The Tennessee Titans must find a way to win in Nashville on Monday Night, with or without Marcus Mariota.
The Titans must be prepared to take the field Monday night without Mariota. Head Coach Mike Mularkey stated he supported Mariota’s confidence, but still needs to see Mariota display improved mobility throughout the week.
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) October 11, 2017
This is confusing, as Mariota’s mobility cannot be any worse than Matt Cassel’s was against Miami. Mariota is an instinctive runner, so the true concern could be that Mariota’s instincts would cause him to make (or try to make) a play that could compromise his health.
The offensive gameplan has to be centered around what Mariota can do. He should be capable of handing the ball off and executing a quick pass scheme. Mariota can also be an effective passer in shotgun formations.
Mularkey and Offensive Coordinator Terry Robiskie have to bend a little and simply remove all plays where Mariota’s pocket mobility is paramount to a successful play execution. Tom Brady’s pocket mobility isn’t greased lightning, yet the quick-strike pass attack seems to work well.
Stuffing the A Gap
The Titan defense continues to be gashed in the A gap week to week. Tennessee is clearly vulnerable with no dominant presence to clog the middle of the defense. The Titans have to find a way to mask the deficiency in the middle without compromising the outside runs.
The Indianapolis Colts will run the football. Fielding veteran Frank Gore, rookie Marlon Mack and dual-threat quarterback Jacoby Brissett are developing into a three-headed monster. The trio has combined for seven rushing touchdowns. Indy leads the league in rushing touchdowns with eight.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 8, 2017
The Colts will study the tape of how the Houston Texans put up 57. The Texans usage of Deshaun Watson will give Indy an idea of how to put Brissett in the best scenario to showcase his skills.
Awareness and gap discipline is key to stopping the Colts rushing attack. Tennessee has to avoid letting Brissett move the chains with his legs.
Stopping T.Y. Hilton
Against the Titans 2016 secondary, T.Y. Hilton amassed 230 receiving yards on 21 receptions, scoring once in each of the two meetings last season.
Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau has to prepare to stop Hilton, which may require employing double coverage. He did not do so last year.
— Kent Sterling (@KentSterling) November 20, 2016
This season, Hilton leads all Colts receivers with 466 yards on 24 catches, averaging over 19 yards a catch. The Titans have to keep tabs on where Hilton is throughout the game in order to avoid giving up the big gain.
If the Titans can find a way to generate a pass rush and keep Brissett contained in the pocket, Hilton’s overall effectiveness could be limited. Forcing rushed or pressured throws means no clean, on-target tosses. The secondary will benefit from defending difficult catches.
Avoid Identity Crisis
The “Smash” has been missing for two weeks, the Titans cannot afford another smash-less game.
DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry could not get much going last week against Miami. It makes sense for defenses to zero-in on eliminating the Titans running game and forcing Cassel to win with his arm. Tennessee’s mindset has to be set on imposing their will. With or without Mariota.
For Murray, he has proven that initially gaining bits and pieces of yardage can set up huge touchdown runs. The Titans have to be patient with the process as the running game is built to wear down defenses. Defenses cannot be worn down if the running game is abandoned.
The same can be said for Henry. Yes, he did register one carry for a big loss last week, but he also had a carry for a big gain. Henry is a rhythm runner and has to get the touches in order to be effective. He can’t do what he is capable of doing if he doesn’t crack double-digit carries.
The offensive line need an infusion of nastiness. The mauler-mentality has to resurrect in the trenches. If the offensive line is not moving bodies out of the way the running game cannot be effective. For the Titans to win the division match up with Indy, establishing the run will be key.
Stats referenced at ESPN.com and NFL.com
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