Pickers mailbag: Expectations for Jonnu Smith, Titans run defense

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On to your questions.

Davey Shepherd Will we see more of Jonnu this weekend, or will the Jags pass rush dictate another game plan that for whatever reason excludes him?

PK: Well, we saw a lot of him last week. He played every snap. We just didn’t see him targeted. The really needed the tight ends to help block. That should be less the case this week with Taylor Lewan back, though we are likely to see Kevin Pamphile or Tyler Marz require help.

The smart analyst Warren Sharp has wrote about how the route to beating the Jaguars incluees early down throws to running backs and tighrt ends. We saw Smith take a screen for a 32-yard touchdown in Jacksonville in Week 2 last year and he caught three passes against them in the second game, thought only for 12 yards.

I wouldn’t expect a zero in his column again.

Mike Dooney This year, the Titans run D (Ranked in the bottom third of the league) has not matched its performance over the past two years. How much of the Titans' recent run struggles do you attribute to the loss of Avery Williamson/Rashaan Evans injury?

Steve Mofield Mike Dooney, I'll piggyback off this question and add to it: In your opinion, has the Defensive Line or the Middle Linebacking Corp. been the bigger culprit for the Titans being less effective against the run this far? Is it more about the D-Linemen (namely Jones and Johnson) not getting off blocks, or Woodyard and Compton being a step too slow and also not getting off blocks? Or maybe the lack of real depth on the D-Line, considering Morgan has seen at least a few snaps inside on "passing downs"?

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PK: The Titans are giving up 134 rushing yards a game, definitely too much. That’s 25th in the NFL. I feel like they were a bit surprised by what the Dolphins and Texans did, especially the Dolphins early on. DaQuan Jones and Austin Johnson need to be better, and Rashaan Evans will certainly be an upgrade over Will Compton once they get the first-round pick into the flow.

Morgan being in the mix on the defensive line on passing downs isn’t a comment on the Titans depth there, and it’s certainly not a comment on the run-stopping as we just said it’s passing downs. That’s the smart way the Titans are finding to get Brian Orakpo, Morgan and Harold Landry all on the field in the moments that call for the best pass-rushers.

Avery Williamson was a good player, but he’s overpaid now. A run-stopping inside linebacker shouldn’t be hard to find or particularly costly, unless he can do a lot more (which they believe Evans can).

Mike Vrabel said one of the things he inherited and wanted to carry-over is a good run defense, but the Titans aren’t there yet.


Glenn Edward Halliburton Do you think that Marcus is the franchise quarterback for the titans of the future.

PK: I do, still, for now.

I need to see him get healthy and take off in this system. The bad start and the early injury aren’t enough to prompt me to move off my long-time stance: He has the skill set and the mindset to be an effective, winning NFL QB. A lot of people are too quick to want to jump to what’s next.

Much of what could be next will be worse, not better.

I fully expect he’s the Titans’ starting quarterback through 2019, at least. If he’s not proven himself by then, we’ll have to see.

PK: Necessity was the mother of invention with the Wildcat for the Texans’ game. Missing Mariota and Delanie Walker and playing their fourth and fifth offensive tackles against a team with some fierce pass rusher, the Titans needed to do some different stuff. And it worked well.

But if they had closer to a full stable of resources, they’re not snapping the ball directly to Derrick Henry with any sort of regularity. It was good as a surprise. But the NFL long ago figured out how to handle Wildcat. That’s why it’s all but disappeared.

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