Behind Enemy Lines: Five Questions About the Tennessee Titans
It's been a brutal start to the 2020 season for the Vikings, and things aren't getting any easier from here. Sitting at 0-2, they must now take on a 2-0 Titans team that went to the AFC Championship Game a year ago. The game is at U.S. Bank Stadium, but as we saw in Week 1, that doesn't mean as much this year as it did in the past.
Can the Vikings get into the win column this weekend? And what do we need to know about the Titans ahead of this Week 3 matchup? To find out, I reached out to David Boclair of SI's AllTitans.
Fresh off of an AFC Championship Game appearance, the Titans are 2-0 in 2020. However, it hasn't been easy, with wins over the Broncos and Jaguars coming by a combined five points. What's the most pressing area where this team needs to improve to keep winning games?
The third-down defense needs to be better, and part of that is that they need to be better in the pass rush. The Titans have just two sacks through two games (only two teams have fewer), and both came last Sunday against Jacksonville. Their first two opponents have converted 56.5 percent of their third-down opportunities.
Free agent Vic Beasley, who led the NFL with 16.5 sacks back in 2016, has missed the first two games with a knee injury. He looks to be on pace to make his Titans debut Sunday. So, maybe he will make a difference.
Ryan Tannehill was the comeback player of the year last season and is off to a hot start with six touchdown passes and no picks so far. How much confidence is there in Tannehill and his ability to be the Titans' QB for years to come?
It's not just Tannehill's statistics and record that inspire confidence, good as they both are. Tannehill's leadership in the huddle, the meeting rooms and the locker room is something that this team has not gotten in recent years. Jake Locker and Marcus Mariota were popular, well-liked guys but did not inspire teammates in critical moments.
Confidence in Tannehill is high because he makes guys believe – and he continues to perform well beyond what he did in Miami.
What has Jadeveon Clowney brought to this team since being signed as a free agent? And who are a couple of other important names to know on the defensive of the ball?
Clowney has not brought much in terms of statistics, although he is second on the team with three quarterback pressures. What he has brought is an element of mystery. In both games, coaches lined him up at several different positions. His presence requires offenses to account for his whereabouts and to adjust the blocking scheme accordingly.
There is a sense that he has played too many snaps for a guy who did not sign until a week before the opener. Spelling him some (that brings us back to Beasley) and improved conditioning should make a difference as the season progresses.
Stephen Gostkowski has attempted 12 kicks this year and missed five of them. Is that a legitimate concern going forward or just a minor blip for a guy who has had a fantastic career?
Even with his struggles, Gostkowski has been an improvement over last season, when four kickers combined to make eight of 18 field goal attempts on the season. Coach Mike Vrabel has been unequivocal in his support for a guy who was once his teammate and believes Gostkowski will work through whatever mechanical issues he might have.
More importantly, he has made the kicks that mattered most. His 25-yard field goal with 17 seconds to play at Denver was the game-winner, as was his 49-yarder with 1:36 to go Sunday against Jacksonville. He also made a 51-yard field goal as time expired in the first half against the Jaguars, and that turned out to be a huge moment.
Lastly, let's hear your prediction. Tannehill, Derrick Henry, and a strong defense come to Minnesota to face a Vikings team that is struggling tremendously so far and is in desperate need of a win. Who gets the job done on Sunday?
The Titans have some significant injury issues, particularly in the secondary, that will hinder them in this game. They do have Henry, who makes the offense go whether he carries the ball or whether he attracts attention with the play-action passing game. And they have a lot of confidence, which is probably in short supply among the Vikings.
I expect a similar contest to Tennessee's opener at Denver, a low-scoring, tight affair that the Titans ultimately win. I'll predict: Tennessee 23, Minnesota 17.
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