5 Things We Learned from Titans vs. Jaguars

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIISeptember 12, 2011

5 Things We Learned from Titans vs. Jaguars

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    The Jaguars ended up edging out the Titans 16-14 on Sunday in one of the two AFC South matchups this week.

    The Titans were slightly favored in the matchup, but the Jaguars took the lead in the first quarter and never relinquished it. The Titans' last minute effort toward a comeback was thwarted by an interception by Dwight Lowery.

    Here are five things we learned from both teams in the matchup:

1. The Titans Have Some Good Special Teamers

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    Marc Mariani was a nonfactor in the loss to Jacksonville. The new kick return rule did what everyone was afraid it was going to do and Mariani didn't return either of the two kickoffs he received.

    However, the Titans special teams did have a couple of other players that looked good.

    Brett Kern continued to be a solid punter, averaging 41.6 yards in seven punts.

    Rookies Tommie Campbell and Colin McCarthy came up big too. Campbell, a seventh round pick out of California University of Pennsylvania got a big tackle, continuing his consistent special teams play. McCarthy got another stop on special teams as well.

    A more surprising tackle came from Tennessee's long snapper Ken Amano.

    The Titans looked mediocre on special teams overall mostly due to penalties, but a few players shined.

1. Free Agents Have Improved Jacksonville's Pass Defense

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    Matt Hasselbeck passed for 236 yards. While it may not seem great that Jacksonville allowed that many yards, 80 of those yards came from a flicker to Kenny Britt, which he then ran in for a touchdown.

    The play was 100 percent luck and outside of that one play, the Jaguars pass coverage was top notch.

    Jacksonville's pass coverage was one of the worst in the league last year. Then, this past offseason, they added safety Dawan Landry, defensive end Matt Roth and cornerback Drew Coleman.

    Landry led the team in tackles with eight. Coleman was second with five.

    Matt Roth and Drew Coleman each had one sack and one tackle for loss as well.

    Say what you will about their draft, but the rest of the Jags offseason seems to have been wise after their first win.

2. The Titans Defensive Line Needs Consistency

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    Maurice Jones-Drew is a great running back, so when he gets yards consistently, there's only so much you can say about it.

    But when a backup running back plows into the backfield every time, there are issues in your front seven.

    The Titans rotated out starters on the defensive line throughout the game, so it's tough to say who was making mistakes and who was playing well. That very well may be the problem.

    The Titans need to determine who are their starters on the defensive line. I counted five defensive tackles who got playing time (there are six on the roster). While rotating out defensive linemen to keep them fresh works sometimes, it led to inconsistent defensive play.

    On one drive, the Titans prevented Maurice Jones-Drew from scoring, despite the fact that the Jaguars were on the one yard line for three downs. At other times in the game, Jones-Drew (and his backup, Deji Karim) plowed right through two or more defenders before being brought down.

    Tennessee needs consistent play from its defensive line and that is not what it got.

2. The Jaguars Could Win the AFC South

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    The Colts got blown away against the Texans. While that also happened last year and the Colts still won the division, this year is different for obvious reasons.

    Without Kerry Collins taking over for Peyton Manning, the Colts are not in the running for the AFC South Crown. The Jaguars are.

    Most sources predicted a win for the Titans in Jacksonville, but despite how close the score was (16-14), the Jaguars beat the Titans at every position. When the Titans did finally get on the board, it was off of a broken play where Kenny Britt just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

    The Jaguars were much better on the field today than the Titans and with the Texans' history of falling apart when it matters, it could be the Jags that are still playing in January.

3. Akeem Ayers Is a Stud

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    One of the few bright spots for the Titans on Sunday was the play of rookie linebacker Akeem Ayers.

    He had seven tackles, the third-most on the team, but that doesn't do justice to how well he played. He was constantly where the ball was and was a constant annoyance to the Jaguars backfield.

    With Barrett Ruud playing inconsistently and the combination of Gerald McRath and Will Witherspoon leaving something to be desired, Akeem Ayers is a bright spot in an otherwise dark linebacking corps.

    Ayers had a promising first showing; if he can keep it up, he could help the Titans as they continue to rebuild.

3. Starting Luke McCown Was the Right Move for the Jags

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    I will be the first to admit that I was wrong about David Garrard. I thought he was cut simply to save the Jaguars some money and that saying that Luke McCown was outperforming him was a smoke screen.

    However, given McCown's play on Sunday, I think they were telling the truth. McCown completed 17 of 24 passes for 175 yards and no interceptions. Not bad, especially considering that Marcedes Lewis was out for almost the entire game and the Jags are a run-first team.

    The only knock on McCown was his two fumbles. That's pretty bad, but since McCown is still only a stop gap for Blaine Gabbert, it's nothing to lose sleep over.

    Despite the inconsistency, the Titans are still a pretty good defensive team and that makes McCown's performance pretty impressive.

4. There Is Plenty of Work to Do on the Titans Offense

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    While Hasselbeck didn't have a great game, he was alright. He threw for 183 yards if you take away Kenny Britt's miracle catch. He earned a rating of 93.1 and that too is pretty good considering how little time he's had to adjust to the Titans offense.

    With pretty much everyone else, there was trouble. Chris Johnson was completely shut down, only rushing for 24 yards on nine attempts. Jamie Harper was better, rushing for 10 yards on three attempts and getting a 21-yard run after having the ball thrown to him.

    Kenny Britt did a great job of making something out of nothing, but by himself, he was not enough to make the Titans passing game into a good one. Nate Washington put up a respectable 67 yards, and that was practically it.

    There were lots of dropped balls, overthrown receivers and just plain bad plays.

    Looking at each player individually, they all did fairly well (save Johnson), but the offense never meshed. Not having a regular offseason seems to have put the Titans behind more than other teams and they'll be playing catchup for some time.

4. Maurice Jones-Drew Is Revving at Full Throttle

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    I was very impressed by what I saw from Maurice Jones-Drew. Given his knee injury in the offseason, I expected him to be pretty ineffective against the Titans defensive front.

    Oh how wrong I was.

    Jones-Drew rushed 24 times for 97 yards and most of those rushes were right up the middle.

    The Jaguars still gave ample playing time to Jones-Drew's backup, Deji Karim, but it was apparent that they are completely behind Jones-Drew as their No. 1 guy.

    Jones-Drew broke more tackles than I can count, and got the team their only touchdown while he was at it.

    His knees seem to be fine and that is a reason for Jaguars fans to celebrate.

5. The "Future" of the Franchise Might Be Here Sooner Than Expected

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    The Titans drafted four players as part of the future of the franchise: Jake Locker, Colin McCarthy, Karl Klug and Tommie Campbell.

    Locker is obviously the next franchise quarterback. McCarthy was drafted to take over for Barrett Ruud after this year (which is why the Titans only signed Ruud to a one year deal).

    Klug and Campbell were drafted for their tenacity and athleticism as developmental players.

    However, given the poor play of the veterans, the Titans rookies could be taking over sooner than expected.

    Nearly half of Matt Hasselbeck's passing yards came from two big plays by Kenny Britt and beyond those, he wasn't impressive.

    Barrett Ruud could not stop Maurice Jones-Drew and in one instance, let him run six yards into the endzone untouched (and he ran up the middle).

    Shaun Smith got fewer tackles than rookie Jurrell Casey and only one more than Klug, despite being on the field more often than either. Klug also got a quarterback hit.

    For good measure, Jamie Harper also played much better than Chris Johnson.

    The Titans rookies may be better than those that they were expected to eventually replace right now. It may benefit the Titans to speed up the replacement process and turn the keys over sooner than later.

5. The Jaguars Are Set in the Front Seven

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    The fact that the Jaguars have not had a good front seven has been well known for some time. Those days seem to be over.

    Even when the Jaguars used their first round pick on defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, everyone said that they reached. He turned out just fine and now their front seven seems to be the strongest part of the team.

    In the offseason, the Jaguars added linebacker Paul Posluszny, who made an immediate impact with four tackles and a pass deflection in the opening game.

    New defensive end Matt Roth also had a great game; Roth had one sack, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hit. The other defensive end, Jeremy Mincey, was a thorn in Matt Hasselbeck's side, gathering up three quarterback hits.

    Perhaps the most important number for the Jaguars front seven is this one: 24. That's the number of rushing yards that Chris Johnson had in the game. When you hold Mr. 2000 to two dozen yards, you're doing something right.

    Tyson Alualu had a quiet game, but he's already proven to be a great tackle. If the front seven keep up their performances, then the Jags could have a very tough defense.

Conclusion: There's Plenty Left to Learn

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    It's easy to make too many judgments based on the first one or two games, and despite what I've said, there isn't much that we know about the Titans or the Jaguars; there is only what we can infer.

    We don't know that the Titans aren't a good team just yet. It could be that the Titans can't run the ball without Ahmard Hall leading the way with great blocking. It could be that the injuries to Derrick Morgan and Jason Jones crippled the defense. Or they could have simply had an off game.

    Alternately, we don't know that the Jaguars are a good team yet. It could be that they had all the right people in all the right places. It could be that the Titans are one of the worst teams in the league right now, and so the win doesn't mean anything.

    There are still an infinite number of possibilities and it'd be foolish to think that the rest of the season will follow what has happened here.

    Jags fans: celebrate the win and be optimistic for the season.

    Titans fans: keep your chin up, the fat lady isn't singing just yet.