Yesterday we looked at the offense, but today we break down some of the match-ups on defense.
The Titans were a double-edged sword last week, applying copious pressure with their front seven, and then being washed away by a patient Steelers running game. Jurrell Casey led the way last week, and he will continue to do so this game, matched up with LG Evan Mathis and (situationally) C Jason Kelce. Both Eagles linemen are accomplished run blockers, but are likely to struggle with Casey's quick hands and savvy in pass rushing situations.
Elsewhere on the line, NT Sammie Hill struggled last week, and failed to anchor the middle against the run. He can't afford to be blown of the line again this week, with a back like LeSean McCoy ready to pounce through an open hole. The right side of the line will be interesting to watch, with Ropati Pitoitua taking on young RT Lane Johnson. That will be an important battle to determine if the Eagles are able to run off tackle to right or not. One place Pitoitua has struggled is closing on the perimeter on outside screens and tosses. I would expect the Eagles to employ Darren Sproles to do just that.
Tennessee enjoyed a resurgent game in the pass rushing department last week, and much of the pressure came from the second level. Avery Williamson continues to shine at ILB, and his pass rushing talent was evident blitzing from the interior. Wesley Woodyard also posted an improved game, much more at ease in the flex/coverage role beside the more run-oriented Williamson.
On the outsides, we saw production from Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, and Shaun Phillips, something that has been sorely lacking for much of the season so far. Morgan's transition to linebacker looks better each week, and he has proven athletic enough to play in space, even if he hasn't dazzled. I said on MCM Radio the other day that I never think he'll be a dynamic guy that can post 10+ sacks, but that doesn't mean he can't be a solid piece at OLB going forward.
One area the Titans will need improvement is their run stopping, which ranks near the bottom of the league at this point. I also think that some increased offensive production down the stretch would quickly flip things around (the Titans would look much better with a lead, allowing them to pin their ears back and rush the passer). In the mean time, the Titans will be stretched against a duo of explosive backs who can make you pay in space, especially in the flats. Without the explosive athleticism to track them down on the edge, the defense will be stretched thin.
The Eagles have a lot of speed out wide, including Jeremy Maclin, who has been on fire recently, and rookie Jordan Matthews. Blidi Wreh-Wilson has a redemptive effort against the Steelers last week, but has been an up and down prospect so far this season. The Eagles will certainly test him down the field. McCourty, on the other hand, struggled to contain Antonio Brown last week (as many do with Brown), but did notch a key interception on a poorly thrown Roethlisberger pass. The Titans corners and safeties will need to be aware of the entire field, and ensure that they keep plays in front of them. Mark Sanchez has not been afraid to test defenses down the field with the Eagles' speedy receivers (and tight end Brent Celek), after all.
Strong safety Daimion Stafford, who had a big game last week, will continue to split time with veteran George Wilson, coming down into the box and playing run support. Hopefully the Titans can figure out their run defense woes, or it will be a long day in Philadelphia.