The Titans return from a much-needed bye week, feeling healthier and ready to right the ship after losing three consecutive games. The opponent this week is the 3-5 St. Louis Rams, led by former longtime Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.
Fisher had no warm words for the franchise he coached for more than 16 seasons in an interview with ESPN's Nick Wagoner.
"There's 16 players on the roster that were there when I was there, so the roster is just about completely turned over," Fisher said. "There's just a few coaches on the staff. So, the front office is turned over. To me, this is just another opponent."
The Rams are coming off a tough loss at home on Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks but looked very good in the process. Their defense allowed a total of 135 yards of offense, and Zac Stacy and the offense rushed for 200 yards.
Here's what Tennessee will need to do to stop any kind of repeat effort by the Rams.
Put Smash and Dash 2.0 on Display
Since injuring his right knee in Week 1, Shonn Greene has missed five games and only had one carry during Week 7's contest against the San Francisco 49ers. With two more weeks of rest, Greene is ready for action, and head coach Mike Munchak has him slated for 15 carries per game.
After solid contributions from the running game through the first three weeks of the season, the Titans' rushing numbers have been putrid.
|Jets||J. Battle: 42 yds||C. Johnson: 21 yds||J. Locker: 17 yds||R. Fitzpatrick: -2 yds||78 yds|
|Chiefs||R. Fitzpatrick: 50 yds||J. Battle: 38 yds||C. Johnson: 17 yds||N/A||105 yds|
|Seahawks||C. Johnson: 33 yds||R. Fitzpatrick: 33 yds||N/A||N/A||66 yds|
|49ers||C. Johnson: 39 yds||J. Locker: 29 yds||S. Greene: 2 yds||N/A||70 yds|
ESPN Stats and Information
Before the game against the 49ers, the Titans inserted rookie center Brian Schwenke into the starting lineup over Robert Turner. Turner is ranked 31st out of 32 in Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and has since been placed on injured reserve.
The running game looked improved in the game against San Francisco, but the lopsided score forced the Titans to abandon their running game. The St. Louis Rams have allowed an average of 116.1 yards rushing per game.
The Titans made a point of revamping the interior of the offensive line, bringing in a short-yardage running back in Greene and focusing on de-emphasizing the passing during the offseason. Now it's time to show that it's working. Chris Johnson and Greene will need to pick up yardage in chunks to slow down the league's fifth-best pass rush.
Information on St. Louis running back Zac Stacy's injury has been scarce since his 134-yard outing against a normally very stout Seattle run defense. Jeff Fisher was very coy when asked about Stacy on Monday, but the running back was "very limited" in Wednesday's practice, according to Rotoworld.
Whether he plays is not important. The Titans need to improve in an area of their defense that has caused them trouble over the past few seasons: run defense. The Titans are allowing 117.1 yards rushing per game and will need to improve in the area to force the Rams to put the game in backup quarterback Kellen Clemens' hands.
Despite the Rams defense racking up seven sacks and allowing just 135 yards of offense on Monday, Clemens' two interceptions loomed large as the reason they were defeated. The Titans have an opportunity to take advantage and help the offense.
Slow the Rams Pass Rush
St. Louis has piled up 25 sacks this season, led by Robert Quinn with 10. Quinn and Chris Long each sacked Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson three times, but the Seahawks offensive line is not as adept at pass blocking as the Titans.
The Rams used a lot of man coverage with eight defenders in the box against Seattle, and the strategy succeeded. If the Rams employ the same strategy, Tennessee's offensive line will need to give its quarterback more time than Seattle's did.
The Titans have a better receiving corps than Seattle's and will need it to step up and create separation as quickly as possible for Jake Locker to throw to. If Locker and the receivers can string together some completions for first downs, St. Louis will be forced to drop another player into coverage and give the ground attack more room to work.
I suspect the coaching staff will have spent time during the bye finding ways to get rookie wideout Justin Hunter more involved in the offense. With Kenny Britt clearly on the outskirts, Hunter is the future and needs to be given more snaps.
Will the Titans limit themselves to fewer than 100 yards of penalties?
Limit the Penalties
The Titans have been charged the eighth-most penalty yards and nearly 15 penalties a game through eight weeks and simply cannot afford to continue that trend. The Titans offense has looked like a well-oiled machine at times but has often had drives derailed by penalties, putting the team in difficult down-and-distance situations.
In order to see the true potential of this offense and see the true quality of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains' play-calling, the Titans will need to become a more disciplined team in this game and throughout the rest of the year.