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All-22 Review: Rashaan Evans, Jayon Brown, and Malcolm Butler star in outstanding defensive showing

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Titans young linebackers continue to grow.

NFL: New York Jets at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Quick week, quick review.

As much as I love the Titans playing a primetime game at night in Nissan Stadium — these are always the best home atmospheres — I hate the compressed schedule between a Sunday game and a Thursday game. It leaves almost no time for the regular rhythm of reflection on the previous game and then looking forward to the next game that makes football season so enjoyable to me. Nobody should feel sorry for me — I just write things on the internet — but the large, fast people who just spent three hours crashing in to other large, fast people just four days ago certainly have a gripe.

Not to go on a large tangent here, but why couldn’t the NFL adjust the schedule to add an extra bye week to the season? Teams would still play 16 games, but over 18 weeks instead of 17. Teams would have a mandatory bye before their Thursday night game — essentially giving them two mini-byes on either side of that game — and another regular bye at some other point in the season. We get to keep three primetime games a week, get an extra week of football, and the players don’t have to take the physical risk of playing two games in four days. In the words of Bill Simmons... “who says no here?”

Let’s get back to the Jets game. The Titans defense was outstanding in this one, as they should be against a bad Jets offense. They limited New York to just 280 total yards and allowed just five field goals. The pass defense was particularly good, limiting Josh McCown — yeah, I know — to just 4.27 yards per attempt.

When the team needed them most, the defense stood tall. The Jets had five 4th quarter drives. Here are the results:

  • 3 plays, 2 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 4 yards, punt
  • 3 plays, 8 yards, punt
  • 4 plays, 18 yards, punt
  • 2 plays, 20 yards, interception

The fact that the Titans defense continued to get the ball back for it’s offense quickly is crucial as Mariota & Co. needed nearly every second they gave them to complete the comeback. Let’s get in to the stars of the defensive performance.

Rashaan Evans leads team in tackles despite playing less than half the total defensive snaps

Rashaan Evans led the Titans defense with 8 tackles in the game despite playing just 46% of snaps. He played 32 snaps total which means he made a tackle on 25% of the snaps that he was in the game for.

You can really see him improving week by week now. Here, he slips by the block of the guard and makes the tackle for a short gain.

NFL Game Pass

My favorite thing about Evans is the urgency that he plays with. You can see that on this play as he actually runs right through nose tackle Austin Johnson to get to the running back. Evans plays with a hard-hitting, hair-on-fire type mentality that makes him stand out every time you see him play.

NFL Game Pass

This is the aspect where Evans is showing the most growth though. His ability to read where a run is headed and get there before the ball carrier arrives is on display here.

NFL Game Pass

Very similar rep here as he figures out quickly where the back is headed and beats him to the spot to make the tackle for a short gain.

NFL Game Pass

The Titans have a good problem at linebacker right now. Rashaan Evans, Jayon Brown, and Wesley Woodyard are all playing at a high level and deserve snaps right now.

Jayon Brown continues to play at an extremely high level

Brown could have an argument to be the Titans defensive MVP this year. He ranks highly in nearly every statistical category and constantly makes “wow” plays for defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

This is a relatively simple play, but Brown’s athleticism helps him close on the swing pass in a hurry and knocks it away.

NFL Game Pass

Brown added another sack against the Jets, bringing his total to 6 on the season. He got a lot of help from his friends as Sharif Finch and Jurrell Casey created the initial pressure while Logan Ryan and Kevin Byard anticipated the crossing routes and cut them off downfield allowing Brown the time to close and make the tackle on McCown.

NFL Game Pass

Of course the strength that originally got Brown on the field for the Titans is his ability in coverage and that showed up in this game with this outstanding PBU in the second half. His athleticism and anticipation is outstanding.

NFL Game Pass

Malcolm Butler beginning to get out of the doghouse

It’s no secret that Butler had a rough start to the year — and the season long stats are still pretty ugly — but he’s been much better in recent weeks and he may have had his best game of the season against the Jets.

Here, he cuts off Quincy Enunwa’s out and up and squeezes it to the sidelines, making the window for McCown to fit the ball in impossibly small.

NFL Game Pass

Here’s another big play from Butler. This is a 3rd down play in the 4th quarter and the Jets are trying to get a simple swing pass out to the back in the flat, but Butler recognizes it right away and blows it up for a loss to force a punt.

NFL Game Pass

Finally, we’ve got the interception to seal the game. The Jets are in desperation mode so McCown is just kind of throwing this one up there, but Butler does a nice job of coming off his man to make the pick and lock in the win, also giving the Titans their first turnover since Dallas.

NFL Game Pass

Other stuff I liked

A few other random plays that I liked from this game. Sharif Finch played well again. Here, he does a great job of recognizing the screen pass and then blowing it up for a big loss. If he doesn’t pick this up, it could have gone for a big gain.

NFL Game Pass

Dean Pees continued to show off some nifty blitzes in this game. Here, he nearly forces a turnover with a safety pinch blitz. They show 6 potential rushers across the line with the interior 4 all bunched in the A and B gaps. They drop the two edge guys out into coverage and bring Byard right up the middle to overwhelm the interior of New York’s line. Logan Ryan nearly comes down with the interception on the back end.

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Jurrell Casey was back to doing Jurrell Casey things. Here, he gets a quick win and immediate pressure to sack McCown and force the Jets in to a tough down and distance at the edge of the red zone.

NFL Game Pass

Finally, we have Kenny Vaccaro’s outstanding diving PBU that forced the Jets final punt of the night, setting up Marcus Mariota’s dramatic game-winning touchdown drive. If Vaccaro doesn’t lay out for this ball, we’re probably talking about the draft right now.

NFL Game Pass

It was truly a team effort from the Titans defense and they’ll need to produce a similar effort tonight against the Jaguars if they want to keep their playoff dreams alive.