the 29-year-old edge rusher said that with a year with the team under his belt, he feels a new kind of confidence that he believes will show in his gameplay.
"It feels way different," Dupree said. "I don't have to get used to things anymore. I already know the routine, and I know the vibe. And you feel more comfortable, you play more comfortable."
A big part of the confidence boost is not just getting used to the system, but also getting his knee healthy. A second offseason of workouts has done its job, and Dupree said he's fully recovered from the 2020 injury.
"I feel like the knee is all the way back," Dupree said. "All I need to do is stay on top of it and maintain. But it feels way different. It feels way better.
"The focus this offseason has been getting my mobility back in my knee, getting my bend back in my stance, power off the ball, as well as turning the corner better and getting low at the top of the rush. Those are things that were fundamental prior to the injury, but you've got to make sure you continue to do those things coming back to retrain the brain."
Despite dealing with a knee that was not 100 percent and a mid-season abdominal injury in 2021, Dupree managed to play in 11 games with six starts for the Titans, recording three sacks, 17 tackles, and 15 quarterback pressures. There were glimpses of his potential production late in the season, including a sack of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow during the Divisional Round, one of nine the Titans defense racked up in the loss. Despite the game's result, Dupree said he felt more like himself that game than he had all season.
Before the knee injury, Dupree had recorded 39.5 sacks as a Steeler, including a career-high 11.5 in 2019, his last fully healthy season. So combine that history with a newly recovered knee and the confidence that is gained through a season of work with a new team, and Dupree's ceiling for the 2022 season could be very high.
The confidence Dupree feels has also been evident to his team as offseason workouts ramp up, with head coach Mike Vrabel saying that he is excited to see Dupree in training camp, where the increased physicality will really showcase his efforts.
In addition, outside linebackers coach Ryan Crow said he can see how much getting healthy helped Dupree improve, and said he could see him get even stronger through the rest of the offseason as he continues to work with the team.
"I love where his mindset is right now, and I love how he's feeling," Crow said. "For Bud, this is going to be a huge offseason, a huge training camp coming up, just to get back in the scheme of things. Year 2 for any player should be better with the scheme and he should be better and more comfortable in the system. We'll just keep pressing."