For the second time the Titans will face the Jameis Winston version of the Buccaneers, a team that’s started off 2019 2-4. We won’t get Marcus Mariota and Winston part 2, but perhaps we can get a moment in the Titans season where they can actually develop some consistency.
This Buccaneers defense is different, but not too different in terms of quality. The pass rush has been upgraded, but the secondary remains a major problem, with liabilities all over the place in coverage. So on paper this should be an easy game for the Titans offense.
However, the pass rush could make things difficult for the offensive line, which I still don’t trust. In addition the Titans are one of those teams that enjoys to run the ball, and that’s one area the Buccaneers defense has been really good against. The team is allowing the fewest rushing yards per game (68.0) and is Football Outsiders’ most efficient run defense, but in an era where that doesn’t matter nearly as much as pass defense it doesn’t say a whole lot.
Tennessee is inside the top 10 in rushing attempts, but with an impressive game from Ryan Tannehill against the Chargers, they need to keep up the momentum the passing game displayed and focus on exploiting the weak secondary.
Let’s break it all down in this week’s Titans Enemy Profile ahead of Sunday’s game, starting with the below clip from the Bucs’ London matchup with the Panthers.
This could be a game where Delanie Walker or Jonnu Smith go off, as the Buccaneers are allowing the most yards to tight ends this season (497). The mesh concept the Panthers run here easily burns the middle of the defense, and Greg Olsen is able to get all sorts of yards after the catch without being touched.
But it’s the receivers that are truly killing this Buccaneers defense. Inside the top 7 for yards given up and among Football Outsiders’ 10 least efficient pass defenses, this is the game where Corey Davis and A.J. Brown have to be available in a big way.
Take these two plays against the Saints for instance.
Vernon Hargreaves has been a major anchor to this Buccaneers defense, allowing a 114.1 passer rating on the season and a 70.2 completion percentage according to Pro-Football-Reference.
Hargreaves simply doesn’t have the speed or coverage smarts to guard Michael Thomas on this play. A simple cut outside on the corner gets Thomas enough separation for Teddy Bridgewater to move the chains on this pass.
Here’s the second of the two aforementioned plays.
Thomas destroys Hargreaves’ blind spot with another sharp, quick cut to the corner. It’s too much to ask to be perfect against one of the league’s best receivers but a little competence wouldn’t hurt.
With that said, this needs to be a game where the Titans focus more on the pass than the run. This should be obvious, but with an unpredictable coaching staff and execution we never know what we’ll get from this team. In the middle of the race for the AFC South though Ryan Tannehill should get all the shots to Davis and Brown he can get.
The Buccaneers have one of the weaker secondaries in the league but a strong enough pass rush that could wreck the Titans offensive line. I can see either team winning this game, but with the upgrade in talent at the receiving corps (and quite possibly QB) I don’t see much of an excuse for Tennessee to lose this one at home.