The Titans came away from EverBank Field with a win. It is what it is. While I can understand the debate regarding wins vs draft position at this point, I still find it impossible to hope for my team to lose a game. That said, the win against the hapless Jaguars makes me upset more in regards to the coaching staff decision that looms above STSP than about a few picks in the upcoming draft.
Quarterback / Wide Receiver
Ryan Fitzpatrick was decidedly average on the day, posting 17/26 for 181 yards, a TD and an INT. It was a mixed bag altogether. The INT was a bad overthrow on his part, but that was undoubtedly Washington's biggest error of the day; that ball was high, but definitely catchable. Fitz also air-mailed Delanie Walker on 4 and goal from the 1, which was painful to watch. Aside from that, Fitzpatrick hooked up with Nate Washington all game long on some beautiful throws. Here is what Fitzpatrick had to say about Nate:
“You never really know going into a game, whose day it’s going to be, and I think that’s a good thing for us as an offense. Nate is always a guy that is a solid pro and you never know when it’s going to be his day. I think that’s his third 100-yard receiving game of the year and he had a couple of big plays early. He’s been so reliable all year long and he’s a guy that I really trust and look to in the man coverage stuff and he did a good job today.”
I seriously hope he comes back next year.
Overall, I honestly expected better against a defense starting five rookies and in the bottom of the league statistically, especially after torching Arizona last week for long stretches. But it is what it is. Fitz is, and always will be, a streaky player.
Walker made a few nice grabs, and he continues to be an important piece of the offense in both the passing and running games. He has stepped up exactly the way he was expected to, so credit to him on what has been far and away his best NFL season. Here's to seeing more of that in the seasons ahead.
Wright was fairly quiet with only 4 catches and 22 yards to his credit. It was clear that the Jags made him a coverage priority, which left Washington in mainly single man and able to work some magic. Hunter was invisible, which was odd to see at this point, but outside of Washington none of the Titan Wideouts shined.
The offensive line was anchored by a new RT this time around, with the banged-up David Stewart giving way to Byron Stingely. The young tackle made some nice plays in the run game, which was one of the reasons things seem to have gotten going in that department. He did surrender a sack and struggled with a couple of speed rushes around the edge, but I would say his game was actually an upgrade over Stewart at the moment. Roos also played with some skill, creating a few nice outside blocks for Shonn Greene and Chris Johnson. The entire unit was not up to par in pass pro, but I put plenty of that on Fitzpatrick's inability to throw the ball away when things break down. More often than not Fitz held the ball too long and put the offense behind the 8-ball by taking a big sack. That tendency doesn't help the field position battle either.
The running game showed some signs of life, but it was a steady kind of production, gradually increasing as the game wore on. Greene was particularly impressive, running through arm tackles and grinding down the defense. CJ had a few nice gallops of his own, showing some explosion and some savvy on a crucial 3rd down run, spinning off of a would-be tackle and gaining enough for to convert. He is a weapon when he's running with confidence. It was nice to see some power from the Titans' rushing attack, but it is easy to forget that most of that production came in the second half after the offense produced a pitiful output of two field goals before the break. The two backs showed they can be an effective tandem when they have some blocking to work with, but I still think CJ's snaps are numbered. Unless he is willing to break down and take a steep pay cut, the Titans need to be ready to roll with Greene and a rookie next year.
For the first time in weeks the Titan edge rushers showed up to play. Both Morgan and Pitoitua made some excellent stops in the run game, notably on crucial downs. Kamerion Wimbley also flashed his ability, wrecking the Jaguars LT on a speed rush outside and getting home. Too bad that their solid performance also coincided with breakdowns on the interior of the Titans defensive line. In the run game, they were stellar, with Casey, Johnson, and Klug all making a mark in stopping the opponent's rushing attack. But they also generated very little push inside, and that was disappointing. Casey's battle against Nwaneri will continue next year, and it seems like the Jags Guard might be his kryptonite, giving the Titan star DT his two worst pass rushing games of the year.
I cringed when I saw Colin McCarthy run out onto the field at OLB on the first defensive series. He looked pretty lost out there at times, having break downs in coverage and failing to maintain proper positioning defending the run. He ended the day with two tackles, replaced by Zach Brown in the second half who solidified the unit immensely. What a suprise, playing your best players leads to the best results? Akeem Ayers posted a similar stat line to McCarthy, and was abused on a long pass to Marcedes Lewis. That play alone showed his inexperience defending that type of play; he had excellent positioning, showing the speed to keep pace with a fast TE, only to fail to get his head turned around to make a play on the ball. He also made a bad mistake when he jumped offsides and gave the Jags a 4 and inches. His role has been diminished for some time now, and he has failed to make the impact expected, especially since he has not been employed as initially billed. Fokou was ineffectual as well, but did make a few nice tackles against Jaguars backs Maurice Jones Drew and Jordan Todman. The linebackers have been a huge disappointment this year, and I pin a majority of that on incompetent coaching. I am hoping for some change in that department regardless if Munchak somehow survives the year or not.
The secondary got torched early on but threw up the barricades in the second half. Here is what Munchak had to say bout it:
I felt we settled down. Jerry (Gray) and Gregg (Williams) did a good job in the second half realizing what we needed to do to help the guys that needed it in those spots. We got a good feel on how to spot them in the second half. We adjusted as the game went on.”
He's not wrong. The halves were night and day from a defensive stand point. Both McCourty and Verner held their guys in check for most of the day, but they were not without fault in the early goings. While it doesn't get talked about much, Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty may very well be the best tackling CB tandem in the NFL. Both guys made great stops, including McCourty's stonewall of Ace Sanders on a crucial 3rd down late in the game.
While Pollard did allow the initial Jags score to Marcedes Lewis, he did have good coverage on the play. He also has a missed tackle in the backfield. Still, I would have voted him as MVP of the game. He made hard hits throughout to stem the Jags rushing attack, and both his blocked extra point and fourth down tackle were game changing plays. Griffin made some good tackles as well and had mostly good coverage over the top. These two Titan safeties seem to have good chemistry at this point. George Wilson also deserves mention for his game-sealing one handed interception. I am very happy that Webster signed him for two years, you really can't have too many quality guys like Wilson on the roster who can be relied upon to be a leader, and step in on both defense and special teams and make an impact.
The kick coverage unit had a few mistakes of note, but nothing major. Leon Washington didn't have much room to run, but made the returns he should have. The decision making upgrade at the KR/PR spot may be the biggest difference from early in the year to now. Bironas was on point with a couple of long field goals to his credit.
I thought the Sparkle Kitties would pull off the sweep. They have been playing much better football since the last time these two teams met, but alas, Munchak got the win he needed. I have never been annoyed at my team's coach showing passion on the sidelines until this week: someone mentioned to me that the Titans' coaching staff looked like they had won the Superbowl during the game, and I found myself agreeing. This is a game they should have comfortably won, but instead they made it ugly, which is the exact reason I pinned this down as a loss last week. Well done to the players, namely Nate Washington and Bernard Pollard, for a victory that in the grand scheme of things means nothing, but on a smaller stage, gives us a better idea of what the players on this team can do.