Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing Jaguars vs. Titans

John Shipley

Following the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans each walking out of Week 1 with victories, the two teams are now set to play Sunday to determine who takes an early lead in the AFC South standings.

So, what are some things Jaguars fans should know about the Titans ahead of Week 1? We spoke with David Boclair of AllTitans to find the answers.

Q: With A.J. Brown not playing Sunday, how big of a loss is that, and who steps into his role?

A: Brown has been ruled out for Sunday with a knee injury, which will be the first game he misses in his NFL career. It is a huge loss for the offense given that in the 10 games Ryan Tannehill started last season, he targeted Brown an average of 6.1 times, at least two more than any of his other receivers.

Kalif Raymond is the next guy on the depth chart, but at 5-foot-8, 182 pounds, he hardly makes up for the physical presence of the 6-foot-1, 226-pound Brown. Undrafted rookie Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, who is 6-2, 211, was added to the active roster from the practice squad earlier in the week, so expected him to be on the field on early downs and the speedy Raymond to fill Brown’s spot in passing situations.

Q: How disruptive was Jadeveon Clowney in his Titans debut, and will he play a big role on Sunday?

A: Clowney was not terribly disruptive but he was a consistent presence. Among the front seven, only Harold Landry played more snaps than Clowney, who made three tackles with one tackle for loss and one quarterback pressure.

The bigger issue is that the Titans lined him up at several different spots and will continue to do so throughout the season, which makes it difficult for opposing offenses to account for him in their game-planning.

Q: Who is more important to Tennessee's offensive success: Derrick Henry or Ryan Tannehill?

A: There is no question that Henry is the centerpiece of the offense. Not only did he lead all NFL players with 31 rushes and 34 total touches, but nearly half of Tannehill’s pass attempts (14 of 29) against Denver came on play-action. Tannehill completed 71.4 percent of his throws, had a 128.6 passer rating and threw both of his touchdown passes on those play-action calls.

So, even when Henry does not get the ball the threat that he might is what makes the Titans go.

Q: Who is a playmaker in the secondary not named Kevin Byard that the Jaguars will have to be aware of?

A: For this week, at least, this is a really good question. One starting cornerback, Adoreé Jackson, is on injured reserve and the other, Malcolm Butler, is questionable for Sunday after having not practiced on Thursday or Friday. It is possible, therefore, that the starters will be 36-year-old free agent Johnathan Joseph and a rookie, second-round pick Kristian Fulton who missed time during training camp with an injury.

By process of elimination, therefore, we’re left with strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, who is not necessarily a dynamic playmaker but the 2013 first-round pick by New Orleans has had at least one interception in six of his seven seasons and at least one sack in all seven.

Q: Game prediction? 

A: When it comes to AFC South opponents, the Titans’ matchups with Jacksonville are the most unpredictable. Just look at last year when the Jaguars scored 20 points in both meetings but won one by 13 points and lost the other by 22.

That being said, I believe that good teams win when they don’t play their best and that was the case for Tennessee in Denver on Monday. Assuming, therefore, that this is a good team, the Titans will take care of business at home against a division opponent. I predict Tennessee 27-Jacksonville 16 in a game that is close into the second half before the home team extends its margin a bit.

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