Eagles-Titans: What to expect
I took a look at the Titans' last two games against the Jaguars and Cowboys. Here's what the Eagles can expect today.
Eagles-Titans: What to expect
I took some time to check out the Titans' last two games against the Jaguars and Cowboys. Here are some notes and numbers about what to expect in today's game.
And don't forget, as always, I'll be chatting at 1 p.m.
When the Titans have the ball...
* It all starts with Chris Johnson. That's no surprise. He really is a complete back - vision, elusiveness, patience, speed. Johnson is second in the league with 596 yards rushing. He has five carries of 20 yards or more - only Arian Foster and Ahmad Bradhshaw have more. Johnson has seven touchdowns, tops in the NFL.
What I noticed while watching Johnson's last two games was how quickly he can turn a loss into a huge gain. Against the Cowboys, a defender had Johnson stopped for a 2-yard loss. He broke a tackle, and just like that, it was a 29-yard pickup. On another run, he looked like he had nowhere to go, cut back and was off to the races for 42 yards. Johnson is listed at 191 pounds, but he's tough. Both of his touchdowns against the Cowboys were from 1 yard out. Johnson's averaging 4.3 yards per carry. On fourth-quarter carries, that number is 5.9. He leads the league with 139 attempts.
* That previous item was a long way of saying that the Eagles will have their hands full. Antonio Dixon and Moise Fokou have played well the last two weeks, but this will be a different kind of test. Discipline and sure tackling are musts, or Johnson will break off several big runs.
* Johnson helps the Titans' passing game too. They run a lot of play-action and get the ball down the field. Against Dallas, in the first quarter alone, the Titans drew a 35-yard pass interference penalty on a throw to Kenny Britt; Vince Young hit Nate Washington for a 24-yard touchdown; and Damian Williams had a 23-yard grab. Three plays of over 20 yards in the passing game in the first 15 minutes. Young later hit Britt for a 52-yard gain on play-action. The Titans have only 142 pass attempts - fourth-fewest in the league, but they still take their shots downfield. Play-action is slower to develop with Kerry Collins, but he has always been able to hit deep throws.
* The 6-foot-3 Britt is their most dangerous receiver. He has just 16 catches on the season for 209 yards, but he's scored in four straight games. Against the Cowboys, he drew the 35-yard pass interference penalty and also a 13-yard pass interference penalty. Against Jacksonville, he made a catch at the 10 and showed good strength to fight off defenders and get into the end zone. Young will throw the ball up for grabs in Britt's direction and let him make a play, or hope for a flag. Opponents have targeted Eagles cornerback Ellis Hobbs on big plays this season. Expect the Titans to do the same if he's matched up with Britt. Tennessee announced that Britt won't start after he was involved in a bar fight last week, but he's expected to play.
* The Titans' other receivers are not bad either. Washington's TD catch against the Cowboys was impressive, as he fought for the ball over two Dallas defenders. Washington leads the team with 32 targets, 227 yards receiving, 14.2 yards per catch and four catches of 20 yards or more. Rookie Damian Williams has come on the last two weeks with six catches for 78 yards.
* The Titans' two tight ends - Bo Scaife and Craig Stevens - have combined for 21 catches and 226 yards. Scaife had a 28-yard grab off play-action last week. Neither looks impressive in terms of blocking. At times, they have lined up one-on-one against defensive ends. If that happens today, the Eagles will take advantage.
* Tough to draw too many conclusions about the Titans' offensive line based on the last two games. Left tackle Michael Roos has held his own. David Stewart, the right tackle, had some trouble against Dallas, but the Cowboys have some pass-rushers who can get after the quarterback. Johnson looks capable of picking up blitzers.
* Kicker Rob Bironas has hit 11 of 12 field-goal attempts on the season. He's 6-for-6 on attempts of 40 yards or more and has converted on both attempts from 50-plus. Bironas has nailed his last seven attempts from 50 yards or more.
* In the return game, Marc Mariani's 73-yard kickoff return set up the Titans' game-winning touchdown against Dallas.
When the Eagles have the ball...
* Beware the Titans' pass rush. Tennessee leads the league with 24 sacks. Earlier in the year, when most were killing the Eagles' offensive line, I argued that it wasn't that bad. Now, many are praising this unit, and I will warn you that it still has issues. The game-plan last week was great. The Eagles will absolutely have to provide King Dunlap with a lot of help on the left side today. He'll find himself matched up with defensive end Dave Ball, who has five sacks and was impressive last week against Jacksonville.
* On the other side, it's Jason Babin. Remember him? The Eagles brought Babin in during training camp last season, but let him go in the offseason. He's now tied for fourth in the league with six sacks. A true test for Winston Justice. I also noticed last week that Babin rushed from the inside and got a big hit on the quarterback. So Max Jean-Gilles could face off against him also.
* Another ex-Eagle is making plays too - Will Witherspoon. Witherspoon has three sacks on the season and was a big reason why the Titans were able to close out Dallas. On the Cowboys' final drive, he came up with two near-interceptions and a pass break-up, covering Jason Witten. Last week, he got a big hit on Garrard coming on a blitz.
* The Titans will bring their defensive backs on blitzes. Safeties Chris Hope and Michael Griffin will get their shots at Kolb. Hope had a sack on Romo. Griffin's blitz against Dallas resulted in a near interception.
* Griffin is a playmaker. He had an interception in the end zone against Dallas and another pick against the Jaguars. In the past four games, he has three interceptions and a forced fumble.
* In the passing game, Dallas attacked veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Miles Austin beat him for a 16-yard gain on third down; Roy Williams beat him for 17; and Williams beat him for a touchdown.
* Rookie cornerback Alterraun Verner, who was taken one spot ahead of Eagles cornerback Trevard Lindley, looks like a player. He came up with a big interception against Dallas and also made a nice tackle on Dez Bryant on a third-down play. Against Jacksonville, he had a good pass break-up in the first half.
* The Cowboys had some success running to the left side against Dallas. They had a 20-yard run and a 34-yard run to the left. Normally, the runs to the left are the Eagles' strength, but Dunlap was not impressive in the run game last week. Todd Herremans, on the other hand, is playing at a very high level. And Mike McGlynn has had some great blocks in the run game the last two weeks.
* The Titans linebackers make plays too. Outside linebacker Gerald McRath had a big game against the Cowboys. Stephen Tulloch is fourth in the league with 59 tackles. I already mentioned Witherspoon above.
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