The Titans walked into the Derrick Henry-less era tonight against the red hot Los Angeles Rams.
Mike Vrabel’s win ran out of LA with a dominating win, which means plenty of winners and a few losers.
Let’s get into it.
Winner: Jeffery Simmons
The Titans had a tough challenge ahead of them defensively coming into tonight’s game.
The Rams’ offense possesses some of the best numbers when it comes to points per game, yards, sacks allowed, and they also possess a receiver that stands around the top of the league in receiving yards.
So what do you do to slow down an offense that has so many things going for them in the passing game?
Get your front four humming early and often, specifically the interior portion.
Jeffery Simmons understood the message, posting three sacks in the first half alone and causing absolute mayhem for the Rams’ offensive line. It was probably the best game of Simmons’ career, and that’s saying something considering the good year he had last season.
The league is starting to take notice of Simmons and what he can do within the interior. With that comes more attention from opposing offensive lines and more difficulty in terms of creating chaos in the trenches.
But Simmons has shown an ability to produce despite that, which should scare opposing offensive lines everywhere.
Keep a very close eye on Simmons as the season moves forward and as other pieces around him start to find their balance health wise. Once that occurs, you could really see Simmons’ production skyrocket.
Winner: Denico Autry
Like Simmons, Autry understood the assignment of causing some chaos for Matthew Stafford and the Rams’ offense.
He was the early tone setter before Simmons began to wreak havoc, sacking Stafford once and making some nice looking plays as a run defender.
His $21.5M deal is beginning to look like a steal with all the production he’s had so far this year, which feels kind of weird to say considering some of the free agency busts Jon Robinson has had during his renters as general manager.
I’ll tell you, with the way Autry and the rest of the front four has played so far this year, this defense is starting to become a weapon for the Titans.
Who would’ve thought that after the disastrous year last year and the slow start this season?
If they can just get and stay healthy in the secondary, they might turn their play up to another level as the season moves on.
Winner: Shane Bowen
What a job Bowen has done this year.
He’s taken the official defensive coordinator role, worked closely with the incoming and existing talent on this defense, and has turned it into a really respectable defense league wide.
It speaks volume about Bowen, who was heavily criticized for his performance as the play caller last season, which even led to some to call for his removal as the leader of the unit.
But he’s bounced back, received full clarity regarding his role on the staff, and the results have done nothing but follow. Tonight’s impressive showing against a white hot Rams offense only proves that.
Once he gets his full secondary back minus Caleb Farley, and the injury situation works itself out throughout the rest of the defense, he’s going to have one talented unit to cook with.
Loser: Bobby Hart
The first shock of the night came when Taylor Lewan seemingly took the night off because of a knee injury that didn’t allow him to practice on Friday.
With that situation unfolding, Bobby Hart entered the fray and he didn’t play too well.
He whiffed on a few run blocks, was embarrassed in pass protection at times, and committed 15 yards of penalty yardage on one drive alone.
Hart isn’t some All-Pro level tackle. He’s never been that type of player and he never will be.
Loser: The offense
The offense was always going to undergo a bit of a rough transition period without Derrick Henry. His impact on the unit as a whole was immense, so immense that it’s almost impossible to adjust with just three practices and a week full of gameplanning.
But tonight, tonight was rough for the Titans’ offense for the most part.
Ryan Tannehill only threw for 143 yards, a touchdown, and an interception he’ll really want back after he pops on the film. The run game only produced 69 yards and a touchdown, but room was hard to come by either way in the run game because the Rams did such a good job at winning the initial battle at the line of scrimmage.
Aside from the statistical analysis, the offense just didn’t look in sync.
There were too many mistakes, too many lapses in pass protection, and too little explosive plays. I won’t be too hard on the unit since like I said, losing Derrick Henry takes more than a simple week to get used to.
But this unit has to be better moving forward, because the defense isn’t going to be able to continuously carry them like they did tonight.
Winner: Kevin Byard
Byard has played like a first team All-Pro this season.
He’s returned to the form that landed him first team All-Pro votes previously, and mentions as arguably the best safety in all of football.
He’s flown around the football, doing his best self impression as the ball hawk safety that earned him so much notoriety previously, while helping this once porous defensive unit turn into one that opposing offenses have to respect.
His first career pick six tonight was another example of how he’s bounced back from his own personal statistical setback last season.
The Titans won’t shut down opposing teams defensively, but they will make plays and look really good when they get hot as a unit.
Byard has been and will be a big part of that if those events do indeed occur.
JUGGS machine: A.J. Brown
Brown had some key catches early on, but he should’ve had more if not for a few focus drops.
Brown sometimes has these type of games where he just struggles to catch the football. They don’t come often, but when they do you scratch your head a little.
It hasn’t been a thing where it’s carried over from week to week, so there’s no cause for concern right now.
But you’d like to see your big time receiver come down with some of these easy catches and eliminate the drops. He’ll bounce back though, so nothing to really be concerned about here.