Tennessee Titans-Jacksonville Jaguars: 5 Things We Learned
The Tennessee Titans beat up on the Jacksonville Jaguars Monday night, winning 30-3 in a game that saw starting quarterbacks Vince Young and David Garrard leave for good before halftime. Garrard suffered a concussion, and Young suffered a sprained knee that will require more tests this week.
The Titans showed all the reasons they have been a surprise this season, winning their third straight road game to open the year and moving into a first-place tie with the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. The Jaguars, who fell to 3-3, showed why many perceived their early success as a fluke.
What did we learn about these two teams during Monday night's blowout? What is the outlook for each going forward? Read on.
5. Kerry Collins Ain't Dead Yet
Kerry Collins has taken Vince Young's job before, and while no such switch appears likely this time around, Collins proved Monday that he remains a viable NFL signal-caller even at the advanced age of 37. He completed 11 of his 16 pass attempts against Jacksonville, racking up 110 yards and a touchdown. He did not turn the ball over.
Collins could probably still start for some squads, but with the trade deadline passed he will remain a Titan for now. He gives Tennessee a great second option when Young tweaks something or head coach Jeff Fisher gets frustrated with Young, but the Titans are still much better off with their former first-round pick and Offensive Rookie of the Year healthy and productive.
4. Jacksonville Needs a New Quarterback
This should not be news, but many still believe in the potential of Garrard and backup Trent Edwards. It is time to let go.
Garrard continues to manage average numbers working within the team's conservative offense. He has posted a roughly average passer rating in each year since his breakout campaign in 2007 (when he was quite a bit better than average).
Garrard can't effectively direct that offensive attack anymore, however, for at least two reasons:
1. He lacks mobility and the ability to make plays.
2. He does not protect the football well enough.
The second charge is the more damning, because in an offense that so emphasizes the run, one of the quarterback's key roles is simply to avoid turning the ball over. Instead, Garrard has fumbled 23 times and thrown 30 interceptions since the start of 2008.
Of Edwards, little need be said other than that he is a backup at best, a fringe guy whose longest exposure as a starter (in 2008, with Buffalo) bore mixed results: 11 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 14 games, and a just better-than-average passer rating. Ever since, Edwards has fallen off the map.
3. Chris Johnson Has Plenty in His Tank
Coming off the kind of season Johnson had in 2009, it would have been hard to imagine him not slowing down a bit. At times this year, that has been exactly the case: he had just 211 yards on 67 carries during a three-game stretch to close out September and begin October—a meager 3.15 yards per rush.
In his last two games, though, Johnson has looked more like the man who led the league in rushes and rushing yardage last year. He rumbled for 111 yards on 26 carries Monday night, and here is the real lesson in his durability: He put the game away officially with a fourth-quarter touchdown run of 35 yards, on the final carry of his night.
2. The Titans Defense Is Back
With three interceptions and a fumble recovery Monday night, the Titans now have 14 takeaways for the year—trailing only Pittsburgh and (believe it or not) Detroit in that category. They have allowed the fourth-fewest points per game in the league despite surrendering over 325 yards of total offense per contest. That ability to bend but not break goes back to their play-making prowess.
Michael Griffin, who anchors the team's defense from his place in the secondary, had another pick last night, and Stephen Tulloch (the team's leading tackler) had eight wrap-ups. The defense was the weak link for last year's Tennessee squad, but this year's team looks more like the one that allowed the Titans to go 13-3 in 2008.
1. Maurice Jones-Drew Is Stuck in Neutral
Before the game Monday night, ESPN's Jon Gruden compared Jones-Drew to both Barry Sanders and Earl Campbell. Unless your name is Walter, that kind of billing is tough to live up to.
Lately, though, Jones-Drew has not lived up to even more-modest expectations. In his first four seasons, MJD scored 49 rushing touchdowns and averaged over 4.7 yards per carry. He looked like a true superstar in the making, a man with a nose for the end zone and a wide array of athletic gifts.
This season, though, Jones-Drew has been downright disappointing. He has only one 100-yard rushing effort and one touchdown on the ground, and his yards per rush has fallen to 3.9. He finished Monday with 17 carries for 57 yards, and had three fruitless carries from inside the Titans' 10-yard line on a drive that ended with an Edwards interception.