NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Six things standing out for the Titans after Thursday's win over the Jaguars, and heading into this Sunday's game vs. the Giants.
Talk about a shoo-in for this six pack. Titans running back Derrick Henry put on a show against the Jaguars, running for 238 yards and four touchdowns in one of the greatest individual performances in the history of Nissan Stadium. Henry's average per carry is now 4.9 yards, up from 3.7 ypc heading into the game, and 3.3 ypc at the bye weekend. Now, the question becomes: Can Henry and the Titans keep it up? The Giants are ranked 22nd in the NFL in run defense.
The First Round Pick
Plenty of folks questioned linebacker Rashaan Evans at the start of the season, as he worked his way back from a hamstring injury. Those folks are quiet now. The fact of the matter is Evans needed time to get healthy, and learn the NFL before he could excel. He's up to speed now, and he's making an impact. Evans made a huge stop on Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette on a fourth down play near the goalline. He's showing up – and showing out – on a regular basis these days.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel didn't want to touch the playoff topic on Monday, and it's understandable. His football team likely needs to do something it hasn't done all season – play consistent football while winning five games in a row. The quest continues on Sunday against the Giants. There's no denying the Titans got a lot of help over the weekend with losses by the Ravens, Broncos and Steelers, and Houston's loss kept AFC South title hopes flickering. The Titans don't control their own destiny, so there's work to do. But it's at least safe to say things looked better than they did this time last week.
The Titans are now without two tight ends in Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith, which means guys like Luke Stocker, MyCole Pruitt and Anthony Firkser are on the spot. All three have contributed to the team's recent success, in different ways. Firkser has gotten attention for his sure hands, but it was Pruitt who really stood out to me against the Jaguars – as a blocker. Pruitt blocked Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith from the line of scrimmage to the 20-yard line on Henry's 99-yard run, and he made several other key blocks in the game.
After torching the Jets on deep balls in a 26-22 win, one of the Jets cornerbacks called Titans receiver Taywan Taylor a "one-trick pony." Well, Taylor showed he can do more than go deep against the Jaguars. The second-year receiver caught six of his seven targets for a team-high 59 receiving yards vs Jacksonville. While those numbers don't jump off the stat sheet like his 100-yard performance against the Jets, Taylor showed his value to the offense with some big grabs to keep the chains moving. Hs return to the lineup has been big for the Titans.
It was an impressive win, but a costly one for the Titans. Injuries to right tackle Jack Conklin and Smith dampened the mood, and linebacker Brian Orakpo and receiver Tajae Sharpe left the game early was well. It's a next-man-up league, and the Titans are now deeper into their depth at tight end, as mentioned previously. At tackle, Dennis Kelly is in line to step in for Conklin. The good news is he has experience, and he's played well when called upon.