The Tennessee Titans rolled through their competition in week five today, courtesy of a 37-19 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The scoreboard might’ve indicated an easywin, but it was anything but.
Let’s jump into some winners and losers.
Winner: Derrick Henry
What else can you say about him?
He remains the Titans’ most dominant and consistent offensive weapon, especially against the Jacksonville Jaguars. As a native of Yulee, FL these games tend to represent as a homecoming for Henry, and he never seems to disappoint whenever them either.
Today was no different as Henry rushed 130 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. He started slow in the first half, but in his usual fashion turned it up in the second half, and steered the Titans towards their third win of the year.
What Henry is doing is nothing short of historical. He’s consistently putting up gaudy numbers week after week, with 100 yard rushing performances almost becoming the norm. His career is a long way from being done, but when it’s all set and done, Henry could go down as arguably the best running back of this generation.
A rather illustrious honor for a back that was rumored to be on available for trade just three seasons ago.
Winner: Kevin Byard
Byard has seemingly bounced back from his poor 2020 season.
He’s been good in coverage, has tackled well for the most part, and has once again become a valuable piece within this defense.
A fumble recovery and eventual defensive touchdown, along with a late interception only solidified that.
He’s a player the Titans need to play well, since his output is almost gamechanging when he’s on. Look for him to continue his good play throughout the course of the season, especially in these next two games against the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Winner: Elijah Molden
Molden has been a victim of mismanagement through the first four games of his rookie year.
But that didn’t matter today as he forced an early fumble with textbook technique. It was encouraging to see the rookie bounce back with a positive play, one that could potentially serve as a springboard for more positive play in the future.
Loser: Rashaan Evans
What does Rashaan Evans bring defensively?
He doesn’t fill gaps, he takes poor angles as a run defender, he doesn’t provide anything in the way of coverage, and he makes head scratching plays that make you question why he’s on the field in the first place.
He’s a good athlete sure, but he just can’t seem to put it together on the field. It’s almost like he’s become a liability, which might be considered harsh. But if you watch him live and pop on his tape, you’re sure to at least come close to the same conclusion I have.
Evans doesn’t really have a viable replacement at the moment with rookie Monty Rice not deemed ready and Jayon Brown on injured reserve. But if the Titans find themselves with a replacement ready to go, Mike Vrabel has to pull the trigger.
Keeping him on the field isn’t worth it anymore.
It’s time for Vrabel and his staff to realize that.
Winner: Red zone offense
Last week, the Titans had trouble finishing drives whenever they drove deep into opponent territory.
A continuous amount of chances for the New York Jets to hang around and find their groove. Once that occurred, the Titans couldn’t put a stronghold on the momentum and eventually lost the football game.
Today, they played another struggling football team in the Jacksonville Jaguars and the formula was the same. Take advantage of your opportunities and step on your opponents’ throat until you have firm control on the game. The Titans did one of those today, capitalizing on their red zone opportunities and putting points on the board.
Four touchdowns were scored in the red zone for the Titans today, all of which were needed due to the defense not being able to do their job.
Derrick Henry had three of those scores, including one that gave him the 60th of his career so far, only the third back in Titans history to achieve that specific stat.
Red zone offense is all about clean execution. If the Titans can begin to stack good red zone possessions on top of each other, then this offense’s troubles will melt away like butter on a hot pancake. But the key is consistency, something the Titans as a whole haven’t been able to pin down so far this year.
Loser: Run defense
The Titans came into today’s game ranked inside the top ten in rushing defense, allowing just over 95 yards rushing per game. The amount of rushing yards they gave up today alone?
You have to set the edge better, you have to fill gaps better, and you have put up a better fight when you’re faced with a physical opponent. This problem wasn’t magnified last week because Zach Wilson made a lot of big plays through the air. But it’s one that’s steadily becoming a noticeable one, one that could really doom this defense moving forward.
It starts with execution and physicality, grinding in the trenches and being sound while carrying out your responsibilities. If the Titans can get better with that, then the run defense won’t be too much of an issue.
Winner: Harold Landry
Landry is going to make himself a lot of money this off-season.
He’s had a fantastic season so far, being used in a variety of roles and providing a unique amount of versatility I’m sure the Titans’ staff has been excited to take advantage of. He continued his dominant start to the season today against Jacksonville, while also showing off one piece of the potential violent two piece puzzle he and Bud Dupree can create when they’re both clicking on all cylinders.
Landry finished with two sacks today, therefore increasing his total to 4.5 on the season. He’s been disruptive, he’s been consistent, and most of all he’s managed stay productive while logging an exhausting amount of snaps. Arguably he’s been the Titans’ best defensive player this year, and that’s saying something considering the handful of individual performances we’ve seen on this unit this season.
If he can keep his play going, then solving the problems within this defense becomes a bit easier. As I say that, Landry doing so is probably necessary considering the chaos that’s surrounding Shane Bowen’s unit right now.
Loser: Putting teams away
The Titans were up by 18 in the middle of the third quarter.
Good teams put opposing teams away for good when they’re up this big on the scoreboard. However, since the Titans are in love with making things insanely difficult, this game wasn’t put away until the middle of the fourth quarter.
After cruising in the first half, the Titans ceased all function in the second half. The offense sudden;y couldn’t move the ball, the defense was getting gashed, it became a sudden freefall and rollercoaster ride to an eventual win.
You can’t continue to do this if you’re the Titans, you simply can’t.
You’re allowing a team to hold on to hope they shouldn’t have, and that’s an extremely dangerous thing on the road against a bad football squad. For the Titans to become the complete team they want to be, they have to get better at shutting teams downs when the opportunity presents itself.
Because sooner or later, the Titans will run into heartbreaking losses because they can’t put teams away. That’s the way things go and that’s the way things will continue to go until football stops being an actual thing.
Winner: Marcus Johnson
Johnson received rave reviews for his play in training camp and was all set to contribute in this offense in week one. But an injury in camp killed any potential of that, ultimately leading to a three game injured reserve stint that ended this past week.
With Julio Jones out, and A.J. Brown only a week and some change removed from a hamstring injury, Johnson was leaned upon to provide some support in the passing game. He delivered and looked every bit of the training camp star he was made out to be.
His stats weren’t otherworldly — only 52 yards on three catches — but some of those catches came in some pretty big spots for the Titans. Johnson is a dependable piece I believe the team can lean on moving forward, probably as a third or fourth receiver whenever the Titans decide to take a tight end or two off the field, or even as a valuable piece in specific schematic sub packages.
Whatever his role is going forward, he’s going to be called upon more times than not.
All he has to do is simply stay healthy, a prospect he’s struggled with in the past.