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5 Questions with Music City Miracles: How have the Titans adjusted to life without Derrick Henry?

Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The struggling Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) travel to Nashville this weekend to take on the rival Tennessee Titans (8-4) at Nissan Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. The game will broadcast on CBS.

The Titans have lost start running back Derrick Henry for much of the regular season, and are coming off of a bye week. To give us the full picture on where Tennessee currently stands, we reached out to Terry Lambert of Music City Miracles once again.

How has Tennessee’s offense looked without Henry? Why have the Titans struggled on defense? Is Julio Jones going to play this week? Terry provides his thoughts on these questions and more.

1. Tennessee’s offensive identity is of course built around running back Derrick Henry. How have the Titans adjusted to life without Henry, and has the offense struggled or looked fine?

Terry: Honestly, not great. Henry’s injury is just the tip of the iceberg for the Titans. Following that situation, the team went on to lose Julio Jones, A.J. Brown, Bud Dupree, Rashaan Evans, David Long and a handful of other starters. A ton has been put on quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s plate, and he’s been forced to play with practice-squad level talent at receiver. As you can imagine, it’s been a bumpy ride with Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chester Rogers and D’Onta Foreman as starters at skill positions.

No team in the league needed a bye week more than Tennessee, and thankfully the Titans should be getting some bodies back this week.

2. The Titans recently designated Julio Jones to return from the injured reserve list. Do you expect Jones to actually play this week, and if so, does he give the offense a boost? Are there any other key injuries Jaguars fans should be aware of ahead of Sunday?

Terry: Julio has been hurt since training camp and we’ve really only seen him healthy for one game this season. A nagging hammy has kept him under wraps for most of the year, and the Titans finally decided to shut him down for a few weeks. His potential return is big with A.J. Brown out, just to get some sort of threat back on the field. Still, he and Tannehill haven’t connected too many times this year, so I’m not expecting a ton here assuming he goes.

The Titans injury report is…long. Most notably, A.J Brown and Bud Dupree remain on short-term IR. They’ve been down four starters in the front seven for the past few weeks, along with all the offensive issues we talked about above. We’ll have a better idea of who’ll be back on Friday.

3. Defensively, the Titans have struggled, at least statistically, against the pass. Tennessee ranks 26th against the pass (256.3 yards allowed per game) and allows 24.2 points per game (23rd). Meanwhile, the Jaguars have one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL, ranking 26th at 201.8 yards per game, and also have the second-worst scoring offense in the league (15 points per game). How do you see this matchup playing out in the passing game? Is this a secondary Trevor Lawrence can finally have a breakout game against?

Terry: Again, thanks in some part to injuries, the Titans have been kind of hit or miss defensively. They’ve had a couple of huge moments creating turnovers, but they do surrender yardage. Missing Dupree is obviously going to help Lawrence, as the Jaguars should be able to key in on Harold Landry and Jeffery Simmons in pass protection. Cornerback No. 2 Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins missed practice on Thursday, so that could potentially become an issue, especially with a potential lack of pass rush.

Lawrence will have a chance to put up yards, just as the Patriots’ Mac Jones did two weeks ago. With 14 days to prepare though, expect some new wrinkles from this Tennessee defense.

4. I had asked you a similar question before the early season matchup, but now into Week 14, and with an 8-4 record, what is the ceiling for this Titans team? Can Tennessee make a playoff run, even if Henry doesn’t return at any point?

Terry: If Henry doesn’t return, there isn’t much hope.

If he does return, and it’s starting to feel like he might, this team can win the AFC if it can catch a break on the injury front. It’s crazy to say with the Titans sitting at 8-4, but we haven’t seen this offense at full strength yet. There’s another level to them, and we’re all just hoping we get a chance to see it.

In a year that seems to be lacking a run-away favorite in the conference, a Derrick Henry-led Titans team could be pretty dangerous.

5. Coming off the bye week, what do you want to see the Titans improve upon most against the Jaguars?

Terry: Ryan Tannehill has to be better. I’ve defended him for most of the season considering the hand he’s been dealt, but with no A.J. Brown, a dinged up Julio Jones and no Henry, Tennessee has to be able to lean on its quarterback. There’s a limit to what you can do throwing to what he’s throwing to, but he was awful against the Patriots and even worse against the Texans.

Tannehill needs a bounce-back moment on Sunday.

6. Score prediction?

Terry: Mike Vrabel is 3-0 coming off of bye weeks and 3-0 against the spread, too. The Titans are going to get some key pieces back here, and I think they take care of business.

24-13, Titans

Thank you once again to Terry for re-connecting with us and providing great insights into Tennessee. You can follow Terry on Twitter, and to keep up with what is going on with the AFC South rival Titans, be sure to follow Music City Miracles as well.