Awaiting the Tennessee Titans this weekend in New England is a sizable challenge in the form of a familiar face.
Tight end Jonnu Smith is at least the third significant member of the 2020 Titans to tangle with his former team this season.
The first two such meetings? They didn’t go so well for the two-tone blue.
New York Jets wide receiver Corey Davis burned the defense with his most productive day of the season, catching four passes for 111 yards and a touchdown to spark the Jets’ upset. Then, just days ago, cornerback Desmond King recorded his best day of the year for the Houston Texans with his first two interceptions this season, two other passes defensed and eight tackles.
Is the 6-foot-3, 248-pound Smith, who caught eight touchdown passes for the Titans last season, capable of a similar rude reunion?
“He is a beast,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of the fifth-year player. “We understand his skillset, his vertical speed. I think they have continued to find ways to win the football game, whether that is finding some guys one week or finding other guys. I saw they handed it off on a jet sweep (to Smith), and (they) try to get him in some catch-and-run opportunities.”
Sunday’s contest with the Patriots and Smith seems reason enough to look at how notable free agents who departed the Titans during the offseason have fared thus far this season.
Here are some of the top players on each side of the coin (One note: We didn’t include players like Malcolm Butler, Adam Humphries, Adoreé Jackson and Dennis Kelly among outgoing free agents because the Titans cut them with years still remaining on the players’ contracts):
Position: Edge rusher
Contract signed: One-year, $8 million deal
What’s happened since: Clowney already has played 10 games for Cleveland, two more than during his only year with the Titans. He’s also sacked the quarterback – 3.5 times – which he was never able to do in his short stint in Tennessee. Clowney has 22 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hits, all of which have already surpassed his Titans totals.
Position: Wide receiver
Contract signed: Three-year, $37.5 million deal
What’s happened since: Overall, he’s been solid but not spectacular while catching passes from the likes of Zach Wilson, Mike White and Joe Flacco. In eight games, he has 32 receptions for 477 yards (14.9-yard average) and four touchdowns. He’ll have to pick up the pace if he wants to equal most of his Titans’ totals from 2020: 65 catches for 984 yards (15.1-yard average) and five touchdowns.
Position: Defensive line
Contract signed: One-year, $4.1 million deal
What’s happened since: Jones has started all 11 games for Carolina and played about 60 percent of the team’s snaps but doesn’t have much to show in the way of numbers. He’s totaled 16 tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss and four quarterback hits. In 16 games with the Titans last year, Jones produced 49 tackles, so he’s well behind that pace.
Contract signed: One-year, $3 million deal
What’s happened since: King has played close to 80 percent of the team’s snaps on defense. He has 50 tackles in nine games, almost as many as the 55 combined tackles he had for the Titans and Chargers last year. As previously referenced, King had his best day of the season against the Titans, with the two interceptions and two pass break-ups. King only surrendered four completions in eight targets against the Titans, per Pro Football Focus. That was a huge swing from the previous week, when he was targeted 15 times against Miami and surrendered 10 completions for 89 yards.
Position: Wide receiver
Contract signed: One-year, $1.1 million deal
What’s happened since: Raymond has carved out a niche for himself with the winless Lions, as he’s already played more than 500 offensive snaps this season – far more than in any of his previous years. He’s totaled 33 catches for 379 yards (11.5-yard average) and two touchdowns in 11 games. In his previous four seasons combined, Raymond had only 19 total receptions.
Position: Tight end
Contract signed: Four-year, $50 million deal
What’s happened since: Many Titans fans were worried Smith might have a big breakout year with the Patriots, but it hasn’t happened so far. Smith’s 22 catches and 210 receiving yards both rank sixth on New England, and he’s averaging about 21 yards per game through the air. Smith has played just over half of the Patriots’ offensive snaps this season, a much lower percentage than in Tennessee – where Smith was over 70 percent of the offensive snaps in each of the previous three years. The Patriots’ other big tight-end signing of the offseason – Hunter Henry – has made a much bigger splash, totaling 33 catches for 378 yards and seven touchdowns.