Jets vs. Titans: Takeaways from Tennessee's 38-13 Win over New York
It was a decisive victory, but it may end up being a Pyrrhic victory as well. The Tennessee Titans dominated the New York Jets in every way, winning the game 38-13, but saw Jake Locker go down with an injury after a late helmet hit by Muhammad Wilkerson.
Ryan Fitzpatrick filled in for Locker and even added another touchdown to the Titans' lead.
The Titans defense stifled rookie quarterback Geno Smith, intercepting him twice, forcing two fumbles and even securing two defensive touchdowns on the way to 3-1.
Here are eight takeaways from the win over the Jets.
1. It Might Be Time to Consider Trading Kenny Britt
Kenny Britt is in the last year of his contract, and the chances that he'll return next season are slim. The Titans receivers also seem to be fine without him; Kendall Wright has improved from his rookie season, Nate Washington is reliable and Justin Hunter has unlimited upside.
Furthermore, the Titans are without a third-round pick this year and could use another draft pick.
I still think it's unlikely that the Titans will go through with a trade for Britt, especially since he came off of perhaps the worst game of his career and then sat out a game. The market may not be there, but if it is, it's something the Titans need to seriously consider.
2. The Improvements Jake Locker Has Made Are for Real
Locker looked fantastic last week against San Diego, but I was worried that his great performance had more to do with the Chargers fielding the worst pass defense in the league at that point than it had to do with Locker.
However, after another good outing, it's looking like Locker's improvements are the real deal. Locker completed the first seven passes he threw against the Jets, and his end-game numbers were an outstanding 18 of 24 for 149 yards and three touchdowns.
We're also four weeks into the season, and Locker has yet to surrender a turnover.
The improvements Locker has made look more and more like legitimate, permanent improvements, and not just game-to-game flukes. If his injury turns out to not be that serious, he's due for a big season.
3. Zach Brown Might Be the Kind of Playmaker the Defense Has Been Missing
The Titans defense has not been without good players. Guys like Derrick Morgan, Jurrell Casey and Jason McCourty are pretty dependable most of the time. However, despite all of them being good or even great players, none are the kind you can depend on to make plays.
Morgan and Casey in 2012 are great examples of this. Morgan was constantly in the offensive backfield, forcing quarterbacks to get rid of balls quickly and inaccurately. Casey ate up double-teams on a pretty regular basis and was a stout run defender.
Despite that, neither of them had a ton of sacks, or forced fumbles, or interceptions. The Titans had great players, but not the kind that could be great players and also make big defensive plays that take the wind out of offenses and make coordinators go out of their way to account for.
Zach Brown just might be that player. Against the Jets, he had a sack, a forced fumble, six solo tackles, one of them for a loss, and he harassed Geno Smith all day. And that's not an unusual stat line for him.
That kind of dominant player hasn't been on the Titans defense since Cortland Finnegan left the team in 2011, but the team may have finally found someone to fill that void.
4. Chris Johnson May Have Become One-Dimensional
Chris Johnson is still one of the fastest players out there, but he's far from what he used to be.
In 2010, the only running back to break more tackles than Johnson was Arian Foster. He wasn't just a speed back; he could make defenders miss in several ways and was an all-around excellent player. Every season since then, Johnson, while continuing to be a home run threat in the open field, has struggled in every other aspect of the game.
The Jets swallowed Johnson up almost every time he went between the tackles. He had a few good runs to the outside, but other than that, he was unable to do anything against the Jets defense.
Johnson had 15 total carries for a measly 21 yards. Jackie Battle had only 11 carries, but doubled Johnson's yardage.
At this point in his career, the Titans staff needs to start treating Johnson more like a running back who's half of a duo and less like an every-down player. He can't handle that much anymore.
5. If There Were Any Questions About Starting Alterraun Verner, There Aren't Now
Alterraun Verner continues to show his uncanny ability to read offenses. So far this season, Verner has four interceptions and eight deflected passes.
Some games haven't been played yet, but right now, Verner leads the NFL in interceptions (Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso shares that title) and stands second in the NFL in defended passes (behind Leon Hall and tied with Tony Carter).
Kind of strange when you remember that he almost lost the starting spot to Tommie Campbell.
Verner may not be what the Titans want out of a corner physically, and he makes the occasional big mistake, but he's one of the best playmakers on the team and a sure tackler.
The Titans ought to consider extending his contract before the season ends to lock him up long term across from Jason McCourty.
6. Nate Washington Isn't Going Anywhere
There was speculation in the offseason that Nate Washington was on the trading block, but after his season so far, and especially after this game, it's clear that he's going nowhere.
Washington has been Locker's favorite target so far this season. Against the Jets, he caught four passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. He currently leads the Titans in receiving yards with 332, and he, along with Jake Locker, Justin Hunter and Delanie Walker, is one of the only Titans with more than one touchdown.
Washington has shown how important a part of the offense he really is, and now with Britt likely gone in 2014, there's very little chance that Washington will be traded.
7. The Titans Defense Is Still Struggling Against Tight Ends
As much as Geno Smith struggled against the Titans, he completed six passes to Kellen Winslow for 73 yards. And that's not counting however many complete passes to Winslow were called back because of Jets penalties.
Smith also threw one pass to Jeff Cumberland for 34 yards and the Jets' only touchdown of the game.
Those numbers aren't particularly alarming, but seeing Winslow be unaccounted for play after play by the Titans defense when Smith kept throwing to him made it clear that tight ends are still a problem.
Smith threw to 10 receivers, but the two tight ends accounted for 107 of the Jets' 289 passing yards and their only touchdown. Against teams with better tight ends or a more experienced quarterback, this could be a big problem in the future.
8. Just Like the Preseason, Everything Comes Down to Locker
Before the season started, everyone who said anything about the Titans said that their season would come down to how much Locker improves. This is again the case.
Fitzpatrick didn't look great against the Jets, but he's been a starter for years. We know what he brings to the table, and he's a pretty good backup.
That said, seeing both Fitzpatrick and Locker play Sunday, the difference between the two quarterbacks was clear. If Locker's injury is serious, and Fitzpatrick has to start more than a couple of games, the Titans' playoff chances become a lot less likely.
Locker's progress as a quarterback is real, and with his ability to make a defense account for the run and the pass, he makes the Titans offense dangerous enough to win games.
Fitzpatrick can win games, too, but I don't know if he can win the games that the Titans will need him to if they want the nine or 10 victories it'll take to get into the playoffs.