The Tennessee Titans turned in their best rushing performance of the season last week by gashing the Jacksonville Jaguars for 210 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. It was a collective effort, the way you envision a running back by committee approach to be.
The Titans will need even more legs on deck this week when they take on the New York Jets, and their top ranked run defense.
Interim head coach Mike Mularkey wants to be physical at the line of scrimmage by using a power run game, but that approach plays right into the hands of the Jets’ defense.
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New York’s stout front seven is giving up a paltry 3.7 yards per carry, and has given up a league low two rushing touchdowns all season. They are also allowing a league low 83.5 rushing yards per game.
Translation…they are built for the ground and pound approach.
The Jets predicate themselves on making teams one dimensional on offense, and when they do, their talented secondary has the ability to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.
New York’s defense is averaging an interception per game this season, tied for ninth best in the league. The Titans are averaging an interception per game on offense.
Coincidence? Or ominous sign?
It’s no secret that Tennessee’s wide receivers are their Achilles Heel on offense. They have been unable to gain separation all season long, and have been one of the least productive units in the entire league.
To make matters worse, leading receiver Kendall Wright will miss Sunday’s game with a rib injury, while the Jets get their future Hall of Fame corner Darrelle Revis back after missing two games with a concussion.
For Tennessee to have any chance of pulling the upset Sunday, they will have to find some sibilance of success on the ground. However they can find it. Whoever can find it.
Just like they did last week.
Antonio Andrews and David Cobb had thirteen carries a piece, while quarterback Marcus Mariota chipped in with nine of his own. The 35 combined rushing attempts allowed Tennessee to remain balanced offensively, while keeping Jacksonville’s defense off-balance all afternoon.
Tennessee’s 210 rushing yards last week can be misleading, as Mariota’s 87 yard td sprint skews those numbers a bit. It was the 35 attempts that were a hidden key to victory, and the Titans will need at least that many again this week…if not more.
Good news for Tennessee, Dexter McCluster returns after missing the last two games with a sprained MCL. His presence will be needed in order for the Titans to accomplish that goal.
McCluster is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, the best average of any Tennessee running back. He is also the Titans’ best receiving option out of the backfield.
His versatility allows coach Mularkey to be more creative in the run game, and his scat-back style provides a change of pace to the ground and pound style of Andrews and Cobb.
Sunday marks the first time all season that Tennessee will have their top three running backs (Andrews, McCluster, Cobb) healthy and active on game day, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
To ground and pound the Jets defense, the Titans will need all legs on deck, including Mariota’s.