Following a week’s worth of distractions centered around head coach Urban Meyer, The Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) return home to TIAA Bank Field this Sunday, and will host the Tennessee Titans (2-2) for a 1 p.m. Eastern Time kickoff on CBS.
Will Derrick Henry run all over the Jaguars once again? What is the health status of Julio Jones and A.J. Brown? Terry answers these questions and more.
1. Running back Derrick Henry still haunts the Jaguars’ nightmares. Jacksonville has an improved rushing defense this season, but Henry usually finds a lot of success against the Jaguars. Do you expect Henry to have another big day on Sunday? Also, do you think quarterback Ryan Tannehill could take advantage of Jacksonville’s 30th-ranked passing defense?
Terry: Henry is going to get his. That’s the one constant of this offense and it’s been consistent for years, no matter who the Titans mix and match up front. It may not be pretty through two quarters, but as you guys know, Henry has a way of wearing teams down and breaking them.
The secret to Tennessee’s success was the play-action passing game, which has been lacking so far this year. It all comes down to the offensive line, which has struggled to pass protect so far this season. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of chemistry for the Titans right now, but the upside still remains.
2. The Titans were down two star wide receivers with Julio Jones and A.J. Brown both out last week, and surprisingly lost to the New York Jets in overtime. What is the current status of Brown and Jones, and if they can’t play, who will the offense rely on in the passing game?
Terry: Brown was able to return to practice in limited fashion on Wednesday, while Jones wasn’t able to go. The Titans are very aware of Julio’s age and what happened last year, so they’ve been playing it very conservative with him all year. I’m not exactly sure what to read into him sitting out practice, honestly.
Clearly, the Titans have to have these guys. Tennessee’s general manager Jon Robinson missed on the wide receiver No. 3-No. 6 spot for the Titans, and you saw them roll with Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Josh Reynolds and Cam Batson last week. Brutal. That combined with offensive line issues isn’t a good combo.
3. The AFC South looks like a poor division so far this season, Tennessee is likely still the frontrunner to win the division crown, but how do you see the Titans’ season playing out in 2021 (number of wins, division title, Wild Card playoff, miss the playoffs, etc.)?
Terry: It kind of feels like the Titans will eventually figure it out by default, right? They’re still the most talented team in the division, which isn’t saying a whole lot. Hopefully they’ll get healthy soon. It still does seem like the Titans take the division, but there isn’t much confidence in their ability to do anything after that.
4. How do Titans fans view Mike Vrabel and his coaching staff? Is the feeling generally positive or negative?
Terry: That’s a really interesting question to answer. Vrabel has won during his time here, but there’s some question as to how much of a difference he’s made. He’s routinely stayed in-house with this coordinator hires, and so far in 2021 those decisions aren’t looking great. Has Vrabel established a culture in Nashville? Absolutely. But there was some real frustration with holding firm on his defensive staff after such a dreadful 2020.
Long story short, Vrabel seems like a middle of the road type coach at this point that doesn’t make much of an X’s and O’s difference. After last week, he’s feeling some heat for the first time in a couple of years.
5. So far this season, it seems Tennessee’s defense has been stout against the run, but struggles against the pass, and ranks toward the middle of the league in total defense. Who are the players to watch on defense, and is the key to Jacksonville’s success on Sunday through Trevor Lawrence and the passing game?
Terry: First things first, one thing to watch defensively is whether or not Bud Dupree is able to go after missing last week. First-round pick Caleb Farley has also been out, battling a shoulder injury. Just like the offense, injuries have really hindered us from seeing the defense at full strength to this point.
So far, Harold Landry has seemed to put it all together this year. The Titans have been creative with him, lining him up at off-ball linebacker along with his traditional edge spot. He’s been able to generate pressure in a variety of ways, so that’s one guy to really look out for if you’re Trevor Lawrence. Another guy that has made a big leap is second-year cornerback Kristian Fulton, who has clearly become the Titans No. 1 option at cornerback.
Still, beyond Fulton, this cornerback room is beatable. Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins, Chris Jackson, Breon Borders and rookie Caleb Farley don’t really strike fear into anyone. So absolutely, my plan would be to turn Trevor Lawrence loose and see what happens.
Bonus: Score prediction?
Terry: At the risk of getting burned for a second week in a row, I’ll say it’s a good thing the Titans have the Jaguars on the schedule here. I can’t imagine the Titans are the total focus of the organization this week with everything going on with Urban Meyer. Furthermore, Vrabel has an easy refocus point here after an embarrassing loss to the Jets.
Meyer’s spiral continues and the Titans bounce back.
Titans 27, Jaguars 16
A huge thank you to Terry for taking the time to provide his thoughts and insights into Tennessee. Follow Terry on Twitter, and to keep up with what’s going on with the rival Titans, be sure to follow Music City Miracles as well.