Titans-Jaguars preview thoughts, gameday thread

The official scratches are out for today's game at LP Field between the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars, and here they are.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: CB Jamell Fleming, DE Abry Jones, G Will Rackley, QB Ricky Stanzi, LB Nate Stupar, WR Kerry Taylor, WR Stephen Williams

TENNESSEE TITANS: CB Tommie Campbell, LB Zac Diles, DE Lavar Edwards, LB Moise Fokou, OL Pat McQuistan, QB Rusty Smith, RT David Stewart

Each team will be down one offensive line starter, as Will Rackley did not recover from his concussion and Mike Otto gets his second straight start for Stewart. Campbell also sits after being listed as questionable, while Michael Griffin's quad apparently healed enough for him to return to the lineup. Ropati Pitoitua also plays despite his questionable listing, as does Jaguars TE Danny Noble.

My Football Outsiders colleague Cian Fahey in his column this week covered some particularly conservative things the Titans did with their safeties against the Rams that contributed to Zac Stacy's big day. My belief was this was a result of a calculated trade-off the Titans made. Neither George Wilson nor Bernard Pollard has the range Griffin has, so the Titans were willing to give the Rams some underneath yards, both in the run game and the pass game, because they didn't think the Rams could beat them with execution. Kellen Clemens proved them wrong early and Zac Stacy did throughout the game, but on the whole they did enough to win the game. With Griffin back this week, expect more Pollard in the box and tougher sledding for Maurice Jones-Drew.

It's tough to write a preview about the Jaguars, because it boils down to "they suck." The defense is reasonably coordinated but lacks standout players. I was a big fan of Jonathan Cyprien, but he's played like a rookie safety. Jason Babin is about their only pass rush threat. Sen'Derrick Marks has been their most impactful defensive lineman. I think I wrote in the offseason they need about six new starters. That may have been an underestimation.

The offense is worse than the defense. The line in particular is awful, especially with Eugene Monroe now in Baltimore and Luke Joeckel on injured reserve. Rackley, who's out, was a serious contender for the worst offensive lineman in the league and was benched against the 49ers. Chad Henne is the quarterback. He has the mystical ability to make people forget that he was soundly outplayed by Blaine Gabbert in both of the last two training camps and preseason. His virtue over Gabbert has been that he's willing to try to stick the ball into holes downfield over the middle, but he's not good at that and hasn't done that as much this year (something like 2/3 of his passes against the Raiders were no more than 5 yards downfield). We saw in Week 17 last year that the near-inevitable result of Henne trying to stick the ball into windows is the chance to get interceptions.

I think the Titans will look at this game as a traditionalist would, in that it is a game they can and should win if they play the game the way they want to play it-run the ball, play defense, don't make too many mistakes, and they could cover the line of almost two touchdowns. As we've seen too many times, though, that gameplan can leave you vulnerable if you make too many mistakes and the other team plays well. I'd like to see the Titans do what the Texans like to do, come out throwing and then go conservative after the initial flurry. Greg Cosell noted it in his weekly appearance with the Midday180, but the thing to do against the Jaguars is get up early, because they're almost certainly not coming back from 10 or more points down. Once you get that, you can throttle them from there.

After what I saw in Indianapolis in 2011, I'm not going to take any team lightly. But those Colts were a garden-variety pretty bad team. The Jaguars are a special variety of awful, though, and I'm expecting a Titans win that's a little more stress-inducing than you'd like but still ends up fairly comfortable.

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