JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2021 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Titans senior writer/editor Jim Wyatt about Sunday's 2021 Week 5 game between the Jaguars and Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Question: The Titans are 2-2 with a 27-24 overtime loss to the 1-3 New York Jets on Sunday. That was not a loss the Titans expected, so what's the mindset entering Sunday's game in Jacksonville?
Answer: They shouldn't feel too good about themselves because this is a team that was supposed to be maybe the best in the AFC South and the AFC. So far, it's sitting at 2-2 and you just loss to a [previously] winless Jets team. The quarterback has been sacked 17 times in four games and he's on track to get sacked 72 times in the season. They only have eight sacks and they're not creating a lot of turnovers. They're dealing with all kinds of injuries. They played Sunday without their starting wide receivers – Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. Other than [running back Derrick Henry] off to another fantastic start, they have not really been consistent in any one area. They head into Week 5 knowing they better get some things fixed or they're going to be in trouble.
Q: Is this as simple as just injuries?
A: It's not as simple as injuries. Teams across the league deal with injuries and they preach that here: "Next man up" and "the injury rate in the NFL is 100 percent." Every team in the league deals with injuries. It's a matter of you handle that and how your backups play and how you handle other facets of the game. This team has not been good enough. Have injuries played a part in the struggles? Yes. But there have been more issues other than having some guys out with injuries.
Q: Aside from the injuries to the receivers, and the sacks, how has quarterback Ryan Tannehill played?
A: I like Tannehill. I think he's gutty. He has had to deal with some really shaky protection at times and he has had to throw to some receivers that are not really supposed to be out there. He has some things working against him. Has he been as good as he has maybe the past couple of seasons? No, but there's still time and I think that will change as they get a little bit healthier. He has been sacked 17 times, he has been hit hard a lot and he hasn't had time to throw. He's throwing to [wide receivers] Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Josh Reynolds when he should be throwing to Julio Jones and A.J. Brown. So, that has certainly limited his effectiveness.
Q: Henry looks like an All-Pro running back still very much in his prime…
A: He has shown no signs of slowing down. He has been their best player. He has exceeded in every category his statistics through four games last season. After four games, he has 113 carries, 510 yards, a 4.5-yard average, four touchdowns. He also has caught 14 passes for 125 yards. He's on pace to finish with 2,187 yards coming off a year when he eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark. He has been great. He has run strong. He has broken some big runs. He has improved as a pass-catcher. He continues to establish himself as a leader and push guys around him. They just need to be better around him, but he is doing everything he possible can to get this team in the win column.
Q: Where are they defensively?
A: Defensively, they have not been forcing turnovers. They have not consistently affected the other team's quarterback. They have made some plays here and there, but the Jets team they just faced had averaged 6.7 points a game through the first three games – and they put up 27 on this defense. And a lot of them came in the second half when the Titans just couldn't get stops. They're missing [pass rusher] Bud Dupree, who was brought in to try to change things from that standpoint. They have had guys who have played well. Harold Landry, their outside linebacker, is playing well. Defensive end Denico Autry has flashed some for them at the line. Cornerback Kristian Fulton has been good, but consistently they just haven't been good enough and need to get some things fixed.
Q: Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel is in his fourth season in the position. Has he faced a situation like this? Does this feel like a crisis?
A: There's some panic in Nashville, believe me. When you go out and get Julio Jones and Bud Dupree, and you won the AFC South last year … a lot of people thought, "OK, this team is going to be the best it ever has been." When that hasn't happened, it has created an uncomfortable situation for a lot of people. They have dealt with some tough times before and responded. They feel like they can use those times from the past to help them this year. But it's kind of about doing it. They were hovering around .500 last year and finished strong. So, they have dug themselves out of situations like this in the past. I think they feel like they can do it again.
Q: What's their key to getting it right?
A: Getting healthy is definitely one. They're a different team when they have some of the guys out there who didn't play on Sunday. They need to be better up front. They have to clean some things up in pass protection. They have to have guys make plays at the receiver position. Defensively, they have to force some turnovers and they have to be able to be disruptive and put some pressure on the other team's quarterback. I think that's the main thing guys are frustrated about. They just have not been able to do that in all three phases. There has just been a lot of trying to patch holes. They just haven't been able to do it effectively.
WEEK 5 · Sun 10/10 · 1:00 PM EDT