After a 5-4 start, punctuated with an impressive win over the Patriots, the Tennessee Titans looked like a good bet to make the postseason. However, they’ve lost their last two and will practically fall out of the race altogether if they can’t beat the Jets. Let’s break down their roster.
Marcus Mariota is back at the helm for the Titans having missed a few games earlier in the year. He’s only thrown nine touchdown passes this year, but he’s coming off a 300-yard game where he completed 22 of 23 passes to elevate his completion percentage over 70 percent. However, the Titans still lost by 17.
Mariota is a threat with his legs and while he’s not been running as much as in the past (283 yards, two touchdowns), the Titans might see the Jets as susceptible to read action-type plays this weekend.
The backup is Blaine Gabbert, who quarterbacked the team to a win over the Texans in one of his two starts earlier this year.
Tennessee’s offensive line has been intact over the last month. Right tackle Jack Conklin, who missed the start of the season, and left tackle Taylor Lewan provide the team with a valuable set of bookends. They’ve only given up two sacks each this year, although the pro bowler Lewan leads the team with five offensive penalties.
The Titans have been more susceptible to inside pressure as center Ben Jones and guards Quinton Spain and Josh Kline have give up nine sacks between them. Kline is probably the weak link on the line, as he’s given up the most pressure and has the lowest run blocking grade.
Off the bench, Dennis Kelly has done a decent job as the backup tackle. Corey Levin is the first guy off the bench on the interior.
The Titans have a classic two-pronged attack with big back Derrick Henry and scatback Dion Lewis sharing the workload. However, they’ve not had consistent success this year.
Henry is the team’s leading rusher and also leads them with four rushing touchdowns. However, Lewis is only six yards behind him. Lewis has only averaged 3.3 yards per carry though, although he does have 43 catches. Henry himself is only averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
Corey Davis is the team’s best pass catching threat as he leads them with 49 receptions and over 700 receiving yards. Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor have 43 catches between them in support. Sharpe brings nice size, while Taylor is a good athlete.
At tight end, the Titans were weakened when Delaine Walker landed on injured reserve early in the year. Their most productive receiver at tight end is Jonnu Smith, who has three receiving touchdowns, while Luke Stocker is mostly a blocker.
Two players who were briefly Jets - receiver Darius Jennings and tight end Anthony Firkser - have made some contributions off the bench.
The Titans are regarded as a 3-4 team, although they will often run four man fronts with their outside linebackers playing defensive end roles in sub-packages.
Jurrell Casey is their leader on the line. He’s a dominant run defender and is also disruptive against the pass with 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles and could be headed to his fourth straight pro bowl.
DaQuan Jones is another solid piece at defensive end, while youngster Austin Johnson provides some beef at nose tackle with veteran Bennie Logan backing him up.
Other than Casey, the player who has generated the most pressure is rookie Harold Landry, although he’s listed as a reserve behind veterans Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo. Kamelei Correa is another productive reserve.
The Titans have actually had more success generating sacks from blitzing linebackers this year. Jayon Brown leads the team with five, while Wesley Woodyard has also contributed 3.5 in addition to being the leading tackler.
First round rookie Rashaan Evans rookie has been limited to a backup role so far. The Titans haven’t received much production from their rookie class, having only made four picks, one of whom didn’t make the roster.
In addition to Evans, Will Compton - a former starter in Washington - brings some experience off the bench.
At cornerback, two former Patriots are listed as the starters and they’re having differing fortunes. Logan Ryan has had a decent year, but Malcolm Butler has given up a completion on over 70 percent of his targets, having previously been below 60 percent in every other season. He’s also been beaten for seven touchdowns.
The athletic youngster Adoree’ Jackson gets plenty of playing time as the third cornerback.
At safety, Kevin Byard is coming off an all-pro year which saw him rack up eight interceptions and 16 passes defensed, but he has just two interceptions and four passes defensed so far this year. He’s tied for the team lead in interceptions with Jackson though.
Kenny Vaccaro is the other starter at safety and Kendrick Lewis comes off the bench as the third safety.
Six of the Titans’ first seven games were one-score games this year, so kicker Ryan Succop has played a key role in their success. He made two game winners and then had another potential game-winner only for the defense to give up the winning score as time expired. However, he’s missed three field goals, including one in a one-point loss.
Pro bowler Brett Kern is fourth in average but also third in total return yardage given up, so he can outkick his coverage.
In the return game, Jackson handles punts while Jennings returns kickoffs. Jennings had a touchdown earlier in the season.
The Titans also got a special teams touchdown on a fake punt, as Byard threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to reserve safety Dane Cruikshank, who also leads the team in special teams tackles. However, Cruikshank is out of Sunday’s game. Another reserve safety, Brynden Trawick, went to the pro bowl as a specialist last year.