The All-22 Review is a recurring feature here at Music City Miracles breaking down the tape from the previous week’s Titans game. The focus will vary depending on where the action on the field takes us, but the idea is to bring insights that may have been missed on the TV broadcast.
The Jaguars are not a good offensive football team. That’s not exactly a hot take, but it should be pointed out before we lavish too much praise on any defense that faces them. That being said, the Titans defense has mastered the Jaguars offense to a pretty rare degree recently.
WARNING: Some of the stats below are pretty staggering.
- The Jaguars have just 41 points total over the past four games against the Titans.
- Over the last three games against the Titans, the Jaguars have scored just 25 points combined.
- The Jaguars offense has scored just 3 touchdowns in that same time frame and all of them were in garbage time. The score of the game when those three touchdowns were scored were 30-3, 37-9, and 30-2.
- The Jaguars haven’t held the lead for a single second of the last four meetings between these teams.
The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t scored a meaningful offensive touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in 720 days and counting. That’s dominance on a pretty incredible level.
This particular beat down of the Jaguars was pretty comprehensive. Jacksonville threatened offensively just once while the game was still in reach, getting stuffed on the goal line midway through the 2nd quarter. Overall, the Titans allowed just 255 yards of total offense, forced a turnover, and picked up 4 sacks.
Jurrell Casey continues to play at an All-Pro level
The Titans best player had 1.5 of those sacks in yet another great performance from the three time Pro Bowler. Casey now leads the team with 7 sacks on the season which is already tied for the second highest total of his career. Casey also passed his teammate Derrick Morgan for second place on the team’s Titans Era sack leaderboard.
Jevon Kearse (52)
Jurrell Casey (46)
Derrick Morgan (44.5)
Casey isn’t just a pass rusher though. He’s also one of the league’s best run defenders, ranking 5th in the NFL in PFF’s run stop percentage metric (2nd among defensive linemen).
Here is an example of a typical Casey run stop. He flat out manhandles the Jaguars right guard, tossing him aside and then stepping up to make the tackle for no gain.
Casey’s first sack was on a stunt with rookie edge rusher Harold Landry. The tackle sets deep and wide against Landry’s speed rush which creates a lot of space for Casey and the rookie to twist. Landry gets the initial pressure in Cody Kessler’s face and then Casey cleans up as the quarterback tries to escape the pocket. I would suspect that we will see these two combining on many sacks over the next few years.
This next snap is just a pressure, but it shows off a fantastic spin move from Casey after his initial effort to split the A gap is blocked off. It’s extremely rare to see a player of Casey’s size and strength capable of stringing together multiple pass rush moves in the same rush.
The fact that Casey didn’t finish in the top 10 among defensive linemen in Pro Bowl fan voting is just another reminder of how criminally underrated he is as a player nationally. Luckily, there is still a chance for his peers and coaches to help get him to his 4th straight appearance in the NFL’s All-Star game. If they do, he’ll become the first player to appear in the Pro Bowl four times in a Titans uniform.
Huge goal line stand sets up Henry’s record tying run
The sequence that really put this game away started with a massive effort by the Titans defense with their backs against the goal line. The Jaguars ended up running 7 plays inside the Titans 10-yard line, but failed to score on any of them. The next play, Derrick Henry rumbled 99 yards in to the record books and the route was on.
The Jags had inched the ball from the 7 to the 3 with a Leonard Fournette fun and a couple Cody Kessler sneaks to set up 1st and goal. They first tried Fournette again up the middle, but Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, Logan Ryan, and Kenny Vaccaro shut it down.
The Jaguars would try to go off tackle on the next play, but Austin Johnson rocks the left tackle about 3 yards deep and Logan Ryan meets Fournette in the hole. Rashaan Evans and Wesley Woodyard quickly arrive behind him to push the pile back away from the endzone.
On 3rd down the Jaguars try a little play action boot play, but heads up plays by three Titans defenders spoil it for Jacksonville. First, Derrick Morgan recognizes the play quickly and is able to get a hand on the scraping fullback who is leaking out in the flat, disrupting the timing of his route and giving Wesley Woodyard time to react and close to break up the throw. The other Titan who really makes this play work for the defense is Kenny Vaccaro. He also recognizes what’s going on quickly and gets in the tight end’s hip pocket all the way through the corner of the endzone, deleting him as a viable target for Kessler.
Finally, we have the 4th down play on the goal line. The Jaguars go back off tackle and, again, the Titans defense is there. Rashaan Evans does a great job knifing through the line and is able to get Fournette by the ankles, but he also gets help from Austin Johnson, Logan Ryan, and Kevin Byard who all do a nice job of executing their responsibilities and help stone Fournette at the 1-yard line.
This stop kept the Jaguars from taking their first lead against the Titans since 2016 and it was a total team effort to do it.
Dean Pees’ creative blitzes continue to get home
Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been fantastic this season when it comes to dialing up pressure with the blitz. He does it by taking the opposition’s protection scheme and using it against them.
Here’s an example of an overload blitz which is one of Pees’ favorite concepts. It starts with a “diamond front” featuring five defenders on the line of scrimmage lined up across from the five offensive linemen. From left to right on the screen those five are Brian Orakpo, Rashaan Evans, Jurrell Casey, Wesley Woodyard, and Harold Landry. Jayon Brown is the off ball linebacker playing behind them and Kevin Byard is lined up as a slot defender just off the screen to the left. The Jaguars have a six man protection called with running back T.J. Yeldon staying in to block along with the offensive line. They think they’re going to be in pretty good shape here even if Brown comes along with the five on the line of scrimmage.
However, the Titans mess with their numbers and assignments post-snap. Landry and Woodyard — the two defenders on the line of scrimmage to the right of the center — both drop out in to coverage. The three on the line of scrimmage to the left of the center all come, but Casey and Evans both loop inside which creates a big void between the left tackle and left guard. Brown and Byard also blitz giving the Titans a total of five pass rushers, all of them coming from the left side of the line. With the left guard forced to handle Evans and the left tackle chasing Orakpo around the loop, Brown and Byard find themselves in a two-on-one situation against Yeldon which results in an easy win for the blitzers.
Here’s a similar concept later in the game. The Titans, again, are in their diamond front and, again, they’re going to use an overload blitz concept to get pressure. This time they do it with just four rushers though. Casey is really the key on this one. Look at the attention he draws in the middle of the line. He ends the play with three Jaguars offensive linemen blocking him while Yeldon is once again left one-on-one with Brown. Brown’s rush keeps Kessler from being able to step into the throw and it sails high out of bounds.
This next concept is one that we’ve seen from the Titans defense a few times recently with great success. Again, it’s built on dictating the offensive line’s pre-snap responsibilities and then changing them post-snap. The Titans show six possible rushers in the box and the Jaguars counter with a six man protection. The two edge rushers bail out into coverage while the four lined up inside the tackle box all rush. The Jaguars do a good job of picking up that group, but it leaves them with nobody to account for Byard who comes screaming up the middle after looping in from his slot alignment. He chases Kessler out of the pocket and forces a throwaway.
This one may be my favorite though. Check out the defense pre-snap. There are eight Titans on the screen, but the guy who makes the sack — Logan Ryan — isn’t one of them. The alignment draws the Jaguars attention to the left side of the line and then the Titans hit them on the right. It’s simple, but beautiful stuff. Here, Ryan comes in untouched and does a nice job of finishing with a little help from Evans.
The Titans blitz schemes are virtually impossible to predict pre-snap and the players executing the blitzes are all plus rushers for their positions. Guys like Byard, Vaccaro, Ryan, Evans, Woodyard, and Brown have already shown an advanced understanding of how to disguise and time a blitz. The versatility of all these players makes it virtually impossible to predict which one might be coming on any given play. It’s really fun to watch Pees tinkering with this talented group.
Rookie edge rushers continue to impress
While deceptive blitz schemes are fun, nothing beats the ability to get to the quarterback with just a standard four man pass rush. That’s something the Titans have really struggled with in 2018, but there is a glimmer of hope for the future in a couple of their young edge rushers.
Let’s start with Sharif Finch. I wrote about him last week, but the play he made is worth pointing out quickly again here. He destroys the tight end around the edge and then has the presence of mind to rip the ball out of Kessler’s hands on the way to the ground and recover it himself.
Also, the Jags should really have considered blocking Jurrell Casey on this play. Just an idea.
Harold Landry continues to flash with a regularity that makes me think he’s very close to a break out game. His rookie season has been filled with near misses and that continued to be the case against the Jaguars. This was very nearly a strip sack as his trademark dip move beats the right tackle and he’s able to hit Kessler’s arm just as he’s releasing the ball. This is the kind of play that very easily could have been a turnover. If Landry gets there a split second earlier, it’s a sack fumble. If the deflected ball flies in a different direction it could have easily been an interception. The Jags are lucky this one harmlessly fell to the turf, but that shouldn’t discount the play made by Landry.
Landry impacted this game in a way that’s bigger than what his box score stats would indicate — something that’s been pretty common this season. Here’s another speed rush that pushes Kessler off his spot and eventually leads to a throwaway and a win for the defense.
Here’s another one. This time Kessler takes off and runs, but Landry made it very difficult for the Jaguars to get a downfield passing game going because he was constantly buzzing around behind Kessler.
Another dip and rip from Landry, another throwaway forced.
If you really want a nice glimpse of what the future of the Titans defense could look like, this next play is for you. Landry and Evans are lined up next to each other and both execute their best pass rush move — Landry’s speed rush and Evans’ inside spin — to get pressure on Kessler and force the incomplete pass.
If the Titans are going to get in to the playoffs, they’re going to need their young edge rushers to come up big over the next three games. Brian Orakpo has already been ruled out for the Giants game which means we should see a lot of snaps for Landry and Finch. What they do with those snaps will be very important to the outcome of that game.