2006 records: Titans 8-8, Jaguars 8-8
Titans Offense: 27th overall (30th passing, 5th rushing) vs. Jaguars Defense: 2nd overall (10th passing, 4th rushing)
The Titans have had a tough offseason offensively, as they lost their best running back, Travis Henry, and their best receiver, Drew Bennett via free agency. The Titans will rely on what was a solid running game in 2006, to take some of the pressure off their young, talented quarterback, who is reigning rookie of the year, Vince Young. Young helped the Titans to a number five ranking on the ground with his fantastic scrambling abilities, and also led the team to an 8-5 record as a starter. The Titans will likely use a tandem of running backs in last years’ rookie disappointment, LenDale White, and often injured, but talented veteran, Chris Brown. White and Brown will be running behind a solid offensive line which ranks as the best unit on their team. The Titans will start (from left to right) Jacob Bell, Michael Roos, Kevin Mawae, Benji Olson, and David Stewart on the line.
In the passing game, rookie Vince Young struggled throwing the football a year ago, as evidenced by his passer rating of 66.7, ranking him 30th among starting quarterbacks. Young has improved his accuracy from last year to this year, despite losing his favorite target in Drew Bennett. Expected starting wide receivers for the Titans should be veteran Eric Moulds and Roydell Williams. Other Titans receivers are Brandon Jones, Justin Gage, Chris Davis, Biren Ealy, and Paul Williams. Young will also look for tight ends in the passing game, and one of his favorite targets is Bo Scaife, as well as Ben Troupe and Ben Hartsock.
The Jaguars front seven should have a decided advantage against a still inexperienced Vince Young and the Titans running backs. In two games between these teams last season, the Titans averaged just 74.5 yards rushing, and scored just 10 points offensively. The Jaguars secondary, despite being young at safety, should have an advantage against the Titans group of over the hill (Moulds), or unproven (everyone else) receivers. For the Titans to score on this Jaguars defense, Vince Young must show why he was rookie of the year and have a huge game, unlike the two times that these teams met in 2006.
Jaguars Offense: 10th overall (24th passing, 3rd rushing) vs. Titans Defense: 32nd overall (27th passing, 30th rushing)
The Titans defensive strategy will likely be to load up the line of scrimmage and force the Jaguars formerly turnover prone starting quarterback, David Garrard to beat them through the air. The Titans defensive line is made up of starters (left to right), Antwan Odom, Tony Brown, Albert Haynesworth, and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Haynesworth is a solid run-stopper in the middle, and Vanden Bosch is one of the game’s premiere pass rushers. The Titans revamped group of linebackers include starters David Thornton, Ryan Fowler, and Keith Bulluck, as well as reserves Stephen Tulloch, LeVar Woods, and Gilbert Gardner. The Titans linebacking corps is underrated and very active.
The Jaguars will of course try to establish their powerful running game behind the offensive line of Khalif Barnes, Vince Manuwai, Dennis Norman, Chris Naeole, and Tony Pashos. The Jaguars now three-headed rushing attack will include veteran star Fred Taylor, last season’s rookie of the year runner-up, Maurice Jones-Drew, and fullback extrodinaire, Greg Jones.
The Jaguars receivers match up pretty well with the Titans secondary, as the Jaguars will throw out Ernest Wilford, Dennis Northcutt, Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, and John Broussard. The Titans secondary consists of former Indianapolis Colt, Nick Harper, and rookie Michael Griffin at cornerback, and Calvin Lowry, and Chris Hope at the safety positions. The Titans will bring in corner Cortland Finnegan in nickel coverage. The match-up that will likely decide the game is David Garrard against himself. Garrard’s two games against the Titans in 2006 perfectly epitomized his career. Garrard was fantastic in the Jaguars 37-7 demolition of the Titans in November, as he went 12/22 for 177 yards and three touchdowns. In the Jaguars 24-17 loss at Tennessee in December, Garrard threw three intereptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, and fumbled a ball that was returned for a touchdown. Other than Garrard’s meltdown, the Jaguars dominated that game. Garrard has all the physical tools to not only be a starter in the league, but a star quarterback. Garrard has always had some decision making issues that have kept him from achieving that kind of success up to this point.
The Titans special teams unit is made up of kicker Rob Bironas, punter Craig Hentrich, long-snapper Ken Amato, and return man Cortland Finnegan. Bironas has a strong leg as evidenced by his 60-yard game winner last season against Indianapolis. Bironas finished 22/28 in FG’s, with 10 touchbacks. Craig Hentrich is a solid punter who averaged 42.7 yards per punt in 2006, and 42.9 for his career. Cortland Finnegan will return both punts and kickoffs for the first time in his career, but he has great speed and two career toucdowns from fumble recoveries.
The Jaguars corresponding unit of Josh Scobee, Adam Podlesh, Joe Zelenka, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Dennis Northcutt seem to have a slight advantage in terms of talent. Podlesh is obviously an unknown commodity as a rookie, but Jones-Drew and Northcutt are experienced return men who are among the best in the league.
The Jaguars appear to have a decided advantage in terms of talent on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Special teams is close. Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher is widely regarded as one of the game’s best (not sure if that’s justified), and although his team is outclassed in terms of talent, Fisher will have them competitive. If the Jaguars don’t beat themselves with turnovers they should win this game fairly easily.