Scout's Take: Titans need to hit Leonard Fournette hard early and he will shut it down

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special contributor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – My preview of what the Titans can expect Thursday night against the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars are a dangerous team. With a record of 0-2 and multiple important players injured, this will be a season-defining game for them.HenryColts

The biggest threat on the Jaguars has always been their defense, but their best pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue and a top NFL corner A.J. Bouye missed the Week 2 game versus the Houston Texans.

They are also banged up on offense with left tackle Cam Robinson, right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, their most consistent WR Marquis Lee and best pass-catching TE Josh Oliver also out last week.

As of Tuesday, all of the most important players that were hurt last week participated in practice. Which means the Jaguars are considering this an “all in” type game and a must-win situation.

The biggest distraction will be elite CB Jalen Ramsey who has requested a trade. Doug Marrone has said he’s playing. 

I expect a HUGE game from him. He is capable and highly-motivated.Winners300

The Jaguars have a below-average NFL offensive line, below-average receivers and below-average quarterback. The offense is not a threat and lacks a true playmaker.

On the defensive side, the Jaguars have two shut-down corners, athletic linebackers and a combination of outside pass rushers and run stoppers on the defensive line. The Titans will be forced to establish the run game and the short passing game. Ball-control will be a big advantage in this game.

The Titans strength on offense so far has been the run game. This game should be able to highlight those strengths from the offensive line and RB Derrick Henry and avoid exposing the offensive line and quarterback struggles against the pass rush.

The lack of playmakers on the Jaguars’ offense plays right into the Titans’ defensive strength. The Titans can be aggressive versus the run game, but also put pressure on rookie QB Gardner Minshew taking advantage of the Jaguars’ poor offensive line in pass protection.

The most important matchups for the Titans:

Dennis Kelly vs. Yannick Ngakoue

Ngakoue is a top-level pass rusher when healthy, he has an inside/outside rush game that will force the Titans to continue to help Kelly and chip in obvious passing situations. This situation has hurt the Titans’ offense because of Kelly’s inability to hold up in pass protection when he is one-on-one. Kelly has struggled in the first two games at the left tackle position and this week will not be any easier.

I also expect 2019 first-rounder Josh Allen to rush the passer on Kelly’s side. Allen is more of an outside rusher that can work inside, but less of a power rusher and more a speed and athleticism player. The Jaguars can provide rush and disruption from their front four without bringing extra.

Jamil Douglas and Rodger Saffold vs. Calais Campbell

BeddingfieldLabelCampbell will rush from the DE position and also inside at DT. Campbell is a different pass rusher than what the Titans guards have faced in the first two games. The Colts and Browns had finesse and athletic inside DT rushers who slanted to create space. The Jaguars use more size and power with Campbell, Taven Bryan, Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones.

Campbell is a power rusher with the ability to get the edge on guards because of his rare size, quick feet and athletic movement skills. Once he gets the edge it is hard for any guard in the NFL to hold off the big (6-foot-8, 310-pound) DT.

Leonard Fournette vs. Titans’ run defense

The most talented player on the Jaguars’ offense is Fournette. The Jaguars have tried to establish the run in the first two games. It will be very important for the Titans to shut down the run game early and force the rookie Minshew into obvious passing situations. Fournette is not capable of doing it all by himself.

He will shut it down if hit hard early. ILB Rashaan Evans should have a big game vs the Jaguars. This is the most important matchups for the Jaguars.

Jawaan Taylor vs. Cameron Wake

Rookie right tackle Taylor is a talented player, but he is young and inexperienced. Wake has an opportunity to have a pass rush day like he did vs the Browns in Week 1. First, Wake must be on the field more. The 17 (24%) snaps he had against the Colts were not enough. Wake can impact the run and pass game when he is on the field.

Taylor will match up well against Shariff Finch and Kamalei Correa but will not be a match for the variety of pass rush moves and the ability to use speed and power of Wake. Minshew fumbled three times versus the Texans. I’m not sure what the Titans are saving Wake for. If the team goes 1-2, is it worth it?

D.J. Hayden vs. Adam Humphries

I expect the Titans to finally utilize high-priced free agent WR Humphries. He has been used sparingly in the first two games. Now is the time for Tennessee to use him as a main option in the passing attack. Corey Davis and A.J. Brown have been inconsistent at times this season. The Titans need to go back to what works: Delanie Walker and Adam Humphries.

Hayden will align as the nickel back but will have trouble staying with the quickness and route running of Humphries one-on-one. Hayden is a good blitzer from the nickel position. That will force Mariota to read blitz quickly and get the ball out faster.

Chris Conley/D.J. Chark/Marquis Lee vs. Adoree’ Jackson

The Jaguars receivers are built for speed. The only problem is Minshew is not an accurate deep passer. With the issues Jackson has had with penalties and covering the deep post, the Jaguars will need to take their chances and challenge the struggling third-year CB. The Jaguars’ receivers are not crisp route runners. This can be an advantage for Logan Ryan who is locked in right now.

The Titans-Jaguars matchup is an intriguing one because of the Jaguars 0-2 start and last week’s Titans loss.

apple icon 144x144 precomposedThese are two teams that want to get on track and only one can win. The loser in this game puts themselves in a big hole and will have two division losses after only three weeks.

The wildcard for this game will be the coaching staffs on each side. With a Thursday night division game, players will be playing all out on both sides. The determining factor will be the game plans.

Turnovers, time of possession and converting third downs. Who will take chances? Both teams have good defenses but this will come down to the head coaches and offensive coordinators.

I expect a close game early, but the Jaguars have not shown the ability to win and finish games.

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