Scout's take: Jeffery Simmons' big game, Malcolm Butler's coverage and Arthur Smith's plan

BY BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Vikings had their own game plan going into the Week 3 matchup against the Titans. 

The Titans' first two opponents gave a clear blueprint on how to stop the Titans’ run game and how to block Titans’ defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons to limit his effectiveness. The Vikings ignored both strategies and struggled to adjust throughout the game. VikingsShip

Simmons was a handful one-on-one against the interior offensive line of the Vikings. Minnesota had no answer and foolishly never adjusted. 

DaQuan Jones was also outstanding controlling his one-on-one blocks easily against the interior offensive lineman and the inside run game.

Jeffrey Simmons versus one-on-one blocks

Simmons had his way with both starting guards and the center for the Vikings. They choose to play man-up against him instead of combo or chipping him to control his initial get-off up field.

This was a mistake. Once Simmons realized he wasn’t getting double teams, he used a variety of moves to penetrate the backfield against the run or pass. 

Simmons had five tackles, multiple pressures and one sack when he was single blocked.callahan binkley

Lack of depth of defensive line

The Titans play Simmons and Jones a high number of snaps each game because of the lack of depth along the defensive line. Larrell Murchison, Matt Dickerson (inactive Sunday) and Isaiah Mack offer very little against the run or the pass.

Veteran Jack Crawford can play the run from a 5-technique position but he isn’t a true DT in their run scheme.  

Murchison played 15 snaps and Mack played nine.  

The first run-snap when Murchison and Mack entered the game together was a first & 10 from the Titans 39-yard line: Result, a 39-yard touchdown run by Dalvin Cook.   

On multiple occasions, the Vikings pushed both Murchison and Mack off the line of scrimmage.  

Identifying personnel will be important for the Titans’ opponents.  

What happened to the passing game of the Vikings?

Another puzzling move by the Vikings’ offense was to completely ignore rookie Justin Jefferson after his 71-yard touchdown reception in the early portion of the third quarter. The Vikings went to a heavy run-focused game and did not attempt another pass to the rookie who had already surpassed 175 yards receiving early in the third quarter.

Malcolm Butler vs Vikings rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson

Second-and-8: Out route for 10 yards, first down

Second-and-8: Out route for 9 yards, first down

Third-and-2: Go route for 31 yards, first Down

First-and-10: Deep corner route into the endzone, pass break up by Butler

Jefferson had a big day versus the Titans defensive backs with seven reception for 175 yards and a touchdown. 

Vikings lack of depth

The Vikings have had 27 draft picks over the past two seasons, but somehow lack depth on their roster.   

They started a linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr, who was undrafted and bounced around practice squads for three seasons.  

Where are the draft choices? 

They have drafted 12 defensive backs since 2015. Eight of those were cornerbacks. But they started undrafted cornerback Holton Hill who was repeatedly picked on by the Titans this week and was picked on by the Colts last week.  

There is an issue in Minnesota with developing talent or the drafting of talent. 

BeddingfieldBudThe Titans took advantage of Hill. Rookie Jeff Gladney looks lost in coverage at this point in his rookie season. He struggles to understand down and distance and lacks a good feel on how receivers are attacking him. He is better versus man coverage, but not against good route runners.

Hill had a chance to redeem himself with two minutes left in the game. He broke on a poorly thrown pass by Ryan Tannehill to Corey Davis on an out-route, but Hill dropped the potential game-winning interception. 

Secondary options at receiver for the Titans

Kalif Raymond: Gives the Titans a down-the-field threat. He is not the type of receiver who can win vertically at any time. It is situational and must be set up to get him against the right type of corner versus the right type of coverage. This is schemed offensive play calling. Raymond has speed to stretch, he can track the deep ball well, he plays with an aggressive style when attacking the ball in the air, all great qualities for a backup receiver.

Raymond lacks the route running, physical size and range to be a consistent deep threat, but if the Titans can manufacture these type of plays it can be helpful to give relief to a team that usually must drive the ball downfield. Raymond only played 20 snaps but had three receptions for 118 yards.   

Cameron Batson: He played 40 snaps with zero receptions. He was used in a more extensive role but didn’t have the production he had last week versus the Jaguars. He will be used downfield to stretch the defense and is most effective on screens and jet sweeps. 

Arthur Smith

One of the things that the offensive coordinator has done to change the tone of the Titans’ offense since he has taken over the play-calling is to aggressively attack downfield.

He will attack the middle of the field until it is taken away. Once the defense adjusts, he will work the routes outside the numbers. Smith has proven to make adjustments throughout games to play chess with a defense. He is always looking for the weak link in the chain.

This is a very good quality in an offensive play-caller. He is not stubborn in his calls; and he is very fluid with his decisions.

It is a simple approach and he shouldn’t change with the production he is having.   

Smith is also getting very comfortable with his personnel on offense. He is utilizing the strengths of Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, Adam Humphries and Raymond and not exposing their weaknesses.  

Harold Landry in coverage

Landry was drafted as a pass rusher but has really improved his coverage ability in the short to intermediate area. This is a quality that will help the Titans moving forward with Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney playing reps at the outside linebacker position.  

Vic Beasley reps

16 defensive snaps:

Outside speed rush was his only rush in this game. He did have one pressure late.  It will take Beasley a few games to round into shape and he should be more effective as the year goes. 


The blindside block on Clowney could have proved costly. It was the right call by the officials if you follow the letter of the law but moving forward the league needs to define that rule better and not penalize a good block. Clowney was clearly in front of the Vikings player and needed to make that block to allow his teammate to score.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

To ask Clowney to do anything but make the block now puts him and his health in Jeopardy. 

Second-and-10 from their own 40-yard line in a critical part of the game and center Garrett Bradbury snapped the ball on the wrong count, leaving the Vikings with a third-and-24. Crucial mistake. Only player on the Vikings that moved on that play was the center.

The pass rush package of Clowney, Simmons, Beasley and Landry will add speed to the upfield push against the pass, but it also creates huge gaps against a good draw or screen team.

Positives: Stephon Gostkowki, Jeffery Simmons, Derrick Henry, Kalif Raymond, Jonnu Smith

Negatives: Larrell Murchison, Isaiah Mack.

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