JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Titans face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night at TIAA Bank Field.
Here’s a look at six things to watch:
Marcus Mariota has four touchdowns and zero interceptions in two games this season. His passer rating for the year is a very respectable 112.8, good enough for 6th in the NFL – directly behind Patriots QB Tom Brady. But the Titans quarterback has been under fire this week following the team’s offensive struggles in Sunday’s loss to the Colts. Mariota didn’t have his best game vs Indy – he appeared to hold the ball too long on occasion, and he failed to deliver it to his playmakers enough. Mariota has had some big moments vs. the Jaguars in his career, including an 87-yard touchdown run, and a famous stiff-arm of Barry Church. Will he do something special on Thursday night?
Speaking of stiff arms. … No one will forget running back Derrick Henry’s performance against the Jaguars in December of 2018. Henry ran for 238 yards and four touchdowns, including a 99-yard yard when he stiff-armed three Jaguars off of him. Henry leads the NFL with 750 rushing yards over the last six weeks, and he’s off to a nice start this year, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. The Titans need to be able to get the ball in his hands even more and let him work.
One of the biggest reasons Henry has just 34 carries on the season is because of the team’s woes on third down. The Titans have converted just 3-of-20 third downs this season, including 1-of-10 last week against the Colts. As Titans coach Mike Vrabel pointed out this week, the Titans have been faced with third-and-10 or more on 13 of their 20 third down attempts, which has made it difficult. Against the Jaguars, the Titans need to be able to sustain drives, so having success on third down is key. Getting the ball to Adam Humphries not just on third down, but on early downs, would probably help.
Slow Down Fournette
The Titans have missed too many tackles, and they’ve allowed too many yards so far this season in run defense. The team is currently ranked 26th vs. the run, allowing 134.5 yards per game. The Titans allowed 167 rushing yards on Sunday, including a 55-yard run by Colts running back Jordan Wilkins that set up the winning score in the closing minutes. With a rookie quarterback, the Jaguars will likely try to ride running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette hasn’t really gotten rolling so far (28 carries, 113 yards). Now’s not the time to let it happen.
Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees laughed when asked how he might handle Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, who will be making just his second NFL start. Some defensive coordinators send the house at rookies, while others sit back and try to confuse them. “You really I’d tell you what we’re going to do?,” a smiling Pees said this week. “Seriously?” I’m expecting the Titans to mix pressure while also disguising some things on defense. In a perfect world, the Titans will be able to frustrate Minshew with sacks and turnovers. But that’s just me – Pees didn’t tell me the plan either.
Big Plays Downfield
It sounds like Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey will play on Thursday night. Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye’s status, however, is unclear because of a hip injury. He's listed as questionable. The Titans can only control what they can control. Making more big plays downfield is something that would be nice, because it would open up the entire offense. Receiver Corey Davis has been too quiet so far, and the Titans haven’t done much to stretch the field. On Thursday night, will that change? It sure needs to.
Titans running back Derrick Henry carries 17 times for a franchise-record 238 yards and four touchdowns in Tennessee's 30-9 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football in 2018.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Jacksonville Jaguars.