What was lining up to be a statement game, and probably one of the most important match-ups of the year for Tennessee, has ended up being a dreaded monster after what may just be the worst Titans loss in years; especially considering expectations and the level of talent on the roster, the loss of Locker, etc. I hope Loggains and Munch have done some serious homework to help remedy the situation and put up a solid game against our biggest divisional rival.
I am starting with the defense this week, because right now, they give us the best chance to win football games. On the defensive line, Sammy Hill and Jurrell Casey are tearing up the interior. They still need to grow some against the run, both both men have shown a penchant for disrupting the line and getting penetration in opposing backfields. Casey, in particular, is about as good as it gets at DT right now in the NFL, especially when rushing the passer. Derrick Morgan also showed up last week and showed he is capable of being a difference maker at DE.
The linebackers coach needs to be fired. There is no doubt in my mind that he has one of the most talented young OLBs in the league in Zach Brown, and has been able to do little with him after a quick start to the season. The lack of production from Brown, Ayers, and McCarthy is disconcerting at best, since I feel all three guys are talented players if deployed correctly. They will be tasked with holding up against a less-potent rushing attack this week, but Gray and Williams need to do a much better job of protecting the underneath middle of the field with them. Luck and co. will take that all day if they can, and they will do it better than Henne and the Jags; those errors will lead to points.
In the secondary, Verner maintained his level of play and notched his 5th INT of the year, good for most in the NFL. The Titans are going to need big performances from him and McCourty against a young but talented Colts receiver in TY Hilton. The Colts will also attack with their TEs often, and whether Gray opts to cover them with Pollard often or instead goes with Brown/Ayers, the defense will need to be aware of them all game long.
Welcome back to the Amish Water-Pistol, ladies and gentlemen. This team is going to need Fitzpatrick to elevate his game well above the performances we saw earlier in the year if they are going to be at all competitive. With the Colts coming off a massive loss to the Rams, I feel they will be rearing to get back on track. Fitz will need to lean on Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, Delanie Walker, and even Justin Hunter down the stretch if the Titans are to garner some more wins this year, especially with the rushing attack in shambles.
The run game from St. Louis is looking more and more like an aberration as opposed to the norm. The offensive line was deeply embarrassed by Jacksonville, and got pushed around on nearly every run down. While they were not good at protecting the passer either, the line failed to get any push or open lanes. Shonn Greene managed to muscle out some yards, but that aspect of the team is broken right now, as it has been for the majority of the season. Why the coaches insist on sticking with what is probably the weakest part of the team right now is beyond me. But now that Fitz is under center, that decision has become more of a 'pick your poison' type deal. The team needs CJ/Greene to emerge and carry the offense at least a little. I have been disappointed with Warmack, Levitre, and Stewart for much of the season, and it will be worth seeing how serious the Schwenke injury is going forward.
Damian Williams need to pick his battles more wisely this week, when field position will be much more important. His blockers did him no favors against Jacksonville last week, so the whole unit needs to step up in a big way. The team may need a big play or two from the return units to win games down the stretch. The kick coverage unit also needs to take some strides. They allowed both the Jaguars and the Rams to have consistently good field position the past few weeks. That has to stop to give the defense a break.
CJ and co. need up their game if the Titans have any hope of being relevant late in the season. If the line can get things together somewhat, if Fitz can rein in his poor decisions and approach the game in a more controlled fashion, if the coaches can adapt to failed game-plans instead of stubbornly pressing the issue, maybe the Titans have a chance. As of right now, color me skeptical.