After what we’ve seen from the Tennessee Titans to start the 2022 season, it’s hard to have any optimism that things will get better.
The offense has been bad, both on the ground and through the air, mostly because the offensive line has stunk. It also doesn’t help that offensive coordinator Todd Downing is simply a bad play-caller.
The part of the team that was supposed to be the most reliable, the defense, has been bad, also. The unit has allowed a whopping 62 points in the last six quarters of play, including allowing a 41 spot to the Buffalo Bills in Week 2.
The Week 3 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders is certainly a more favorable matchup than the one the Titans had in Week 2, but this game presents several difficult challenges for the Titans to overcome.
We’ll try to keep the glass half full with some reasons for optimism, but we’ll also take a look at the reasons for concern going into Week 3.
Optimism: Raiders' defense
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After facing the best run defense in the NFL last week, the Titans will get a bit of a reprieve this week, as the Raiders sport the No. 16 run defense in the NFL, allowing 109.5 rushing yards per game.
Last week, Las Vegas surrendered 115 rushing yards and five yards per carry to Arizona Cardinals running backs.
The Titans desperately need to get Derrick Henry going, as doing so not only keeps the ball out of the hands of the Raiders’ dangerous offense, but it also helps setup the play-action and passing game overall.
Las Vegas has been even worse against the pass, ranking No. 29 in the NFL and giving up 274.5 passing yards per game.
While the Raiders’ middling or worse showing on defense is all well and good, it won’t mean a damn thing if Tennessee’s group upfront doesn’t improve.
Concern: Titans' offensive line
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The Titans have only allowed three sacks this season, two of which came in Week 2 against the Bills. However, it feels like Buffalo should’ve had a lot more, as quarterback Ryan Tannehill was under constant pressure all night. Tennessee’s group upfront allowed 14 pressures in total on Monday.
His second interception not withstanding, Tannehill was actually solid when given time to throw, so pass protection remains one of the the biggest roadblocks for this offense, along with shoddy play-calling.
Making matters worse in pass protection, the Titans won’t have left tackle Taylor Lewan in a game in which they have to deal with one of the better pass-rush duos in the NFL in Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones.
Jones in particular has been a menace to the Titans in the past, as he notched five sacks against Tennessee in Week 1 of 2021 as a member of the Cardinals.
Tennessee’s woes upfront also extend to run-blocking. Henry has been hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on 17 of his 34 carries through two weeks, making it impossible for him to get anything going.
That has to change, and quickly.
Optimism: (Potential) return of Kristian Fulton
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Tennessee’s suspect secondary was fully exposed against an elite opponent in Week 2, but there’s reason for hope that things will get better in Week 3.
The Titans were without their No. 1 cornerback Kristian Fulton for that game, and it showed. The good news is Fulton is on track to returning in Week 3 after getting in two limited practices in a row, something he was unable to do last week before being ruled out.
Concern: Titans' pass-rush
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Much like they did in 2021, the Titans are dealing with a slow of injuries on their roster, with 10 players on injured reserve, 10 players on the injury report, and another two players on the PUP list.
The biggest injury issues thus far have come at outside linebacker, where the team lost Harold Landry for the season and are now dealing with injuries to Bud Dupree and Ola Adeniyi.
Both Dupree and Adeniyi exited Week 2 with injuries, but only Adeniyi was able to return. So far this week, Adeniyi saw a limited practice on Wednesday but was downgraded to did not practice on Thursday. Dupree has yet to take the practice field this week.
Tennessee cannot afford to lose Dupree especially. Not only are the Titans lacking pass-rushers off the edge, but they also need Dupree’s speed in the run game, something they are sorely missing with Landry on the shelf.
If the Titans fail to get pressure on Las Vegas, the secondary will not be able to hold up against some of Las Vegas’ impressive weapons in the passing game.
Optimism: The AFC South
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Teams that start 0-2 have a tough climb in order to make the playoffs, and it gets even tougher for teams that start 0-3. However, Tennessee has a better chance than most teams in those positions to make the playoffs.
That’s because the Titans are part of what appears to be the worst division in the NFL. The four AFC South squads have just one win between them, and while the Titans are in the cellar, they are just one game out of first place behind the 1-1 Jacksonville Jaguars, who can implode at any minute.
The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts remain winless, and the Colts in particular have been playing well below expectations.
Make no mistake, this is a must-win game for the Titans, but there’s still reason for hope even if they don’t come out on top in Week 3.
Concern: Raiders' passing attack
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
There will be no reprieve this week in terms of talented offensive weapons the Titans have to deal with through the air.
The Raiders sport an underrated quarterback in Derek Carr, who has elite an weapon at wide receiver in Davante Adams, and an elite tight end in Darren Waller.
As we already mentioned, Fulton being back will help, but the Raiders tend to move both Adams and Waller around the formation, so it’s going to take a group effort to keep them in check. We’re not confident the Titans have enough in that group to make that happen.
Tennessee must force someone else to beat them, whether its on the ground or through the air, but keeping Waller and/or Adams at bay enough to accomplish that goal is far easier said than done.