After a snooze-fest last weekend in New York, the Titans came out with a much more inspired effort on both sides of the football. They forced turnovers, the passing game looked sharp — they looked like themselves again. The Titans held of a surge from the Panthers late to win, 34-27.
Here’s what stood out to me during my initial watch.
Marcus Mariota looked great. He was able to hit Taywan Taylor and Tre McBride for big chunk plays. He capped his day off with a beautiful touch pass in the redzone to Delanie Walker for the score. The Titans appeared to have every intention of running the football, but when that didn’t work — Mariota picked up the slack. He finished 6-8, 61 yards and a touchdown. He even took a designed sweep nine yards. The injury from last year doesn’t appear to be a factor anymore.
We didn’t see a ton from the first team. Only four snaps as a complete unit, per Pro Football Focus.
It is worth noting the majority of the Titans starting defenders stopped playing after 4 snaps so most of the half was CAR O 1s vs. TEN D 2s— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) August 19, 2017
The Titans dominated this one early, thanks in part to a Logan Ryan strip. Kevin Byard got the recovery. Ryan led the Patriots in tackles last season, so this is his game. It was good to see him make a play after the disastrous start last season.
We didn’t see the starting secondary tested at all through the air, so we’ll have to keep wondering about that part of the defense.
Linebacker Jayon Brown continues to make plays. Check out what he does here in coverage. He makes the tip, which just so happens to get picked off by Justin Staples. This created points, with the Titans cashing in on the following plays. Brown continues to look like a steal.
Jayon Brown making things happen again! pic.twitter.com/bo5F7y07hG— Terry Lambert (@TLambertFB) August 19, 2017
Brown continued to consistently make plays. He’s on a different level athletically than most of the guys he’s playing with right now. His speed is evident.
Kevin Dodd played deep into the second half, which was interesting. They gave him plenty of reps in coverage, likely just wanting to give him experience. He was burned out of the backfield for a touchdown, but that’s far from his game. To be honest, his pass rushing reps were less than stellar against guys that likely won’t make the team. Not a good look for Dodd today.
Aaron Wallace actually saved this game with a fantastic sack late in the 4th quarter. He got around the corner and forced a fumble, which the Titans recovered. David Fluellen was able to score the game winning touchdown directly after.
Derrick Henry looked good when he had space. And he didn’t have much space all day. Henry scored twice today, getting the bulk of the work. He looked good, throwing stiff arms and forcing missed tackles.
The story of the first half for me was the lack of push from the offensive line. The Titans were getting stuffed consistently up front. There was just nowhere to go for Derrick Henry for much of the afternoon. The pass protection was vastly improved, however.
Matt Cassel had a nice day. He’s nothing special, but solid. After what we saw from Alex Tanney last week, I’ll take Cassel back with open arms. He looked in control and in command of the offense. He did have slightly better protection than Tanney got last week, I must note.
Plus — he trucked a linebacker.
35-year old QB Matt Cassel runs over a linebacker while running downfield pic.twitter.com/Avo7Q6aQj7— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 19, 2017
Cassel finished 8-13, throwing for 88 yards.
David Fluellen ripped off big run. He was the second back in the game behind Derrick Henry. Fluellen got a huge hole and hit it for a 50+ yard run. He seems to be in the driver’s seat for the RB3 role.
Akeem Judd again played ahead of Khalfani Muhammad. It’s interesting that the staff has refused to play Muhammad earlier than what we’ve seen to this point. I don’t see how he makes the roster.
Tre McBride had a nice start to his day with a couple of grabs early, but he missed an opportunity to grab a wide open touchdown. For a guy that’s on the outside looking in, this wasn’t what he needed. It was a catch he has to make. To his credit, he came back with a couple of nice grabs. He was open for most of the day.
Jonnu Smith got involved in the passing game, making a couple of short grabs and taking a screen pass. The big rookie tight end can move, showing off a little wiggle and YAC ability. It seems like the Titans are going to insert him into the TE2 role right off the bat.
Adoree Jackson took punt back for a touchdown. It was called back on a pretty weak block in the back call, but that doesn’t matter. It offered a glimpse of what the rookie can bring. There’s no reason he shouldn’t return everything for this team as a rookie.
Jalston Fowler exited in the third quarter with a low thigh bruise. The cart was prepared for him, but he chose to walk gingerly to the locker room. I’m not sure why Fowler was in the game so late, but this is a situation to monitor.