Scouting the Opponent is a weekly preview series looking ahead to the Titans upcoming matchup.
Coming off a short week after winning in Denver on Monday, the Titans will host the Jacksonville Jaguars in a divisional matchup on Sunday at noon CT.
After an offseason that saw Jacksonville fire their head coach via social media in late December — which turned out to be false but indicates the turmoil in the building — as well as swap out offensive coordinators, dump their highly paid quarterback, cut their highly drafted running back, and unload a host a veteran defenders, the Jaguars shocked the NFL by winning in Week 1.
Sunday’s game at Nissan Stadium is a battle for the early division lead. The Jaguars came from behind to upset the Colts last week, which gives them the division-record tiebreaker over the Titans, who haven’t played a division game yet.
So it’s 1-0 (0-0) vs 1-0 (1-0) for the outright division lead through two weeks, with the Titans coming out on top in five of the last six meetings.
Early in the year, it’s nearly impossible to get an accurate statistical representation of either team. 22 men are chasing an oblong ball that bounces in strange ways, and the sample size thus far simply isn’t big enough to learn anything.
That said, here’s a statistical comparison through one week:
|11th||Total Yards Allowed/G||30th|
|14th||Pass Yards Allowed/G||30th|
|T-8th (+1)||Turnover Differential||T-3rd (+2)|
|T-15th (44%)||3rd D Conversions||T-12th (50%)|
|21st||Rush DVOA – Offense||19th|
|12th||Pass DVOA – Offense||3rd|
|21st||Rush DVOA – Defense||10th|
|9th||Pass DVOA – Defense||17th|
*DVOA through the first three weeks of the season doesn’t adjust for opponent. It’s actually just VOA until Week 4.
**DAVE is a Football Outsiders metric that attempts to remove early season sample size bias by combining this season’s DVOA with FO’s preseason projections. We’ll look at DAVE in these reports until Week 4, which is when DVOA begins to adjusts for the opponent. There are no detailed DAVE metrics for rush/pass splits, so we’ll just use what we have, which is DVOA.
Using these numbers to gauge the on-paper matchup, it looks fairly even overall, with advanced metrics favoring the Jaguars’ Week 1 performance while traditional counting stats paint the Titans as the better team.
Coaches and Personnel
Note: For the earlier part of the schedule, this section will focus on staff changes and roster moves. Once the season is well underway, this will focus more on matchups and key players to watch.
Head Coach Doug Marrone has been on the hot seat for what feels like more than a full season at this point. Late last year, sitting at 5-10 ahead of their Week 17 game against the Colts, we heard that Marrone would soon be fired.
Whether because of their 38-20 win that day or because the information from Russini was simply false, the Jaguars did not fire Marrone. They did, however, part ways with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Two other members of the offensive staff departed in the offseason for better jobs elsewhere, quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich and assistant running backs coach John Donovan.
In addition, Nick Foles was traded to Chicago, making his one year experiment in Jacksonville a complete disaster after he was injured twice and only appeared in three games. Leonard Fournette was cut after the Jaguars couldn’t get even a 7th-round pick in return for his services.
There’s lots of new faces in the building, headlined by former (disgraced?) Washington head coach Jay Gruden, who was fired in October last year with a final record of 35–49–1 over 6 years in Washington. Gruden’s offense is based on the zone running game with multiple looks working off of that. It’s a take-what-the-defense-gives-you approach to the passing game with a fair amount of play action mixed with shotgun spacing concepts.
The Jaguars drafted Laviska Shenault Jr. out of Colorado in the 2nd round and have already turned him into an offensive weapon, lining him up in the slot, in the backfield, and out wide. Undrafted free agent running back James Robinson started and took all but one handoff in the first game, which went to Shenault (Shenault’s other rush attempt came out of the Wildcat).
Obviously Gardner Minshew headlines the offensive attack. The second-year quarterback drafted in the sixth round has outperformed expectations in his short career after turning in a promising rookie season. His 2020 debut was impressive, too, completing 19 of 20 passes for 173 yards (8.3 YPA) and 3 touchdowns with a passer rating of 142.3. He did take four unnecessary sacks, which is an area of his game that still needs much improvement. More on that in a bit.
Along with Shenault, wide receivers Keelan Cole and D.J. Chark form a young trio of playmakers at receiver. None have broken out thus far, but Chark has flashed a good bit and Cole led the team in receptions and receiving yards last Sunday.
On defense, Todd Wash returns for his fourth season as the Jaguars defensive coordinator. He likes to mix man and zone coverages with frequent pre-snap disguises. Last year he called the ninth-fewest blitzes according to Football Outsiders, but that was with Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue on the defensive line.
After trading Campbell to Baltimore, Ngakoue to Minnesota, and A.J. Bouye to Denver, plus Jalen Ramsey to Los Angeles last October, the Jaguars defense also has a lot of new, young faces.
First-round picks at edge and cornerback in K’Lavon Chaisson and C.J. Henderson are both starting as rookies along with a host of second and third year players. Abry Jones is the only starter on defense with more than five years of NFL experience (D.J. Hayden is not technically listed as a starter on the depth chart, though he did play a lot as the nickel corner).
The Titans definitely have the edge when it comes to continuity on the offensive side and experience on defense. Those could be difference-making factors in a divisional game against a common opponent.
Quick reminder: due to the NFL’s strict copyright policy which they have chosen to enforce against our website, I unfortunately will not be including any GIFs here. If you’d like to see some of the plays I’m referencing, I will try to embed where able or include links to view them on Twitter.
Alternatively, you could potentially look up the plays if you have a subscription to NFL Gamepass.
Titans Offense vs Jaguars Defense
I mentioned above the youth on this Jaguars defense. It’s an area I expect the Titans to take advantage of when possible, using different disguises and misdirections in the offense to try to create some big plays.