NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans' (1-3) home opener against the Cowboys seems like ages ago. After two consecutive road games, the Titans return to LP Field for just the second time for a Week 5 matchup against the Cleveland Browns (1-2).
The Browns are coming off their bye week, which has allowed starting running back (knee) Ben Tate and tight end Jordan Cameron (shoulder) to get healthy. Quarterback Brian Hoyer leads the Browns offensively, having thrown for 716 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions through three games.
Cleveland had an impressive Week 2 showing against the Saints, topping New Orleans 26-24. The Browns' two losses came by total of just five points (30-27 at Pittsburgh, 23-21 vs. Baltimore).
Jake Locker is expected to return under center for the Titans this week to help Tennessee end its current three-game losing streak. Locker missed last week's game against the Colts with a wrist injury suffered in Week 3 at Cincinnati.
This is the first time the Browns have been to LP Field since 2008, when the Titans came out victorious 28-9. Tennessee currently owns a two-game winning streak against the Browns, but Cleveland leads the all-time series 33-29.
Here are five things to keep an eye on Sunday.
Five Things to Watch:
1. Fast Start Offensively
The Titans continue to struggle out of the gate and that will be a point of emphasis going forward. The offense hasn't scored a first quarter point this season, and the Titans have trailed by double digits in each of the past three games through one quarter of play.
As a result, Tennessee's running game has also suffered, having to play catchup. At five yards per carry, the Titans rank fifth in the NFL in yards per attempt, but rank 26th in attempts per game.
Cleveland owns the NFL's 29th-ranked rush defense, which means Shonn Greene, Bishop Sankey and company could enjoy a productive Sunday as long as the Titans don't find themselves in a hole again early.
2. Third Down Efficiency
This goes hand in hand with number one. The Titans have struggled to sustain drives because of their inefficiency on third down. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Jason Michael both discussed the urgency to improve in this area throughout the week.
The Titans were 1-9 on third down last week against the Colts and the team is just 5-of-31 during the current three-game losing streak. Converting just 26 percent of third downs this season has the Titans at the bottom of the NFL (Oakland is next at 33 percent).
3. Red Zone Efficiency
The offense had a good showing last week in this area, scoring touchdowns on two of its three trips inside the 20. The Titans are getting into the end zone on 50 percent of their red zone drives, but have only been inside the opponent's 20-yard line 10 times this season.
The defense struggled last week at Indianapolis, allowing the Colts across the goal line on four of their six visits to the red zone. The unit ranks 28th in the league with opponents scoring touchdowns on 68.8 percent of red zone drives. Good offenses will move the ball, but the Titans have to do a better job at forcing teams to settle for field goals.
4. Pressure Brian Hoyer
After recording eight sacks through the first two games, the Titans front seven has been shut out the last two weeks. It will be crucial to regain the pass rush against the Browns, who are the only team in the NFL yet to turn the ball over this season. Making sure Brian Hoyer is uncomfortable in the pocket is the best way to change that.
Look for Titans outside linebackers to make their mark on Sunday's game. Kamerion Wimbley, Derrick Morgan and the rest of the outside backers have yet to record a sack this season. That's something defensive coordinator Ray Horton said he'd like to see change against the Browns.
5. Inactive Lists
Against the Bengals it was Jason McCourty, last week it was Jake Locker, this week it could be Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The Titans' starting cornerback suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter against the Colts and has yet to be cleared through the league's concussion protocol.
If Wreh-Wilson can't go, Coty Sensabaugh will likely assume the other outside corner position opposite McCourty with Marqueston Huff and Brandon Harris filling in at the nickel.
This week's game will be televised regionally on CBS, including Nashville affiliate WTVF News- Channel 5. Andrew Catalonwill handle play-by-play duties, while Steve Beuerleinand Steve Taskerwill serve as analysts.
The Titans Radio Network, including Nashville flagship 104.5 The Zone, will broadcast the game across the Mid-South with the "Voice of the Titans" Mike Keith,analyst Frank Wycheck,gameday host Rhett Bryanand sideline reporter Jonathan Hutton.