The Titans opened the season with an impressive defensive effort in a huge 17-10 over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Titans D came up with several crucial plays in a total effort that resulted in seven sacks, two INT’s, and a fumble.
- In the last few months we’ve seen Chris Johnson go from questionable 1st round pick, to a front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year (albeit very early to make a claim like that). In his first NFL game the speedster accumulated 127 yards from scrimmage, including a touchdown that gave the Titans the lead for good. During the first few drives of the game Johnson’s production made up for a number of mistakes in the passing game. It looks like the Titans brass might have known something that a lot of us didn’t.
- The Titans defense was as good as advertised. Continually faced with defending a short field, Tennessee completely dominated the line of scrimmage sacking QB David Garrard seven times, and holding Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to a combined 31 yards rushing. The Titan’s D also came up with some very clutch plays, including Kyle Vanden Bosch’s forced fumble and recovery, ending Jacksonville’s most significant drive up to that point. The Titans two picks of Garrard (both by Titansized favorite Cortland Finnegan) represented two thirds the total that Garrard threw all of last year. Credit that to an improved secondary, credit that to a line that hounded Garrard all game long and sacked him 6 times and credit that to a linebacking corp that took away Jacksonville’s running game and effectively dropped into coverage. Total defensive effort accross the board.
- Vince Young didn’t play well, but his receivers didn’t help him much either. VY ended up 12-22 for 110 yards with a touchdown and two picks. Both of Young’s interceptions were ugly: the first resulting in the Jaguars sole touchdown (a three play 5 yard drive), and a pick on the line of scrimmage, the first play after Finnegan’s second interception on the day. Justin Gage and LenDale White both dropped very catchable balls in some crucial spots, but more often then not, Young’s accuracy was the culprit. When Young left the game with 4:14 to play in the 4th Quarter, Kerry Collins was very effective, converting two 3rd downs that culminated in a LenDale White TD. We’ll all continue to keep an eye on Vince’s injury status. Hopefully he plays next week and limits the mistakes.
- The Titans special teams issues still seem to be… well an issue. Other than the Titans passing game, the other very big, sometimes overlooked issue was the Titans special teams play. The Titans average starting field position was at their own 24; the Jags average start was at their 43. Tennessee’s special teams gave up a number of big returns; Jacksonville averaged 34.5 yards per return on four kickoff returns, and 22.5 yards per return on two punt returns. Put that next to Tennessee’s 16.5 yard average return on kickoffs and 7.5 yard average on punt returns, and you see a pretty glaring difference. Chris Carr was brought in to improve the return game, and was a little disappointing in his first test. The Titans inability to stop the Jags return game may have been even more disappointing. Throw in the field position given up in VY’s two picks, and you see an area that the Tennessee will definitely need to improve on in the upcoming weeks. No matter how good the Titans D is, you can’t expect them to bail the rest of the team out every week.
- High profile free agent Alge Crumpler only had one reception for four yards, but he continued to prove his worth as one of the best overall tight ends in the league with some very good blocking for the run game, and a very good presence on the sideline. There were a number of times that Albert Haynesworth was slow to get up, and seemed to be laboring, but his numbers still added up to a great performance, including a sack on the last play of the game. Hopefully Haynesworth’s struggles were just a slight issue of conditioning. After nursing a groin injury that kept him out of all of the pre-season, All-Pro K Rob Bironas had a strong first game, going 2-2 in extra point attempts and converting a 47 yard field on his sole attempt.
While there are definitely still some queston marks, Tennessee’s 17-10 victory over Jacksonville is a great start, with some huge implications for the coming weeks. The AFC South has three playoff teams from last season, and at the time of this writing (the Colts are losing 22-13) it seems like there is a very strong possibility that the Titans will go into tomorrow as the only team in the division with a victory. While it is too early to make much of that, Tennessee has a pretty favorable schedule in the upcoming weeks (at Cincinatti, Houston, Minnesota, at Baltimore) and has the opportunity to really separate themselves from the rest of the division over that time. If the Titans D and run game continue to look as good as they did today, they should have an opportunity to flesh out some of the other phases in these next two games. Overall, the Titans win, coupled with the performance of the rest of the division, is about the best start that any Tennessee fan could have hoped for.
Topics: AFC South, Albert Haynesworth, Alge Crumpler, Baltimore Ravens, Chris Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals, Cortland Finnegan, David Garrard, Fred Taylor, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Justin Gage, Kerry Collins, Kyle Vanden Bosch, LenDale White, Maurice Jones-Drew, Minnesota Vikings, Rob Bironas, Tennessee Titans, Vince Young