4 players to watch in Rams vs. Titans on Sunday

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It’s a battle of two teams with Super Bowl aspirations on Sunday Night Football in Week 9, with the Tennessee Titans traveling to SoFi Stadium to face the Los Angeles Rams. The anticipation surrounding this game has taken somewhat of a hit with Derrick Henry suffering a foot injury that could sideline him for the rest of the season.

Even with Henry sidelined, the Titans do have a talented offense that features A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. The offense of the Rams needs no introduction as Matthew Stafford is an MVP candidate, Cooper Kupp is having a historic campaign, and Darrell Henderson is performing well as the workhorse in the backfield.

The big news to come out of Los Angeles this week was the acquisition of Von Miller from the Denver Broncos. In Tennessee’s first game sans Henry since Week 16 of the 2019 season, they’ll be the first team tasked with facing a defense that deploys Miller, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Leonard Floyd together.

There’s no surprise that Los Angeles is favorited at home, favored by more than a touchdown at most sportsbooks. Ahead of what should be an intriguing game between the 6-2 Titans and the 7-1 Rams, here are four players to watch during Sunday night’s anticipated matchup.

Van Jefferson

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Van Jefferson has certainly made the most of his opportunities with the Rams this season. The second-year wideout is amid a breakout season, where he’s playing at such a high level that Los Angeles wasn’t able to find a role for veteran DeSean Jackson.

Through the first eight weeks, Jefferson has corraled 24 of his 39 targets for 392 yards and three touchdowns. So while he isn’t having a breakout season in the sense of being on track to total 1,000-plus receiving yards, he’s performing extremely well in an offense where he’s playing alongside top-tier wideouts in Kupp and Robert Woods.

Every single week, it appears Jefferson’s rapport with Stafford continues to blossom. Jefferson has seen his aDOT (average depth of target) increase from 11.3 yards to 13.5 yards in Year 2, illustrating his role as a vertical threat in the offense.

And with the Rams having 21 completions of 25-plus yards (fifth-most in the NFL), Jefferson should see a few targets down the field on Sunday night. Following the release of Jackson, we could see Jefferson’s workload grow a tad more, beginning in Week 9 versus the Titans.

Von Miller

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

All eyes are going to be on Miller in his debut with the Rams on Sunday night versus the Titans. Barring an unforeseen change, the All-Pro edge rusher should suit up despite dealing with a previous ankle injury he had with the Broncos.

If you’re looking for No. 58 on the defense of the Rams, you won’t find Miller, as he will be sporting No. 40 in his new threads. Justin Hollins, who played with Miller in Denver — and is on injured reserve — currently wears 58 for Los Angeles.

It remains to be seen how many snaps the Rams deploy Miller for, but I’d expect him to be productive with however many snaps he receives. With the absence of Henry, the Titans could be asked to put the ball in the air more than usual.

In his debut, Miller will be able to pin his ears back and do what he does best, which is get after the quarterback. It just so happens that Tennessee’s offensive line has given up the fourth-most sacks, while Los Angeles leads the NFL in sacks on the defensive side of the ball.

Darious Williams

(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Besides the addition of Miller, the Rams are also expected to get back one of their key contributors in their secondary from injured reserve. Darious Williams was designated to return from injured reserve earlier this week, and Sean McVay iterated that Los Angeles is optimistic that he’ll be able to return on Sunday night.

Most of the attention is going to be on Ramsey, who most people expect to cover Brown. However, Ramsey hasn’t shadowed anyone this season, so it will be a collective effort between Ramsey, Williams, and the other defensive backs of the Rams to contain Brown and Jones on the Titans.

Williams had 29 combined tackles and two pass breakups before being placed on injured reserve with an ankle ailment following the team’s Week 5 win over the Seattle Seahawks. The veteran cornerback will likely want to make up for missed time by having a producing showing in Week 9 against a Titans squad that will need to lean on Ryan Tannehill’s arm more.

Ernest Jones

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of last week’s game versus the Houston Texans, I had Ernest Jones listed as a player to watch in his first start for the Rams. The rookie inside linebacker showed out with nine tackles, one deflection, one tackle for loss, half a sack, and an interception in the win over the Texans.

Jones made fans quickly forget about the trade of Kenny Young as he flashed his potential as an every-down linebacker moving forward. While it was quite the first career start, Los Angeles will want to see him show consistency at the position.

With Henry not active for the Titans, Adrian Peterson and Jeremy McNichols are expected to share the backfield duties in Tennessee. But with Peterson not having a full week to prepare, and the likelihood of the Titans attempting to keep up with the Rams, McNichols will be involved heavily in the passing game.

Being able to face a running back that has 21 receptions for 203 yards and a touchdown on the season will be a nice test for Jones in Week 9. If Jones has another noteworthy performance against the Titans, we may see less of Troy Reeder at inside linebacker for the Rams once Hollins is able to return from injured reserve.

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