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Know Your Foe: Tennessee Titans

Remember the Titans is not just one of the great sports cinematic masterpieces of all time; this week, it’s the Texans mantra. Remember what the Titans did to you in Week 2? Remember what the Titans did to you last December? Remember what the Titans have done to you three of the last four meetings?

If you don’t, I do. 20-17 loss in Nashville. 24-13 loss in Nashville. All losses to the Titans.

That’s right, the Titans have won three of the last four against the Texans. Now, all three occurred in Nashville and Monday’s night game will be at home in NRG Stadium. Even more importantly, three different quarterbacks beaten the Texans in successive years - Matt Cassel (2016), Marcus Mariota (2017) and Blaine Gabbert (2018). It was Gabbert earlier this year that did just enough to win in Nashville. He didn’t slice and dice the Texans as much as he produced in key moments all day long. He may start. He may not. Mariota left last week’s game with a stinger/neck issue. It’s not the exact same issue that plagued him earlier this season when the Texans visited in week two. But, the similarities are a bit eerie to the week two meeting between these two teams.

No matter which Titans quarterback steps under center, he won’t have to do a ton, as long as last week’s performance in Indianapolis was an outlier for the Titans defense. Until last week, the Titans hadn’t given up more than 27 points in any game and that 27 came in week one in Miami.

So, last week’s defensive performance was way out of character as the Titans struggled throughout the day against Andrew Luck and the Colts. Now, the defense didn’t have defensive coordinator Dean Pees in that one as he went to the hospital before the game so that could be what rocked that unit in that game. The Texans moved the ball plenty against them in the last meeting, piling up 437 total yards and 21 first downs, but they couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.

Can they this time to a team perhaps still reeling from the gut punch they sustained in Indianapolis?

Without further ado, let’s review what we already know about Monday Night Football’s foe - the 2018 Tennessee Titans.
*
Schedule - Record (5 - 5)
*
L, 27-20 @ Miami Dolphins
W, 20-17 v. Houston Texans
W, 9-6 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
W, 26-23 v. Philadelphia Eagles
L, 13-12 @ Buffalo Bills
L, 21-0 v. Baltimore Ravens
L, 20-19 @ Los Angeles Chargers
W, 28-14 @ Dallas Cowboys
W, 34-10 v. New England Patriots
L, 38-10 @ Indianapolis Colts

*Titans OFFENSE
*
Rushing Yards Per game - 111.7 ypg (15th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 183.7 ypg (30th)
Total offense per game - 295.4 ypg (30th)
Turnovers lost - 12 (8 INT, 4 fumbles lost) - Titans are -3 in TO margin,T-21st in the NFL

Titans starting offense last Sunday vs. Indianapolis:
QB - Marcus Mariota (injured in last week’s game - no status update as of yet)
RB - DION LEWIS
WR - Tajae Sharpe
WR - CAMERON BATSON (Rookie)
WR - Corey Davis
TE - Jonnu Smith
LT - Taylor Lewan
LG - Quinton Spain
C - Ben Jones
RG - Josh Kline
RT - Jack Conklin

*Other Key Offensive pieces:
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QB - Blaine Gabbert (led Titans to Week 2 win over the Texans)
RB - Derrick Henry
WR - Darius Jennings
TE - ANTHONY FIRKSER

**All Caps indicates a 2018 off-season addition

*Keys to stopping the Titans Offense:
*
1. Disguises in the secondary have been key over the years against Titans quarterbacks.

2. Running back Dion Lewis must be bottled up. He’s more of an overall threat in this offense at this point than Derrick Henry (Colts held Lewis to 24 yards rushing and eight receiving...and won decisively - that’s no coincidence).

3. Win 1-on-1 matchups, in particular Lewan-Conklin vs. the Texans trio of pass rushers. Texans shouldn’t have to rely on defensive backs blitzing - that should be the gravy on the turkey, if you will (not the star, but the perfect accompaniment).

4. Don’t get lost in the smoke and mirrors - eye releases of receivers in routes and communicate to ensure all receivers are accounted for in the passing game.

5. Put the clamps on receiver Corey Davis. He worries me, given his ability to high point the ball down the field as well as his ability to make plays after the catch.

6. The edge defenders MUST be more disciplined on the edge than they were last week in Washington. They lost contain a few times in key spots and running back Adrian Peterson took advantage. The Titans backs will try the same - dart inside, get them to buy it and then dart outside.

Titans DEFENSE
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 100.0 ypg (11th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 234.9 ypg (9th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 334.9 ypg (9th)
Turnovers generated - 9 (6 INT, 3 Fumbles recovered)

*Titans starting defense last Sunday vs. Indianapolis:
*
DE - DaQuan Jones
DT - Jurrell Casey
OLB - Derrick Morgan
ILB - Wesley Woodyard
ILB - Jayon Brown
OLB - Brian Orakpo
Nickel - Adoree Jackson
CB - Logan Ryan
S - KENNY VACCARO
S - Kevin Byard
CB - Malcolm Butler

*Other Key Defensive pieces
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OLB - HAROLD LANDRY (Rookie)
OLB - KAMALEI CORREA
NT - Austin Johnson
DT - Bennie Logan
ILB - RASHAAN EVANS (Rookie)

**All Caps indicates a 2018 off-season addition

*Keys to winning v. the Titans Defense
*
1. Eliminate 99 (Jurrell Casey) - he can ruin the game with his penetration. The Colts did this throughout the game, especially with one-on-one blocks, and had a ton of success when he was thwarted.

2. Know where the potential blitzers are at all time, particularly 26 (Logan Ryan - he really hurt the Texans with blitzes the last two years when he’s at nickel).

3. Cornerback Adoree Jackson struggled mightily with T.Y. Hilton last week, so attack his confidence early and see if he’s ready to bounce back or will give up the farm.

4. Rookie pass rusher Harold Landry is an issue - give as much help and eliminate his up field pass rush path. He wants to go high, around a tackle; force him to go underneath, if anywhere, then let Deshaun Watson navigate to get more time to throw.

5. Tight ends chipping on edge players worked masterfully for the Colts last week. In fact, linebackers lost sight on tight ends when they did and Jack Doyle, in particular, was wide open.

6. Play the game in a phone booth and the Titans are right at home. But, spread them out and there are some breakdowns, especially if 99 is slowed/contained.

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