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PFF Grades: Evans Stands Out in Comeback

The leading tackler in victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday was the highest-graded inside linebacker in the NFL on Sunday.

NASHVILLE – He hadn’t played a game in six weeks, but it didn’t take Tennessee Titans inside linebacker Rashaan Evans long to make an impact in his return Sunday.

On Jacksonville’s first play from scrimmage, Evans maintained tight pass coverage, allowing defensive lineman Denico Autry to sack Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Three plays later, Evans shot through the Jacksonville line and pulled down running back James Robinson for a four-yard loss.

Evans continued an impressive performance, despite playing in just 33 of the Titans’ 55 defensive snaps. He led the Titans with six tackles – including one for loss – while adding an interception and pass defended.

The fourth-year linebacker earned a career-best overall defensive grade of 90.7 from Pro Football Focus, the highest PFF mark of any NFL linebacker in Week 14. Evans’ previous highest grade this season was just 60.8, and that came in Week 7 against Kansas City.

Was Titans coach Mike Vrabel impressed?

“I wouldn’t go as far as to say impressed,” Vrabel said Monday. “We’ve got a job to do, and Rashaan has been in there a bunch for us. But it was good to have him back out there. I felt like he was excited to play. He did some good things, did a lot of good things.”

Here’s a look at some of the Titans’ other highlights and lowlights, per Pro Football Focus:

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Top Five Offensive Grades – Though the Titans’ offensive line struggled at times in pass protection, the group up front earned good grades as run-blockers. That explains why three linemen – center Ben Jones (80.6), right guard Nate Davis (79.7) and right tackle David Quessenberry (79.6) – earned the team’s top three offensive grades (for players with at least 20 snaps), followed by quarterback Ryan Tannehill (79.0) and tight end Anthony Firkser (77.0).

Top Five Defensive Grades – As referenced above, Evans (90.7) led the way (for players with at least 20 snaps), followed by cornerback Buster Skrine (81.9), edge rusher Derick Roberson (79.5), defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons (77.1 ) and safety Amani Hooker (75.9).

Too much pressure – The Titans surrendered four sacks, and two were attributed to linemen – one each for Brewer and Quessenberry. Another sack was attributed to Tannehill himself. Tannehill was also pressured 15 times on 38 drop-backs – and PFF attributed multiple pressures allowed to Quessenberry (three), Lewan (two), Davis (two), Brewer (two) and running back Jeremy McNichols (two).

Clean vs. Pressure – Tannehill had great numbers from a clean pocket, as he completed 17-of-20 passes for 171 yards, posting a 102.3 NFL quarterback rating. But it was a very different situation in the 15 snaps he was pressured. In those instances, Tannehill was just three-for-11 (two passes were dropped) for 20 yards, earning a 39.6 NFL quarterback rating.

Play-action vs. no play-action – Tannehill continued his success in the play-action game, completing seven-of-11 passes for 90 yards (8.2-yard average) and earning an NFL quarterback rating of 89.2. The numbers weren’t as good without play-action, as Tannehill went 13-for-20 for 101 yards (5.1-yard average) and earned an NFL quarterback rating of 77.3.

Three dropped passes – The Titans suffered three dropped passes, per PFF, one each by Firkser, tight end Geoff Swaim and running back Dontrell Hilliard. Swaim dropped what should have been a touchdown pass, though the Titans eventually scored a touchdown on the drive. Hilliard couldn’t hold on to a Tannehill screen pass that looked promising.

• Getting after the rookie – The Titans pressured Lawrence 21 times, which is almost as many pressures as the team had compiled in its previous two games combined (22). Simmons topped the pressure chart with five, followed by Autry (four), and then Landry (three), Adeniyi (three) and Roberson (three).

Tight coverage – In addition to picking off Lawrence four times, the Titans did a good job limiting Jacksonville’s passing production. Cornerback Kristian Fulton was targeted five times, and he allowed three completions for just 26 yards – including two yards after the catch. Safety Kevin Byard was also targeted five times and allowed just three completions for 15 yards, breaking up one intended pass.