The Tennessee Titans’ offensive line will face a stiff identity test against the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive line on Sunday. Keith Carter’s unit is coming off their most disappointing performance of the season in last week’s 20-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals’ defensive line was tougher than Tennessee’s offensive line.
Physicality is Mike Vrabel’s bread and butter. That begins up front with an offensive line that is supposed to spearhead a run-heavy attack that features franchise running back Derrick Henry. Throughout Vrabel’s tenure as Tennessee’s head coach, it’s been rare to witness them lose the trench battle. But make no mistake, that’s exactly what happened versus the Bengals.
There’s no rest for the wicked. Tennessee’s offensive line must rebound against what’s arguably their stiffest opponent of the campaign. The Eagles’ defensive line is a deep unit that possesses an abundance of depth. The perceived return of Ben Jones at center will help. Jones’ return will kick Aaron Brewer back to left guard while sending Dillon Radunz to the bench. Both Brewer and Radunz struggled mightily against the Bengals. Jones provides a massive boost in both the toughness and leadership departments.
Jones will be required to restore faith in a dwindling unit. The 10-1 Eagles won’t let up. They’re legitimate Super Bowl contenders for a reason. The majority of the threat Philadelphia’s defensive line poses comes through the interior. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave has recorded 7.0 sacks this season. Hargrave is one of the league’s best pass-rushing interior D-linemen. He’s not quite Jeffery Simmons good, but he’s extremely good and productive nonetheless. Fellow D-tackle Fletcher Cox is past his prime, but still reserves plenty of juice left in his tank. A six-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, Cox has accounted for 4.0 sacks this season. Sophomore small schooler Milton Williams has received a bump in playing time and has 2.0 sacks under his belt.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the Eagles can’t rush Ryan Tannehill off the edges. They can. First-year free-agent signing Haason Reddick has a team-high 8.0 sacks. The Eagles will relish Reddick’s opportunities to attack Dennis Daley and Nicholas Petit-Frere. Mismatches will be created. Fellow EDGE rushers Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat have 4.5 sacks apiece. Derek Barnett is out for the season, but Philly’s depth has helped offset his loss.
The Titans may be catching a bad break too. Eagles rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis is eligible to return off IR and all reports indicate he possesses an excellent chance to play against the Titans on Sunday. Davis is an expert run stopper that commands attention and double teams. The No. 13 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Davis would test Tennessee’s aforementioned toughness and identity. Second-year D-tackle Marlon Tuipulotu remains on IR.
Philadelphia’s run defense is middle of the pack despite their strength in numbers. They’re currently allowing 120.7 rushing yards per contest. They enter Sunday as the 18th-ranked unit in that department. They’ve been trending in the wrong direction as of late. The Houston Texans, Washington Commanders and Pittsburgh Steelers all experienced varying degrees of running the football against them. The Titans will attempt to expose their run-defending efforts through a heavy dosage of Henry. After all, controlling the clock and forcing Philadelphia to play Tennessee’s game is what Vrabel and offensive coordinator Todd Downing set out to achieve.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman didn’t appreciate the weaknesses his D-line exposed throughout Davis’ layoff. He went out and signed veteran defensive linemen Linval Joseph and Ndakumong Suh just days apart. Their additions add additional pedigree to Philadelphia’s overall defensive makeup. Suh and Joseph will play against the Titans even if Davis returns.
Vrabel’s Titans have routinely bounced back in impressive fashion after a difficult loss. There are other matchups worth watching, such as the oft-publicized A.J. Brown, who should square off with former teammate Kristian Fulton. While that matchup promises to be tasty, it’s Tennessee’s offensive line that will determine the overall concern level of last Sunday’s loss to the Bengals. Tennessee’s offense goes as they go.