Know Your Foe: Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans were the flavor du jour in the NFL heading into the 2017 campaign. MMQB legend Peter King ranked them 4th...overall in the NFL in his inaugural power rankings. Pro Football Focus went one step higher and ranked them 3rd in the league. Through three games, the Titans have certainly not disappointed those pollsters. From the second half of the win over Jacksonville through the third quarter of last week, no team was as dangerous as the Titans. In those five quarters, the Titans scored 61 points, including 21 in the third quarter after trailing the Seahawks 14-9. This team is streaky, to say the least, but when it's hot, look out. They've produced 14, 17 and 21 point quarters that helped flip the last two games in their favor

It's that big play capability that makes them as dangerous as any team the Texans are going to face on offense this year. The defense has not been as productive, but with Dick LeBeau calling the signals, there's no telling what kind of defensive concoction he'll come up with on Sunday against rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.

And, for good measure, the Titans are 1-0 in the division, with that win coming on the road against Jacksonville, the team that beat Houston at home in its opener. To say this is an important game is a bit of an understatement. So, let's get to know the Tennessee Titans, 2017 version.

TEAM
2-1 (1-0 in the AFC South)
L, 26-16 Oakland Raiders
W, 37-16 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
W, 33-26 Seattle Seahawks

OFFENSE
2017 Team Profile (3 games)
Rush offense - 156.3 ypg (2nd in the league)
Passing offense - 230.3 ypg (16th)
Total offense - 386.7 ypg (5th)
Scoring - 28.7 ppg (6th)
3rd Down Percentage conversion - 41.5% (11th)
Giveaways - 1 - 1 INT (T2nd in least giveaways in NFL)

2016 Team Profile
Rush offense - 136.7 ypg (3rd in the league)
Passing offense - 221.3 ypg (25th)
Total offense - 358.0 ypg (11th)
Scoring - 23.8 ppg (14th)
3rd Down Percentage conversion - 46.1% (3rd)
Giveaways - 18 - 11 INT, 7 Fumbles (T11th in least giveaways in NFL)

This was the starting lineup the Titans used in Week 17 in their win over the Texans in Nashville.
WR - Rishard Matthews
TE - Anthony Fasano
LT - Taylor Lewan
LG - Quinton Spain
C - Ben Jones
RG - Josh Kline
RT - Jack Conklin
WR - Harry Douglas
QB - Matt Cassel
TE - Dennis Kelly (OT)
RB - DeMarco Murray

This is the projected starting lineup for the Titans on Sunday against the Texans
WR - Rishard Matthews
TE - DELANIE WALKER
LT - Taylor Lewan
LG - Quinton Spain
C - Ben Jones
RG - Josh Kline
RT - Jack Conklin
QB - MARCUS MARIOTA
WR - ERIC DECKER
WR - COREY DAVIS/TAYWAN TAYLOR
RB - DeMarco Murray

**ALL CAPS indicate a new projected starter in 2017

Key Offensive non-starters
RB - Derrick Henry
FB - Jalston Fowler
TE - Jonnu Smith
OT - Dennis Kelly

Most significant TITANS offensive addition in the offseason: The wide receiver corps needed a shot in the arm and it got exactly that with the additions of rookie Corey Davis, Eric Decker and multi-purpose threat Taywan Taylor. Davis has been nursing a bad ankle and missed the Seahawks game, but he's the real deal and will be a star in due time for the Titans. Decker is steady and Taylor can be utilized in a number of different ways. After the performance of the Patriots receivers in week three, this could be most problematic matchup for the Texans on Sunday afternoon.

What's the biggest concern for the TEXANS defense facing the TENNESSEE offense?
Multiplicity. There are so many different wrinkles in this Titans offense, led by Marcus Mariota, many of them driven by Mariota. It can run designed quarterback runs with Mariota. He can scramble out of the pocket on his own. Henry and Murray can be in the backfield together. Delanie Walker is a huge threat, as is rookie tight end Jonnu Smith, who had a touchdown catch against the Seahawks last Sunday.

What's the biggest concern for the TITANS offense facing the HOUSTON defense?
Are Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin able to block the Texans edge stars effectively? That's the ballgame for them. If they can, the offense will be able to do whatever it wants play in and play out. Mariota struggled in his last matchup with the Texans, throwing no touchdowns with one interception.

Now, Mariota has only faced the Houston defense once in his career since joining the league in 2015. Is that an advantage for him or one for the Houston defense? I can see it both ways, but the Texans discipline in rushing Mariota every single time he drops to throw is absolutely necessary.

DEFENSE
2017 Team Profile (3 games)
Rush defense - 92.3 ypg (16th in the league)
Passing defense - 275.0 ypg (26th)
Total defense - 367.3 ypg (27th)
Scoring Allowed - 23.0 ppg (22nd)
3rd Down Percentage conversion allowed - 38.5% (16th best)
Takeaways - 3 - 2 INT, 1 Recovery (T15th most takeaways in NFL)

2016 Team Profile
Rush defense - 88.3 ypg (2nd in the league)
Passing defense - 269.2 ypg (30th)
Total defense - 357.5 ypg (20th)
Scoring Allowed - 23.6 ppg (16th)
3rd Down Percentage conversion allowed - 36.7% (6th best)
Takeaways - 18 - 12 INT, 6 Recoveries (T23rd most takeaways in NFL)

This was the starting lineup the Titans used in week 17 in their win over the Texans in Nashville.
DE - DaQuan Jones
NT - Al Woods
DT - Jurrell Casey
OLB - Derrick Morgan
ILB - Wesley Woodyard
ILB - Avery Williamson
OLB - Brian Orakpo
CB - Brice McCain
S - Da'Norris Searcy
S - Kevin Byard
CB - LeShaun Sims

This is the projected starting lineup for the Titans on Sunday when they come to NRG Stadium.
DE - DaQuan Jones
NT - SYLVESTER WILLIAMS
DT - Jurrell Casey
OLB - Derrick Morgan
ILB - Wesley Woodyard
ILB - Avery Williamson
OLB - Brian Orakpo
CB - LOGAN RYAN
S - Kevin Byard
S - JONATHAN CYPRIEN
CB - LeShaun Sims

**ALL CAPS indicate a new projected starter in 2017

Key Defensive non-starters
DE - Kevin Dodd
CB - Adoree Jackson
S - Da'Norris Searcy
NT - Austin Johnson

Most significant TITANS defensive addition in the offseason: The Titans most significant needs after the 2016 season were at receiver (see above) and cornerback (see...well, right now). Logan Ryan was added via free agency after winning a second championship with New England and Adoree Jackson was added through the Draft. The Titans had two first round picks and drafted Corey Davis (see above) at No. 5 and Jackson later in the first round.

Ryan is a steady, veteran starter that gives the Titans plenty of experience in the biggest games, while Jackson is as athletic as any cornerback the Texans will face this year. He's also only played three games in his NFL career. It's a much more athletic and productive crew at cornerback than the Titans have had in years.

What's the biggest concern for the TITANS defense facing the HOUSTON offense?
Can it stop or contain Deshaun Watson's playmaking ability? If the Texans have Will Fuller back for this game, then his speed could be an issue for the Titans as it was in the matchup last year.

What's the biggest concern for the TEXANS offense facing this TENNESSEE defense?
Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is more than willing to spin the dial, meaning he's not scared to take chances and mix up his coverages, fronts, stunts and blitzes, especially with a rookie quarterback on the other side of the ball.

Defensive end Jurrell Casey has always been a thorn in the side of the Texans and can create mayhem no matter where aligns in the defensive scheme. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo is disruptive off the edge and with better secondary play, he can be even more of a factor for this defense.

The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 3/2/2021)

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