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How Titans can neutralize Chargers pass rush

The Tennessee Titans must prevent Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack from impacting the game. Here’s how they can do it, per advanced metrics.

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NFL: Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Titans (0-1) will face a stiff challenge from the Los Angeles Chargers (0-1) in Sunday’s regular-season home opener at Nissan Stadium. One of the Titans keys to victory will be to hold Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack from impacting the pocket on a consistent basis. The Miami Dolphins did an excellent job keeping the Chargers’ dominant pass rushers from getting into the backfield throughout their 36-34 win.

Dolphins starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was not sacked. Only three Chargers defenders registered multiple pressures against the Dolphins. They were Mack (6), Bosa (4) and Morgan Fox (2), according to Pro Football Focus. Defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, who is more of a run stopper than pass rusher, recorded the Chargers’ lone quarterback hit against the Dolphins.

It represented a massive success for a Dolphins offensive line that was without starting left tackle Terron Armstead. Armstead was replaced in the starting lineup by former Titans legend Kendall Lamm, who posted a pass-blocking grade of 72.7, per PFF. Tagovailoa took advantage of clean pockets by throwing for 466 yards and three touchdowns.

The Chargers actually pressured Tagovailoa on 30.4% of his dropbacks, per PFF. That was 18th-highest among all qualifying quarterbacks in Week 1, according to TruMediaSports. That would typically lead to better pass-rushing production than the Chargers enjoyed.

Tagovailoa averaged 2.45 seconds from snap to throw, once again via TruMediaSports. Only six quarterbacks had a faster Week 1 average time to throw than Tagovailoa did. Tagovailoa was extremely decisive and accurate while preventing the Chargers from recording pressures, sacks, and hits.

Tannehill’s average time to throw in Sunday’s defeat to the New Orleans Saints was 3.09 seconds. That’s considerably longer than the 2.45 seconds Tagovailoa posted against the Chargers. Tannehill must shave approximately 0.50 seconds if he hopes to keep the Chargers pass rushers in check. Historically speaking, Tannehill generally invites pressure at a significantly higher rate than Tagovailoa does. Tagovailoa’s career pressure-to-sack rate is 17%, while Tannehill’s is 21.5%.

Tennessee’s new-look offensive line performed above expectations against a quality Saints d-line that features Carl Granderson and Cameron Jordan. They posted a pass-block win rate of 67%, according to ESPN Stats & Info. That ranked fifth in the entire NFL, which is especially impressive given Tannehill’s 3.09 snap-to-throw time. Tennessee’s run-block win rate was even better at 75 percent, which ranked third of 32. Given the Chargers’ lackluster run defense, there should be opportunities for Derrick Henry to control this game.

Starting right tackle Chris Hubbard was outstanding in pass protection. Hubbard posted a league-leading 23 pass-pro wins for a perfect pass-block-win-rate of 100%. Hubbard will have to keep that up against Bosa and Mack. It was a better-than-expected showing for an offensive line that debuted four new starters, and one returning starter in a new position.

The Titans will comb through the Dolphins-Chargers tape in anticipation for Sunday’s contest. The coaching staff should come away with some massive learning points, particularly how Tagovailoa and Mike McDaniel’s passing attack kept Mack and Bosa off the stat sheet. The Titans have the ability to control Sunday’s game while executing an upset.