The Titans defense will be without one of their best players for the remainder of the year.
Jones to IR
The Tennessee Titans currently rank third in run defense. Now, the team must figure out a way to replace the production of one of the key components in defensive end DaQuan Jones with a torn bicep.
Jones was beginning to emerge as one of premier forces on the defensive front the past two weeks. He recorded 1.5 sacks yesterday, and 2.0 sacks the week prior. He was disruptive and his efforts helped the production of other Titans defensive linemen.
The Titans lose their fourth year defensive linemen during a critical point in the season. For Jones, his season ends prematurely in a contract year. Tennessee liked what they were seeing from Jones in recent weeks and he was on pace for having his best statistical season as a pro.
Whether or not the Titans decide to offer Jones a contract is uncertain. A lot depends on his recovery and if they feel he can bounce back from the injury.
Austin Johnson Time
The likely replacement for Jones will be another fellow Nittany Lion alum. Second year defensive linemen Austin Johnson will see a boost in snaps moving forward. How he handles the new workload will give the Titans a better understanding of what they have in Johnson.
Johnson, a second round selection in 2016, has been the second best of the three second round picks taken in that draft. The Titans chose Kevin Dodd, Johnson and Derrick Henry in that order with the latter having the most success.
Dodd, despite being active recently, hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the 33rd overall pick. Jones absence could mean an increased snap count for Dodd as well. If the Titans can plug in Dodd on the defensive front, maybe he can rediscover some of the success he had during his Clemson days.
Johnson hasn’t produced eye popping numbers, but his effort and motor make him a solid fit in helping fill a void left by Jones. If either Johnson or Dodd find a way to make lemonade out of the lemon that is losing Jones, Titans fan will gladly drink that lemonade.
Lose DaQuan, Add Stocker
The Titans did a little bit of roster shuffling. Tennessee added free agent tight end Luke Stocker to the roster and placed Jones on IR.
Many speculated who would be cut from the roster following the signing of Stocker. Some believed Brandon Weeden brief tenure would come to a close. Others believed adding Stocker signaled a farewell to Jalston Fowler, who has been a healthy scratch the past few weeks.
Instead, Jones move to IR cleared a spot for Stocker. Praised for his strength and versatility, Stocker could provide the Titans with a boost in run blocking. He’s has a solid set of hands and is admired for his fearlessness in running crossing routes in traffic.
Stocker can help by either being lined up as a tight end or in the backfield as a fullback. His versatility will be highly valued in a Titans offense attack that salivates at versatile players.
One person who could benefit tremendously from adding Stocker to the roster is Jonnu Smith. The rookie tight end had made some nice grabs and could have had a score yesterday had Marcus Mariota saw him streaking open downfield.
With Stocker being able to play on the line, the Titans can split Smith outside and use him as more of a receiving weapon. Smith excels as a pass catcher and can be a match up nightmare. Where he struggles in blocking, he makes up for in his ability to gain chunks of yards after the catch. Smith could have had a huge gain in yesterday’s game had he been able to get his other foot in bounds.
Maybe he can pick Corey Davis’s brain for tips on how to incorporate some “toe-drag swag” into his game.
Stats referenced at NFL.com and Titansonline.com
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