Jaguars vs. Titans: Takeaways from Tennessee's 29-27 Loss to Jacksonville
It started ugly with a fumble by Chris Johnson, which led to a Jaguars touchdown. The Titans cleaned up their play in the first half but struggled again in the fourth quarter, finally losing to the winless Jaguars 29-27.
There was plenty of poor play all over, but the thing that killed the Titans the most was turnovers. With four fumbles lost and an interception, the Titans shot themselves in the foot more than anything else.
Here are some takeaways from what may have been a season-ending loss.
1. Chance Warmack Might Already Be a Bust
Normally, one season is too early to label a player a success or a bust, but Chance Warmack's case is a bit special.
Normally, teams don't use a top 10 pick on a guard, much less a right guard, because the positional value doesn't make any sense. The hype on Warmack was that he'd immediately be a starting right guard who would boost the run game instantly, so the Titans took him 10th overall.
That instant improvement never really happened. Warmack has been a solid run blocker, but as Chris Johnson's mediocre numbers show, he isn't as dominant as he was billed to be.
He's also been a poor pass protector and makes a lot of mental errors. Against the Jaguars, he held a Jaguars defender in the end zone, resulting in a Jaguars safety.
Warmack may eventually turn into a very good right guard as he gets the mental aspect of the NFL down, but a developmental guard is not something you use a top 10 selection on, and because of that, Warmack may already be a bust.
2. Chris Johnson's Week 9 Comeback May Have Been a Fluke
Chris Johnson had a fantastic game against the Rams in Week 9, rushing for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Against the Jaguars, he went right back to being mediocre. He coughed up a fumble on his opening run, and even though he only saw 12 carries, his numbers weren't impressive, with a mere 30 yards on the ground.
Johnson's play wasn't terrible, as he also caught five passes for 43 yards, and he got swallowed up a lot at the line of scrimmage, but it's clear that Johnson can't carry the team.
Shonn Greene fared no better against the Jaguars, with nine carries for 22 yards. The only rushing touchdown of the game came from Ryan Fitzpatrick.
3. The Offense Made It Tough for the Defense
At times, the Titans defense looked as bad against the Jaguars as they did against the Rams. The defensive line was dominant, but outside of that it was another poor performance.
However, even though the defense had a bad outing, much of the blame has to lay on Tennessee's offense.
In their first series, the Titans turned the ball over to the Jaguars at the 19 yard line, giving them great field position.
On the next series, the Titans went three and out, then had a short punt, giving the Jaguars the ball in Titans territory yet again.
The Jaguars ended up having three possessions begin in Titans territory, and nine of the Jaguars' points were obtained by their defense.
The Titans defense didn't play well, but the loss certainly isn't entirely on them.
4. Jurrell Casey Belongs in the Pro Bowl
Despite a poor showing overall on defense, Jurrell Casey was a monster. He had a great stat line for the game (6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack), but even that doesn't indicate how disruptive he was.
Casey drew multiple holding penalties, got in the way of a couple of passes, constantly pressured Chad Henne and made the entire Jaguars offense take him into account.
With Alterraun Verner and Zach Brown cooling off and Akeem Ayers and Derrick Morgan having quiet years, Casey is quickly emerging as the Titans' best defensive player.
Of course, he wasn't the only defender to have a good game. The Titans' entire defensive line played well. Morgan had a solid game, as did Mike Martin, Sammie Hill and Ropati Pitoitua, but Casey looks to be a truly elite player.
5. The Defense Is in Trouble
The Tennessee defense played their worst game of the season against St. Louis in Week 9. This week against the Jaguars, they weren't much better.
Jurrell Casey had a great game, and the defensive line became dominant as the game went on, but outside of that there were a lot of bad plays.
Bernard Pollard had several costly penalties, including one which took the Jaguars 15 yards for a first down.
Jason McCourty had a poor game as well, as many passes were completed to receivers he was covering.
Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown didn't play terribly, but neither of them made the big plays they're both capable of.
This is the second week in a row that the Titans have seen a noticeably below average performance out of what looked like a very good defense in the first half of the season.
I don't know what's caused such a drastic change in the quality of defensive play—it could be a few key injuries, the change in who's calling defensive plays or something else—but whatever it is, the coaches need to take whatever steps they can to address it, as a solid defense is the Titans' bread and butter.
6. Injuries Are Starting to Hurt
The Titans were doing well in the season's beginning when everyone was healthy. Now, with injuries to Jake Locker, Moise Fokou, Damian Williams, Brian Schwenke, Marc Mariani and David Stewart, things are starting to fall apart.
Every team has to deal with injuries. The Titans have a lot, and several at important positions, but even so, they're going to have to learn to overcome those if they want to be a team that's competitive in the postseason.
Injuries (most of them to the offensive line) derailed the Titans in 2012. They can't let the same thing happen in 2013 if Munchak wants to keep his job. Speaking of which...
7. Mike Munchak's Seat Is Getting Hotter
The Titans are in no way out of the playoff race. They host the Colts on Thursday night, and home teams tend to do very well in those games (the Titans upset the heavily favored Steelers on a Thursday game last year).
Winning five of those games is not impossible. The Raiders aren't impressing anyone, the Jags are unlikely to sweep the Titans and the Texans are falling apart. Winning those three games and two of the four against the Colts, Broncos and Cardinals will get the Titans the nine games they'll probably need.
Still, Munchak is now 0-3 against teams with the NFL's worst win record for his career. That's not a good statistic. If the Titans miss the playoffs, the team's new management will have little reason to feel loyal to Munchak, and I'd be surprised if they didn't choose to go in another direction.