The Tennessee Titans escaped with one yesterday at LP vs the Jacksonville Jaguars, snapping a four game losing streak and avoiding the second embarrassing collapse in as many weeks.
Jake Locker sat out yet another game, giving way to Charlie Whitehurst. It's hard to be upset with his performance on the day, as he found his targets when they were there (despite a few egregious over throws), hitting Delanie Walker and Justin Hunter down the field with aplomb. Walker was, yet again, a massive influence on the game, presenting a reliable option for Whitehurst and getting vital yards after the catch.
Dexter McCluster showed up today, AND he got his number called plenty by Ken Whisenhunt on the day. He recorded 6 catches for 52 yards, greasing the wheels of the offense and showing good burst after the catch. It marks the first time that he has been used as was let on to fans in the pre-season. Kendall Wright and Nate Washington were rather quiet, but Walker, McCluster, and Hunter took advantage of their favorable match-ups to cause problems for the Jaguars down the field.
On the offensive line, struggles abounded in the first half, where the Titans managed only 16 rushing yards on 9 carries. Taylor Lewan had issues defending the edge against former Seahawk Chris Clemons, and Jacksonville enjoyed a solid pass rush throughout. Following the half, however; the Titans offensive line got going, and opened up some holes for Bishop Sankey. Lewan ended up having a good game, with only a few miscues on pass rushing downs. With Greene sidelined with injury, Sankey looked very impressive; showing great vision and slipperiness on the second level.
The Titans defense came alive in this one, taking advantage of matching up against a poor offensive line for the Jaguars. Jurrell Casey was a menace inside, notching two sacks (of the 6 on the day) and multiple tackles at, and behind, the line of scrimmage. Karl Klug also showed up plenty, notching a sack of his own and putting constant pressure when he was deployed on the outside. Ropati Pitoitua was also very solid on the day, anchoring against the run and putting heat on the QB when called upon.
Against the run, the Titans defensive front three were more solid than in past weeks, and held the Jaguars running backs in check. Only Denard Robinson (5 carries for 22 yards, averaged better than 3 yards per carry. For correlation, Blake Bortles was by far the Jaguars leading rusher on the day.
Kamerion Wimbley, Shaun Phillips, and Derrick Morgan also made appearances, putting pressure on Blake Bortles and forcing the Jaguars to look almost exclusively to the short underneath routes. Bortles only threw a pass farther than 20 yards 3 times. Avery Williamson played very well on the inside, wrapping up running backs and playing decent coverage in the underneath zones. He also capitalized on a fumble caused by Jason McCourty on Cecil Shorts III, scooping up the ball and taking it into enemy territory. Woodyard was mostly consistent, save for a disastrous tackle attempt on Clay Harbor in the game's final moments. Along with Griffin, Woodyard would have been the goat of the game for that effort.
In the secondary, both McCourty and Wreh-Wilson looked lively, batting away passes and enacting tough coverage down the field. Wreh-Wilson's was a redemptive effort, being sure on his tackles and recording multiple pass breakups. He also recorded his first career interception, stepping in front of Allen Hurns in the red zone and taking the ball back to midfield. The second year corner was aggressive in his coverage, manning up on his receiver and jamming them at the line on almost every down.
Daimion Stafford also had a strong day in the void left by Bernard Pollard. Stafford built on his pre-season performances be delivering big hits and maintaining coverage on the deep zones. Rookie MarQueston Huff also got in on the action, playing solid coverage and even notching a sack of his own.
The Titans special teams were the difference on the day. Ryan Succop hit three field goals, Leon Washington returned his first kickoff 40 yards, and Brett Kern pinned the Jaguars deep all day. The coup de grace was Sammie Hill's block of Josh Scobee's would-be game winner. Only the failed recovery attempt by Michael Griffin, on an onside kick that would have been illegal had it not taken a deflection off of Quentin Groves, and a missed catch by MarQueston Huff that would have pinned the Jaguars on the 1 yard line, rubbed onlookers the wrong way.
The entire team flailed down the stretch, faltering in the final moments both on defense and on the onside recovery unit. But it undersigned a day where Tennessee enjoyed superior field position throughout.
The Titans almost let another one slip through their fingers in the final moments, and the defense's inability to cover the underneath routes and the boundaries, where Blake Bortles was making his money, was disappointing to say the least, especially with the game on the line. That said, they played relatively well for 55 minutes, and generated a pass rush for the first time in four weeks, recording six on the day when they had notched only one in their past three games.
Charlie Whitehurst played a solid game, hitting his targets when they made themselves available. The Titans certainly need to be better running the ball than they were in this one, but a strong second half by Bishop Sankey helped ease concerns. Tennessee got one they really needed to win, but a close game over the win-less Jaguars doesn't inspire boatloads of confidence down the stretch,