Scout's Take: How altered personnel will change quick Titans-Colts rematch

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This game is most likely for the division and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs.

The potential loss of the Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to COVID-19 is as big of a loss as one team can have.


Buckner is a dominant force inside as a rusher and run-down defender. He is a top-five interior defensive lineman in the NFL and creates a huge hole for the Colts defense that is focused on taking away the Titans’ best player in Derrick Henry.

The Titans found success in the run game last week versus the Ravens, and I expect this week they will continue feeding that identity.

On offense, the Titans need to establish their run game and short passing game. They also need to get back to using the screen game which has disappeared recently.

The screen game will be more difficult because of the lack of athleticism at the Titans’ offensive tackle position.

This will keep the pass rush down and force the Colts’ defense to defend horizontally and open up the middle of the field for the Titans' most effective pass catchers A.J. Brown and Corey Davis.callahan binkley

The offensive line will be tested, even without Buckner.

With Ty Sambrailo out for the year, the Titans will have to go with their third left tackle this season.

David Quessenberry looks to be the next man up. Quessenberry is similar to Sambrailo in size and skill.

Quessenberry has good size and experience but will struggle with speed rushers on his outside, the speed to power rush of Justin Houston will be very difficult to handle for the new left tackle.

Defensive end Kemoko Turay did not play in the first matchup with the Titans. Turay is the Colts’ fastest and most explosive pass rusher. He has good size and length and very good speed as an outside rusher.

The Colts will also be without their leading sacker, defensive end Denico Autry who is also under the COVID protocols.

Indianapolis is the third in the NFL against the run this year and the defensive line is the main reason for that success. Without Autry and Buckner, the unit does not have the same dual-threat with defenders that can rush the passer and play the run.

Linebacker Darius Leonard is very athletic and fast -- outstanding in coverage -- but also have the unique ability to play the run in between the tackles and the speed to get to the sideline. Bobby Okereke (ankle) has similar attributes but won't play.

Fast-flowing linebackers make it difficult for offensive lineman that lack foot quickness, balance and control in space. This is where the weaknesses of Quessenberry and Dennis Kelly will show up.

The Titans tackles are much more effective in small spaces and in a controlled blocking format. It’s a lot different on screens downfield and second-level blocking.

Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin has solid size, speed and is a good tackler in space, but he lacks top match and mirror skills in man coverage as well as the awareness and instincts you want for the position.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes has the perfect skill set and size to match Davis and Brown. Rhodes did a great job of taking Brown out of the game in the first matchup.

This is a game to get tight end Jonnu Smith and wide receiver Cam Baston to get involved in the screen game.ButlerHiltonColts

The Colts' offense was very efficient against the Titans two weeks ago. They had a great combination of run and pass and moved the chains easily.

Running back Nyheim Hines emerged as their best playmaker in the first matchup and the Colts stuck with him because of his early success and how his speed and versatility opened up their offense.

Covering Hines will be even tougher without linebacker Jayon Brown. Who will match Hines?

Rashaan Evans doesn’t have the quickness or cover skills. Will Compton can’t hang with Hines speed. David Long hasn’t played much this season but has the best chance due to his aggressive tackling style to go along with his speed and quickness. But he has not been practicing and just came off the Covid list Saturday.

Compton figures to play virtually every down, as Evans said Friday Compton will wear the green dot helmet.

If the Titans are forced to use a safety against Hines that will open up the middle of the field for tight ends, Jack Doyle, Moe Allie Cox and Trey Burton.

Doyle missed the first matchup and is Philip Rivers’ favorite check down target.

Phillip Rivers’ toe injury

Rivers is already limited in his movement in the pocket, but with his current toe injury, his lack of movement could be even more dramatic this week.

Rivers throws from a three-quarter arm slot and that angle gives the Titans a chance with a stationary quarterback to tip balls at the line of scrimmage.

The Titans will need to be aggressive this time against Rivers and force him into his check downs. Make him use his comfort zone throws to tight end Doyle. Doyle is a solid player and chain mover but not a game-breaker like T.Y. Hilton or Hines.

BlakeBeddingfieldGlassesThis will put the Titans’ corners in a lot of man situations but against only one true deep threat in Hilton.

Hilton is always a threat and the Titans do not have a corner that can match with speed, quickness and route running of the smaller wide receiver.

Malcolm Butler will most likely draw the challenge, but he has struggled in past matchups with Hilton.

This game could come down to who can and cannot play in the game on Sunday.

Adam Humphries concussion is out still and will wind up missing both games. That's a loss, as he could help take the pressure off Tannehill waiting for longer routes to develop from the outside and give the quarterback a quick check-down option.

Titans who played in the first matchup but will be missing this time:

Jadeveon Clowney, Ty Sambrailo, Jayon Brown. Roger Saffold (ankle) is questionable but should play.

Colts missing from the first matchup but should play:

Tight end Jack Doyle, defensive end Kemoko Turay,

Colts missing who played in the first matchup:

Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, defensive end Denico Autry.

The Titans are 2-3 in their last five games. Both wins came with Clowney out with an injury. Is that a coincidence or because Clowney’s free-lancing style actually plays against the Titans’ defense assignments and exposes other players when the defense isn’t playing sound?

Clowney has always been a talented athlete but more of a tease than a producer.

This is a huge game between the two teams but COVID rules and injuries have zapped some of the energy out of it.


Blake Beddingfield was a Titans' scout for 19 years, through the 2017 draft. He was the team's director of college scouting for his final six years. Follow him on Twitter at @BlakeBedd. He’s brought to us by Callahan & Binkley, who can help you with personal injury and medical malpractice cases.

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