By: Justin Hawkins
“You can only talk so much, you’ve got to go out there and do it. We are at the point where talking should be over, we’ve got to produce. That’s how you win in this league.”
-Titans RB Derrick Henry
The Tennessee Titans struggled in every facet of the game Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they fell 20-6 and lost their second straight game. The Titans (3-6) cannot dwell on the loss too much as they face another tough road test this week as they face AFC South foe and the division leading Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3).
Last Time Out
Another road game made for another road loss for the Tennessee Titans as they were stifled in Tampa as they fell 20-6. The loss brings up two straight and their record to 3-6 on the season for the Titans. They seemingly could not get out of their own way offensively or defensively, while the Bucs were able to manage the game well and snap their 4-game losing skid. The Bucs outgained the Titans by 131 yards, 340 to 209.
Titans quarterback Will Levis was forced under pressure the majority of the game as the offensive line struggles continued once again. Levis, 19-of-39 for 199 yards and an interception, was sacked 4 times, hit 13 times, and pressured 19 times. Will Levis was also blitzed the most in the NFL Sunday at 25 times. The offensive line for the Titans was injury riddled as they were missing tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, who was put on injured reserve late last week, and Daniel Brunskill, who has an ankle injury. Chris Hubbard returned from a concussion, Andre Dillard started at left tackle, and Dillon Radunz started at right guard. During the first half, Dillard exited the game and would not return due to a concussion. Radunz swapped over to left tackle and Andrew Rupcich subbed in a right guard.
The offense went stale and mistakes were made. Levis had some overthrows, receivers had dropped passes (one of which to Chig Okonkwo in the end zone was nearly picked off), little to no run game, and Levis threw an interception in the fourth quarter as he was hit (the ball lofted in the air and right to a defender). The Titans managed just 42 rushing yards, Henry with 24 yards on 11 carries and Spears with 18 yards on 5 carries.
The Titans defense did a better job this week. They were able to get to Baker Mayfield for 4 sacks and did not allow 100 yards rushing for the first time in four games. However, the pass defense, despite an early interception on the Bucs first possession, allowed Mayfield to 278 yards passing and two touchdowns. Both touchdowns were over 20 yard plays. Rachaad White took a short pass for a 43 yard touchdown in the second quarter, and Mike Evans caught a 22 yard pass in the third quarter. The Titans got their first interception since week 6 in London against Baltimore as Roger McCreary made a nice jump on a Baker Mayfield pass.
The struggles were not just on offense and defense as Titans kicker Nick Folk missed his first field goal of the year on a 51 yarder that came up short and right. The game was far from Folk’s fault, however, but it was fitting as it was just that kind of day for the Titans.
Speaking of struggles, the Jacksonville Jaguars had their worst performance of their season Sunday as they hosted the San Francisco 49ers and were trampled 34-3.
The 49ers dominated both lines of scrimmage and controlled the game starting on the opening drive. Jacksonville has one of the league’s top run defenses, but were leaky Sunday allowing 144 rushing yards. The Niners on defense were not going to allow much of anything for Trevor Lawrence and company as they sacked Lawrence five times, intercepted him twice, and forced two fumbles. The Niners outgained the Jags by 216 yards, 437 to 221. 49er quarterback Brock Purdy found his rhythm again going 19/26 for 296 yards and three touchdowns.
Trevor Lawrence went 17/29 for 185 yards, 2 interceptions, and added a fumble on a Nick Bosa strip sack. Lawrence found his wide receiver Christian Kirk six times for 104 yards. Jags running star running back Travis Etienne Jr. was only able to rush for 35 yards on the day. Jacksonville’s lone score came late in the second quarter via a Brandon McManus 37 yard field goal.
Jacksonville’s defense has been solid, especially their front seven, but it was no match against San Francisco Sunday. They managed two sacks, both by linebacker Foyesade Oluokun.
Jacksonville’s loss snapped a 5-game winning streak and fell to 6-3 on the season.
The Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars have faced 57 times in their storied history with just one of those meetings coming in the playoffs where the Titans won to take them to the Super Bowl in 2000. The Titans lead the Jaguars 33-23 during the regular season and are 16-13 when facing them in Jacksonville.
We all remember how the last matchup ended up between these two teams, a playoff berth and AFC South division title on the line in week 18 last year. The Titans came up short on a questionable strip sack call on quarterback Joshua Dobbs that the Jags scooped up for a touchdown. This 2023 Titans team is quite a bit different than last years, but the rivalry and intensity remains the same. This week will be the first time edge rusher Arden Key returns to his old stomping grounds in Jacksonville, so a revenge game could be on deck.
The Jaguars, after a slow start to the season, have become one of the top teams in the AFC and sit alone atop the AFC South at 6-3 on the season. With quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne Jr. leading the offense, the Titans defense will have a lot to handle. Lawrence, this season, has plenty of weapons in the passing game that will give defenses fits. Wide receivers Christian Kirk and Calvin Ridley provide a dangerous one-two punch that the Titans will have to be careful about double teaming because tight end Evan Engram can also torch defenses as well and the Titans know a thing or two about that. Engram has 264 yards receiving on 23 catches in three games versus the Titans.
The Jaguars defense is no slouch either. Edge rusher Josh Allen has 9 sacks this season in 9 games. Linebackers Devin Lloyd and Foyesade Oluokun are tackling machines and great run defenders. If the Titans want to have any success running the football, they will have to find a way to master the line of scrimmage.
For the Titans, they are still looking for their first road victory on the season. It will have to start and end with the play of the offensive line. Rookie quarterback Will Levis has played just three games and has already been sacked 10 times and pressured 59 times on 118 dropbacks. That means Levis is pressured on exactly 50% of his dropbacks. The offensive line has not allowed time in the pocket for Levis to throw, nor has it allowed the running backs room to get up the field. The Titans still need more out of their receivers, but Kyle Philips is slowly becoming a helpful target for Levis as he has led the Titans in receiving two straight weeks. Tight end Chig Okonkwo continues his struggles with securing the football, so it is about time to start giving the rookie Josh Whyle more looks.
The Titans defense will have its work cut out for them, but if the defensive front can keep getting more pressure on the quarterback then they could do some damage. The resurgence of linebacker Harold Landry has helped, who know has five sacks on the season after getting a sack on Sunday versus the Bucs.
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Time: November 19 @ 12:00 PM CT
Location: TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, FL)
TV Broadcast: CBS (News Channel 5 Locally)
TV Broadcast Crew: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta, Amanda Renner
Radio: Titans Radio (104-5 The Zone)
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Ramon Foster, Rhett Bryan
Referee: Brad Rogers
Line: JAX -7.0
Things To Watch
Titans O-line vs. Jags Defensive Front
The Titans offensive line has been the sore spot in a struggling season for the team, but just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse it does just that. With Andre Dillard, concussion, and Daniel Brunskill, ankle, questionable to play Sunday, options are limited for a team that already lacks depth at the position. It may be time for the Titans to play rookie 6th round pick Jaelyn Duncan at left tackle as he may be the only other option since Dillon Radunz struggled last week. Against this Jacksonville defensive front behind edge Josh Allen, it may be another long day for the Titans offensive line and Will Levis. The line of scrimmage battle will be a key factor in this game for the Titans
Will Levis Get The Ball Out Early
With the struggles week to week on the offensive line and Will Levis making his way in the NFL, a smart game plan option for the Titans may be to be quicker on offense and getting rid of the ball quicker. Rookie running back Tyjae Spears has been as advertised as he makes crucial plays each week. The run game behind this offensive line has tapered off, but quicker passes out to Spears could take some pressure off Levis and this offense. Also, with Philips becoming a bit more of a feature in the slot, he would be a good option to dump it off to for quick yards.
Derrick Henry vs. Jags
In his career against Jacksonville, Derrick Henry has rushed for 1,373 yards on 260 carries in 13 games. Some of his biggest performances have come against the Jaguars. While the offense and Henry is not the same as it once was, featuring him has still provided success this season. Solid blocking up front and establishing the run early could prove vital come Sunday.
Force Trevor Lawrence To Throw
This season, Jacksonville in the NFL is 23rd EPA/play, 20th in yards per play, 25th in third down conversion rate, and 29th in red zone touchdown conversion. Running back Travis Etienne Jr. has 7 touchdowns. Limiting the run and forcing the ball into Lawrence’s hand could even the playing field a little bit with the Titans corners playing better as of late. Lawrence is a good quarterback, but he is still not one of the elite passers in the league. The Titans will need to bring their A-game in run defense.