NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** The Titans face the Browns on Sunday in Cleveland.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
So it was a gutsy effort from Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota on Monday night against the Colts. While dealing with a hamstring injury, Mariota worked primarily from inside the pocket. He passed on opportunities to run, and when defenders got close, he got down. It was a smart move – he avoided further injury, and he followed the orders from his bosses. Another week removed from the injury, will Mariota be on the move more against the Browns?
The running game**
Running back DeMarco Murray missed two practices this week with a hamstring injury if his own, and is questionable. Sounds like he'll be a game-time decision. Against the Colts, the Titans relied more on running back Derrick Henry, and he produced a career-high 131 rushing yards and a touchdown. Henry certainly looks capable if Murray can't go, or is limited. So which Titans rushing offense will show up in this one? The Titans hope it's the one that produced rushing days of 179, 195 and 168 in the team's three wins over the Jaguars, Seahawks and Colts. One problem: The Browns are ranked sixth in the NFL in run defense.
Can Titans rattle Kizer?**
Rookie DeShone Kizer was in as starting quarterback for the Browns, then he was out, and now he's back in again. The Titans need to make sure he doesn't get comfortable by putting pressure on him, and forcing him into mistakes. Kizer has thrown nine interceptions and just three touchdowns so far, and his passer rating is 49.5. He's made some killer mistakes in the red zone. The Titans have provided pressure on opposing QBs so far this season, but they don't have the sacks to show for it, with just eight in six games. They'd like to get sacks and turnovers in a win on Sunday.
Slow down Myles Garrett**
The Titans offensive line has done a nice job protecting Mariota this season – he's been sacked just three times all season. The Browns have one of the game's future starts in defensive end Myles Garrett, the first overall pick of the NFL Draft. Garrett was slowed early with an ankle injury, and missed several games at the start of the season. But he's recorded three sacks in two games, and against the Jets he became the only No.1 overall pick to record multiple sacks in his debut. Titans tackle Taylor Lewan will see plenty of Garrett, and he'll need to continue using solid technique.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey is getting tired of being asked about it, and players are tired of talking about it. But it can't be ignored – the Titans have been slow out of the gate this season. While they've been able to survive it some games, it's ended up biting them in others. Through the first six games, the Titans have been outscored 37-16 in the first quarter, and 76-51 in the first half. They've struggled converting third downs early, so the offense has failed to get into an early rhythm. The Browns have been slow starters themselves, outscored 31-10 in the first quarter, and 111-31 in the first half. Jumping on the 0-6 Browns early would be a nice development for the Titans.
Titans Online looks back at Jason McCourty's impact, both on and off the field, for the Titans. (Photos: AP, Donn Jones, staff)
When Mariota looks across the line of scrimmage, he'll see a familiar face in former Titans cornerback Jason McCourty. McCourty is in his first season with the Browns, and he has three interceptions so far. So who has the edge in these individual matchups? Well, McCourty is familiar with Titans receiver Rishard Matthews, who also knows a thing or two about McCourty. Eric Decker and Taywan Taylor weren't around when McCourty played last season in Tennessee, so practice habits won't help there. It will be weird seeing McCourty in the uniform of another team, that's for sure. Browns receiver Kenny Britt, who has missed time with injury, is another former Titan.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Cleveland Browns. (Photos, Donn Jones, AP)