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Ryans prepares for Titans' Big 3 in Levis, Henry and Hopkins in Week 15

231213-coach

In recent weeks, the Tennessee Titans offense has come into form thanks in big part to its Big 3 – Will Levis, Derrick Henry and DeAndre Hopkins. 

The trio has led the Titans in passing, rushing and receiving in each of the last three contests entering a Week 15 showdown with AFC South rival Houston. In that span, the Titans are 2-1, the lone loss being an overtime defeat to the Colts. 

It is a trio that Texans coach DeMeco Ryans knows they have to slow down and it starts with Levis and his toughness, which was put on display during Monday Night's come-from-behind victory over the Miami Dolphins. 

In the second quarter against the Dolphins, Levis broke out of the pocket by avoiding a sack and took off. In the open field, instead of sliding to avoid a hit, the rookie quarterback lowered his shoulder against Jalen Ramsey and drove forward for a few more yards. 

"You see the toughness, the grittiness about him when he runs the ball," Ryans said. "He's not sliding all the time and guys have to be aware that he's trying to run you over at times." 

Then it's also his demeanor on the sideline, Ryans notices.

The Houston Texans held practice on Wednesday, December 13, 2023 in preparation for the Week 15 matchup against the Tennessee Titans.

After completing the eventual game-winning drive with just over a minute remaining, Levis ran back towards the Titans sideline, ripped off his helmet and screamed. He was fired up about a game he finished 23 for 38 for 327 yards, a touchdown and interception and guided the Titans to their second victory in three games. 

 "He has a very strong arm," Ryans said. "You're talking about a guy who is throwing the deep ball at a high rate. They do a really good job of connecting and he's made a lot of big plays throwing the deep ball. I like his play demeanor. You can tell he's a guy who that locker room is going to rally behind and they feel that toughness from him." 

In his last five games, Levis has passed for 1,093 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. 

On the receiving end of quite a few of those yards has been Hopkins, who made an acrobatic 45-yard catch en route to a 124-yard receiving night against the Dolphins. The last five games, Hopkins has 334 yards receiving and three scores to push him to 898 yards for the season and six scores. 

"You talk about contested catches, he's one of the best, if not, the best in the league," Ryans said of Hopkins. "He does a really good job even though he doesn't have to separate much because he has such a great catch radius and he's competitive at the catchpoint. He's also been an explosive, dynamic player in this league for a very long time. Tough matchup. He's their number one guy. A friendly target for a young quarterback to throw to.

"[DeAndre] Hopkins has made a ton of plays for them. You see the speed down the field, you see the catch radius. He's having a great year."

The final piece of this puzzle is the run game and the physicality of Henry.

The Titan's leading back, 875 yards and 10 touchdowns, has led the team in rushing in 12 of their 13 games this season and gone north of 100 yards on the ground three times. His 122-yard performance in Week 4 against Cincinnati stands as his top of the year. 

"You talk about a guy who's a very big running back," Ryans said. "Tall, physical back. Runs with the right mindset. A physical demeanor. Really love his playstyle, and it sticks out among other [running] backs around the league just how he carries the football. He's trying to finish you with bad intentions, so he's been a really good player in this league, and he's definitely a challenge for us when it comes to the run game and tackling." 

Ryans, who is a defensive coach, the key to stopping a guy like Henry starts up front in the trenches and on the edges. 

If the Texans don't allow Henry to get to the outside, where he likes to run in the open field, and force him up the middle into the teeth of Houston's line that will allow them to "play really good run defense". 

"The primary job for us this week is for our ends is to do a really great job of setting the edge and funnel the ball back inside and see how many hats can we get swarming to the football," Ryans said. 

The Texans travel to Nashville to take on the Titans on Sunday in Week 15 action. Kickoff is slated for Noon on CBS.

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