NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things to watch in the contest:
We're going to get to running back Derrick Henry next. But I'm leading off with the passing game because the Titans need to have more success here if they're going to get more room running the football. The Titans are coming off a game when quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed just 11 passes for 117 yards, with two interceptions. Through two games, the Titans are ranked 25th in the NFL in passing offense. Treylon Burks has been the team's top target, with seven catches for 102 yards in the team's two games combined. Running back Dontrell Hilliard has both of the team's passing touchdowns. The Titans need to do more here for a number of reasons. Can they do it against a Raiders pass defense that's ranked 28th in the NFL?
It seems everything about Henry has been questioned over the last few weeks, when he's managed just 107 yards and a 3.1-yard average. Has he lost a step? Does he still have the same explosiveness? Why is he not breaking more tackles? Can he still carry the team? The reality is it's been hard to find out because he's been hit so often in the backfield, before he's been able to generate a lot of momentum. The Titans need to get Henry going on Sunday against a Raiders defense that's been pretty solid here in two games.
O-Line vs the Raiders
The Titans have done a relatively good job protecting Tannehill so far. In two games he's been sacked just three times, and one of those sacks came on a bootleg. But the Titans need an all-around solid effort to have more success running the ball, and the team is counting on the big guys up front. With Taylor Lewan sidelined with a knee injury, Dennis Daley will play left tackle, per head coach Mike Vrabel, while rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere will play right tackle. But it's going to take all 11 against a Raiders defense that includes pass rushers Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby, along with former Titans linebacker Jayon Brown.
Big Challenge for Secondary
It was a forgettable Monday night in Buffalo for Tennessee's secondary, as Bills quarterback Josh Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs played pitch and catch all night. Well, the Raiders head to town with plenty of weapons of their own, and the offense is led by quarterback Derek Carr. Raiders receiver Davante Adams gave the Titans fits when he was with the Packers, and tight end Darren Waller is a load himself. The Raiders will be without receiver Hunter Renfrow, who has been ruled out because of a concussion. The Titans have played a lot of different combinations in the secondary, and that's expected to continue this week. Against the Raiders, the Titans need to be better.
The last time we saw the Titans at Nissan Stadium, Giants running back Saquon Barkley was running through the defense en route to a big day. The Titans missed tackles, and were sloppy with their assignments. It would be nice to say the Titans fixed things in Buffalo, but the truth is the Bills had so much luck throwing the ball, they didn't bother running it a whole lot. And, when they did, they still had decent running room, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. The Titans can't afford to be lackadaisical here against Raiders running back Josh Jacobs because he's talented, and tough.
Clean Up Special Teams
Two games, two muffed punts. With Titans rookie receiver Kyle Philips doubtful for Sunday's game, who else could get the nod? Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said earlier this week the Raiders probably have the best group of specialists in the NFL in punter AJ Cole and kicker Daniel Carlson. The Titans need to do their part on special teams while avoiding making mistakes. Titans punter Ryan Stonehouse has been solid so far, averaging 56.3 yards on 12 punts. Kicker Randy Bullock is 2 of 3 so far on field goals, but the miss was a big one. It would be nice to see the Titans make a game-changing play here on Sunday.