Titans lose to Jets 7 to 3 in preseason LONG
(Apologies for this being late, we had a site issue last night.)
The Titans first string offense played about a quarter and was unimpressive. The Titans first string defensive front seven was fine, but their secondary was atrocious. The defense played very well, but the offense was poor and it started with the offensive line. I did think I could “see nerves” on many players and maybe there’s a first game jitters mulligan here.
The Jets have a decimated wide receiver corps and are quite weak at receiver. They sure didn’t look it last night. Logan Ryan was “toast” a few times and Adoree Jackson was a step late in the slot and out wide. LeShaun Sims and Bryce McCain were fine, but Josh McCown didn’t even need to test them with the other two allowing so much.
The Titans starting offensive line started a bit rough, but then seemed to get it under control, and then rough again. The Jets have an excellent defensive line and they showed it last night, but the Titans are supposed to have arguably the best line in football. They were terrible at communicating. On one play, Quinton Spain nailed a defensive tackle pushing him a few feet away into the center. Spain went after the defensive end that Lewan was working on. As he turned away, the Jets DT ran right up the middle. No one picked him up. Spain literally could not block any better than that- that’s everything we want, but if Ben Jones isn’t aware and communicating with him, it just won’t work. I think I noticed a similar issue with Josh Kline and Jack Conklin. A defensive end got past Kline and Conklin had the look of “I thought you had him” and tried to recover, but couldn’t. They were certainly disorganized. I have complete faith in offensive line coach Russ Grimm fixing them up, but I wouldn’t say they were impressive last night.
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The first half offense was about half two tight end set and half three wide receiver set. I had to go back and look to see that Jalston Fowler did play. He played so little that I missed him initially.
Mariota was fine. He threw three passes. There’s not much to report on him other than that he looked like his usual self.
Phillip Supernaw was excellent as a blocker last night. I’ve called him out before, so I feel compelled to point this out. Tip of the hat to him, he totally stepped up.
Derrick Henry had his chance to shine with Murray out. Henry played with the first and second units and was in longer than expected. He has been dominant this offseason and in the Titans scrimmage. He was setup so well to make a big impression and he bombed. He ran for six yards and then ten yards, (few plays in between) and then five more yards. After that he looked super nervous and just completely fizzled out. He finished with 8 carries for 29 yards. As the Titans second string line didn’t block well, he tiptoed to the line. Us Titans fans know all too well that this isn’t how to run behind a bad line. It was reminiscent of some of “our” runners in 2014 and 2015. Henry knows better and probably never did that in college or as a rookie either. He did last night though. Henry must put his head down and barrel through the line using his speed and size. As a receiving back, he ran right next to the coverage. It was amateurish. On one play, it seemed that he was to read if there is an incoming linebacker to block; if there wasn’t, then he was to get set for a dump pass. He didn’t see the linebacker and Alex Tanney got absolutely lit up because of it. This was the sad point of the night for me. I was really rooting for Henry and he just wasn’t good. As we say in sports, he choked.
Tanney did not play well. He played all three quarters after Mariota left. Again, one needs to remember the 2014 and 2015 Titans because that’s how his line blocked for him. He took a ton of hits as the Jets pressured him dozens of times and probably hit him ten times. We should give Tanney credit for standing in there tough, but that’s it. He was very late with his throws. He had receivers open but waited too long. On one pass to Taywan Taylor he was too early and on a couple deep throws, he threw it too far. Quarterbacks are typically obsessed with timing. Tanney is 29 years old and I’m not sure that he has picked up that trait. Tanney has a four game exhibition. I’ve already read how others are brushing this off because he took so many hits. I’m not. He has three games left (as if) to impress me. I wasn’t impressed last night.
Jonnu Smith played plenty, but I didn’t notice a single pass his way.
The Titans played a 4-3 set on defense for roughly half of the first half. I will write more on this later and include screenshots. This was shocking since they converted to a 3-4 years ago. DaQuan Jones has been the Titans starting defensive end the last two season. He played defensive tackle and nose tackle last night. Angelo Blackson was the other defensive tackle with Jurrell Casey opposite Austin Johnson. That was their 4-3 set when the starters and key backups were in.
Casey had a sack but was called for a penalty. The play was not vicious as he wrapped up McCown. It was a curious call by the refs and Coach Mike Mularkey said he would speak with the league to get a better understanding of the rule there.
Antwaun Woods started for the Titans. A huge kudos to the big fella! The undrafted free agent made it. After Mularkey praising him a bunch this past week, the announcers were mentioning how the staff raved about him during the telecast. He didn’t play a whole lot last night after they went to their 4-3 set.
Jayon Brown’s speed was on display as he caught wide receivers and running backs behind the line of scrimmage. When the starters were in, Brown covered the tight end some too. He did not play inside linebacker as expected. The former UCLA linebacker went in for Brian Orakpo at outside linebacker.
Aaron Wallace replaced Avery Williamson and was terrific roaming the field. Later, he switched to Wesley Woodyard’s ILB spot and was just average.
Kevin Byard was great for most of his responsibilities as a free safety. He got into the backfield and stopped the runner on other plays. I would give him an F as an outfielder though. The Jets had no trouble throwing deep on him and he seemed to pause rather than just run after it. It was probably nerves, but there’s no time to think there. He has to react and “take off flying” after the deep pass.
The Titans showed some exceptional creativity and multifaceted talent later in the game in the defensive backfield. Curtis Riley, Kalan Reed, and Jeremy Boykins each played safety and cornerback while switching up between plays. On one play, Reed was on the slot wide receiver with Boykins behind him as a safety. Reed bumped the wide receiver then swatted the pass away when he recovered. The two of them were talking and debating something between plays. The next snap, Boykins was over the slot as Reed was behind him as a safety. Boykins “flew” to the other wide receiver that caught a screen pass and hit him right away. All of this was fantastic and oh so clever. Each of them played very well and good luck to opposing offenses trying to predict where these DBs will play.
Taywan Taylor got open deep, made an excellent catch, fell onto the cornerback, and then got up and ran in for a touchdown. Since Taylor was technically touched while landing on the cornerback, the refs ruled him down at that spot. Taylor had a few other catches and looked alright. He dropped two passes right to him also though. They were “right there” and he should have had them. On one series, Taylor made a huge oops. He made a nice catch, then ran well on an end around. As he was exiting the field, a play was signaled and he had to turn around to return to the huddle. He is smiling big and waving his hands over his head to get their attention as he runs toward the huddle. He might as well have told the Jets the next play was going to him. The Jets were all over him and he dropped it. That was an elementary mistake. Taylor’s speed, route running, and exceptional “my ball” mentality were evident. It was a joy to see, but he has to clean some stuff up with his game and focus.
Tyler Ferguson came in for two plays while Tanney was examined for a concussion. He handed to Henry and threw a pass to Taylor. That was it. It was odd that he didn’t return. He needs experience as he only threw roughly 50 passes in college. That was an odd decision by Mularkey.
Kevin Dodd, who also sorely lacks experience, didn’t play all that much either.
Josh Carraway looks odd in his 44 jersey. My first thought was “why is a fullback playing linebacker?” He did fine. He covered well and held his own against the run. He didn’t get after the quarterback at all, but for a first game of a college defensive end, I was impressed. It’s evident that he is learning and adjusting well. On a couple Jets runs, he just held his ground and redirected the runner toward the middle. That showed good discipline. Carraway probably doesn’t look like much on the stat sheet, but he looked good and Mularkey singled him out after the game too.
Austin Johnson teased us last night. His awesome athleticism was evident at defensive end. He had little trouble getting past the Jets starting left tackle, but he often paused at the last second. The college nose tackle needs to finish up with smacking the quarterback or running back. He paused as if he was thinking and the Jets tackle recovered then. Experience should bring him comfort where he just reacts at that moment. That should go away pretty quickly and resolve itself. He could have had a real big night and looks to be the perfect compliment to Casey.
Both teams backup punters were terrible. They would punt the ball about 30 yards and the coverage unit was all over the return man. There were almost no returns last night.
Beau Brinkley continues to amaze me. If you want to see incredible hustle, watch him when the Titans punt. He snaps the ball, sheds a defender, and gets to the returner. I just loved his hustle last night.
As I’ve been saying, Khalfani Muhammad looks like he’ll be cut. He was the fifth running back to enter the game and did precious little.
Akeem Judd had a nice forty yard run, but the Titans third string line opened up “the biggest hole you’ve ever seen” for him to run through.
Last year’s backup tackle, Tyler Marz, played right guard and then left guard. He played more than any other lineman. He either blocked well or was thrown aside by a defensive lineman. He had very few plays where he blended in and was one of the boys.
Josue Matias was exceptional. There is just no reason for him to come in third at right guard. He should be starting over Josh Kline, not going in after a Tyler Marz experiment. He was pushing defensive linemen into the linebackers. He knocked a defensive lineman down and then went to get another DL to block on two occasions. It’s really a bit ridiculous now that he isn’t starting or at least in the mix. He was excellent two years ago when they needed a guard and promoted Quinton Spain. Spain panned out and I understand. Last season he was injured. It’s possible that the Titans wanted to see how he’d do in his first game back from injury. His play demands a promotion. Josh Kline did not play all that well last night. There needs to be a camp competition there. He was so dominant against the third string that he looks out of place. If you didn’t notice him, you must go back and rewatch looking for him. It was an absolute joy to see.
David Fluellen did fine. The line blocked poorly on his three runs, so he kicked it outside and tried to make something of it. He picked up blockers well. I don’t see any reason why he is not the Titans third string running back. He’s always got the job done and is simply reliable.
Jonathan Krause took off deep and made a phenomenal dive but couldn’t hold on to an overthrown pass. It was badly overthrown and the effort to get there was awesome.
Jace Amaro and Jerome Cunningham each missed blocks on one series. It was oddly coincidental. It was as if they were showing Jets fans why they are no longer on the Jets.
Denzel Johnson had a pick six during the Titans scrimmage and played very well during their scrimmage/practice at Centennial high school. Last night, when he entered the game, the Jets could no longer throw deep. He shut that down. The college strong safety is looking like he will be the Titans backup free safety. Searcy played some backup free safety as did a trio of cornerbacks that I mentioned earlier. It’s not clear where Johnson stands on the depth chart, but he shut off their deep game like a switch. I was very impressed. Sometimes it’s hard to notice who is deep with the TV angles. Maybe it is that the Titans were burned so often during the recent bad years? I’m not sure exactly why, but his presence shutting things down put a smile on my face. I’d like to say this Titans defensive backfield might not need that as they would have in prior years. After last night, I’m not so sure. The bottom line is he ran all over the field and completely shut down the Jets deep passing game.