Eye On the Titans: Scouting Report

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs for a touchdown against Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Telvin Smith (50) during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs for a touchdown against Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Telvin Smith (50) during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

EAST RUTHEFORD, N.J. – A pair of teams on two-game winning streaks will collide Sunday when the Giants host the Tennessee Titans in MetLife Stadium. The Giants defeated Chicago in overtime and routed Washington in their last two games, while the Titans topped the Jets and Jacksonville, both at home. The Giants hold a 6-5 edge in what has been a series of streaks. The Giants won their first five games against the franchise that played in Houston prior to 1997 and was known as the Oilers prior to 1999. Those games were played between 1973 and 1994. The Oilers/Titans won the next five games, including in 2002 in Giants Stadium and 2010 in their only previous game in MetLife Stadium. The Giants broke that streak on Dec. 7, 2014, when they trounced the Titans in Nashville, 36-7. Andre Williams rushed for 131 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown, Eli Manning threw a touchdown pass to Odell Beckham, Jr., and Josh Brown kicked five field goals.

What is the Titans’ biggest strength?

They have impact players at all levels on both sides of the ball. On offense, there’s quarterback Marcus Mariota, running backs Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis, and wide receiver Corey Davis. In their 3-4 defensive alignment, the Titans have tackle Jurrell Casey, linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Jayon Brown, and defensive backs Logan Ryan and Kevin Byard, a 2017 All-Pro. Special teams feature returners Darius Jennings and Adoree’ Jackson and Pro Bowl punter Bret Kern. The Titans did lose two key players this week when tackle Jack Conklin and starting tight end Jonnu Smith were placed on injured reserve with knee injuries. Conklin was a first-team All-Pro as a rookie in 2016.

Take a look at the projected starting lineup for this week's opponent.

Which player is key to the Titans’ offense?

Henry has justifiably received most of the attention this week after his franchise-record 238-yard, four touchdown performance, which included a 99-yard scoring run, against the Jaguars. But Mariota and Davis, the second and fifth overall selections in the 2015 and 2017 NFL drafts, respectively, have set the pace most of the season. Mariota has overcome several injuries this year to complete 69.1 percent of his passes and average 7.8 yards a throw, both among the league’s best figures. He is an excellent play-action passer, is a dangerous runner, and he even had a 21-yard reception vs. New England.

Davis’ 94 targets and 54 catches are far more than any other wideout on the team, and he has emerged as the Tennessee’s biggest threat in the passing game.

What is the strength of the Titans’ offense?

Their success running the ball. Tennessee averages 124.3 yards per game on the ground to rank 11th in the NFL. The Titans run the ball on 47.5 percent of their offensive plays, the league’s third-highest figure. Henry and Lewis complement each other. The former is a bruising back who has rushed for nine touchdowns in the last seven games and is averaging 4.9 yards a carry, while the latter is faster, more elusive, and a superior receiver (his 50 catches are second on the team).

Which player is key to the Titans’ defense?

Casey, the three-time Pro Bowler, deserves mention in any conversation of the league’s very best defensive tackles. He leads the team in sacks (7.0), tackles for loss (11) and quarterback hits (10). He also has 31.5 pressures and two forced fumbles.

What is the strength of the Titans’ defense?

Their ability to shut down opponents close to the goal line. The Titans have the NFL’s top-rated red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on just 44.4 percent of opponents’ trips inside the 20-yard line (16 scores on 36 opportunities). Last week, Jacksonville ran seven consecutive plays from the seven-yard line and never reached the end zone. Leonard Fournette was stopped on a fourth down from the one, and on the next play, Henry took off on his 99-yard run, putting the Titans in command of the game. Because they are so stout in the red zone, the Titans are allowing just 19.5 points per game, the league’s fourth-best average. When the offense struggles, the defense keeps them in the game.

Which player is key to the Titans’ special teams?

Tennessee has a pair of outstanding return specialists in Jennings and Jackson. Jennings is averaging 34.4 yards on 16 kickoff returns, including a 94-yard touchdown at Miami. He had returns of 35 and 29 yards in the last two weeks. The Titans’ average starting point following a kickoff return is their 28.2-yard line, which is the league’s best figure. Jackson has averaged 9.5 yards on 12 punt returns, with a long of 26 yards.

Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?

The Titans don’t give opposing teams many opportunities to score, so the Giants must take advantage of those they get, especially in the red zone. Defensively, the Giants should mitigate the impact of Tennessee’s big three: Mariota, Henry and Davis.

Statistics you should know:

*Titans opponents have scored only 27 touchdowns in 13 games, tying them with Dallas for the fewest allowed in the league. The Titans allowed 21 or fewer points eight times in their first 13 games.

*Tennessee has been inconsistent defending the run, which may or may not be good news for Saquon Barkley. The Titans’ first six opponents averaged 123.2 yards a game on the ground. In the next three games, the Chargers, Cowboys and Patriots averaged 53 rushing yards. That was followed by a three-game stretch in which the Titans allowed an average of 170.7 yards a game, including 281 in a loss in Houston. Last week, Jacksonville ran for only 60 yards against Tennessee.

*Linebackers Woodyard (95 tackles, 63 solo, 3.5 sacks) and Brown (86 tackles, 61 solo, 6.0 sacks) are Tennessee’s leading tacklers.

Photos from the all-time series between the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans, which dates back to 1973 when the Titans were the Houston Oilers.

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