7 Keys to Victory (Titans)
There’s no doubt that the Texans’ main weaknesses is their defensive backfield. They have limited cornerback depth and Ed Reed hasn’t returned from an injury. If J.J. Watt or their blitzers aren’t reaching the quarterback, then expect a lot of opportunities for opposing quarterbacks.
Can Locker take advantage? Last season, Locker completed 21-of-45 passes with three interceptions. Unlike last week’s performance which featured a 42-to-20 run-to-pass ratio, the Titans need Locker to make more vertical passing plays. They must establish a more balanced offense if they’re going to have any chance of pulling the upset.
Trench Warfare: Offensive Line
This is why the Titans emphasized their offensive line. Chance Warmack will have his first head-to-head matchup with Watt. Along with an inexperienced rookie, watch right tackle David Stewart, who has been nursing a calf injury. These men will need to create running lanes for Chris Johnson and protect Locker so he can make enough plays to keep an honest defense.
Trench Warfare: Defensive Line
Controlling the line of scrimmage. That’s crucial for Jurrell Casey, who’ll serve as a primary component for stopping the Texans’ ground game. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are expected to split carries. Ropati Pitoitua was brought in to add size and physicality against the Texans’ run offense.
It’s all about matching the physicality and playing well. No stupid mistakes like Stewart made when his penalty ended a potential touchdown drive.
Play-Action Pass Defense
The Texans love using Owen Daniels in their play-action passing game. Last season, the Titans made tight ends such as Dante Rosario look like legends. The Titans defense must stay on their toes and prepare themselves for everything from running the ball, screens and play-action passes.
Don’t forget about their wide receivers. Speaking of which…
Defending Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins
Do the Titans have a physical cornerback who can cover Andre Johnson? Last season in two games against the Titans, Johnson had eight receptions for 112 yards. This offseason, the Texans drafted DeAndre Hopkins, another tall receiver who can shift some attention away from Johnson. If Johnson is Julio Jones, then Hopkins is Roddy White.
The Titans need a big game from Alterraun Verner or Tommie Campbell, whoever gets the nod at No. 2 cornerback. They can’t rely on too much support from the safeties because they have to focus on the ground game and tight ends.
It’s the home-opener for the Texans. The team comes off the emotions from overcoming a 21-point road deficit on Monday Night Football. They’re facing whom many would argue as their No. 1 rival.
Energy will run high. The Titans mustn’t get down 7-0 too quickly. Had Steelers running back Isaac Redman not fumbled the football, the Titans would’ve trailed 9-0 before they ever had an offensive possession. The defense can’t allow a touchdown on the Texans’ opening possession.
Slow starts have been the norm for the offense and defense. The Titans must come out of the locker room ready for a 60-minute battle, not 45.
One of the reoccurring issues from preseason and Week 1 has been the inability to complete drives with 7s instead of 3s. That failure stems from pass-blocking, poor receiver play, quarterbacking and conservative play-calling. In Week 1, the Titans finished three of their four scoring drives with field goals, not touchdowns.
3s will beat the Steelers. Not the Texans. Yards won’t matter if the Titans can’t find the end zone. They must correct this deficiency for Week 2 or fans/coaches/players will wonder “what might’ve been” all of next week.