When the Tennessee Titans (8-3) take on the Cleveland Browns (8-3) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Sunday, it will mark the fifth consecutive start for second-year cornerback Breon Borders. Three months ago, few NFL observers could have envisioned where Borders is now: starting opposite former New England Patriots CB Malcolm Butler—and thriving.
At the beginning of the 2020 season, Borders was just trying to catch on with an NFL team. After signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers on April 16th, he had a chance to make an impression on Steelers coaches at training camp, but was released in August to make room for second-year CB Justin Layne (when Layne came off the Reserve/COVID-19 list).
Breon Borders’ Path to a Starting Job with the Titans
After a tryout with the Buffalo Bills and then a mid-September tryout with the Titans, Borders was added to Tennessee’s practice squad on September 21st. Then he got sidetracked by a stint on the Reserve/COVID-19 list—and tested positive for the virus—so it wasn’t until October 31st that he was elevated from the practice squad. Finally, he was signed to Tennessee’s active roster on November 7th, where he has remained ever since, taking advantage of an opportunity created by an injury to Adoree’ Jackson and the mid-season release of aging veteran Johnathan Joseph.
In the five games Borders has played for the Titans (four starts) he has been credited with 21 total tackles (18 solo), along with three passes defensed and an interception, the latter a nifty catch of an errant pass from Indianapolis Colts QB Philip Rivers.
Most notably, perhaps, Borders has only allowed 19 completions on 39 targets (48.7%) for 191 yards. Moreover, Pro Football Focus (PFF) has him as its fifth highest-rated corner in the NFL over the past five weeks—and the eighth highest-rated cornerback in the NFL. Each week, it seems, Borders has offered a standout performance. For example, after Week 9, he was named to PFF’s Team of the Week, alongside Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Over the summer, Borders told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com about the approach he was taking in an effort to make it in the NFL, part of which included being an early-riser.
“I just try to have one up on my competition,” he said. “I try to win small battles. I try to be the first one up. If I am up before my competition, I have a head start on them for the day.”
Breon Borders’ NFL Journey
But until the past month or so, his efforts hadn’t really paid off, though he did appear in 12 games last year for Washington, recording five solo tackles, with most of his action coming on special-teams.
Since signing as an undrafted free agent with the Raiders in 2017, he has also spent time with the Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, mostly on the practice squads of those teams.
Now he looks like he could become a fixture in Nashville and realize the NFL potential he exhibited during most of his career at Duke, until a staph infection suffered during his senior year cost him any chance of getting drafted.
For Borders, it has simply come down to getting a real opportunity to exhibit his skills.
“I have bounced around the league a little bit and bow I am getting a chance to showcase what I can do,” he said.
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