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Sexton-Oehser Keys: Titans-Jaguars

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton break down three Jaguars keys for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville …

Oehser …

1.Keep up the balance. Much has been made of Jaguars staying as aggressive as they were in a victory over the New England Patriots this past Sunday. But as important as aggression to the Jaguars' offensively is balance. Quarterback Blake Bortles' four touchdown passes Sunday went to four different receivers, five different players have scored the team's five offensive touchdowns this season and 10 players have caught passes. Wide receivers Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook or Donte Moncrief, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, running backs Corey Grant, T.J. Yeldon, Leonard Fournette (if healthy) … would it be a surprise if any of the aforementioned players were the Jaguars' offensive star of a particular game? Add to that defenses having to game plan for Bortles' scrambling ability and it is becoming very hard to scheme against this offense.

2.Beware the wounded foe. The Titans are 1-1 and fighting injuries, but they're dangerous – and not just because this series feels like a rivalry for the first time in a long time. The Titans found a way to hang on for a big AFC South victory over Houston Sunday despite Blaine Gabbert starting at quarterback in place of Marcus Mariota, despite the absence of Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker and despite the absence of Pro Bowl tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin. They're in fighting-and-scrapping mode, and they're playing gutty defense. First-year head Coach Mike Vrabel came up big on a couple of unconventional gambles in key situations against the Texans, and the Titans also utilized the Wildcat formation with running back Derrick Henry. Titans-Jaguars already figures to have a street-fight element because of the growing rivalry feeling of this series. The Titans' status as a beat-up team fighting to take the lead in the division could make an already dangerous opponent even trickier.

3.Be ready for the fight. Remember the street-fight element we mentioned in Point No. 2? It's hard to overemphasize that as a pregame theme – and it's hard to overemphasize how ready the Jaguars' defense figures to be for such a game. The Titans beat the Jaguars twice last season, scoring 37 points in Jacksonville in Week 2 and getting the best of the Jaguars in Week 17 in Nashville. Members of the Titans' defense talked quite a bit following the second victory about being the real AFC South champions. The Jaguars' defensive players are a prideful bunch and won't want to walk off the field Sunday hearing the same post-game dialogue. The Jaguars' defense is this team's calling card. It allowed the team to hold on for a Week 1 victory over the New York Giants, and it held the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady to one touchdown until the game essentially was decided in Week 2. The guess here? The unit will be just as motivated in Week 3 – and more than ready for the fight.


1.Stay with what works. In other words, anything and everything. The diversity in the Jaguars' scheme against the Patriots was a result of the diversity in weapons available to offensive coordinator Nate Hackett. This was on the menu this season; the injury to Fournette made it seem as if it was a result of his hamstring, but the men responsible for the Jaguars' knew 2018 would require a different approach. Wouldn't you mix things up with weapons such as running backs Corey Grant and TJ Yeldon and wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who are all incredibly talented and waiting to carve a role for themselves on Sundays? When you have guys like that plus wide receiver Donte Moncrief and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, you don't just "ground and pound" or use the run to set up the pass; you go into the lab and generate creativity. Hackett is a bright offensive mind; he told us last week that being aggressive is who he is. By the way, anything and everything includes a healthy dose of the power running game, which is essential when it comes to controlling the tempo and keeping the defense charged up and ready for action.

2.Be ready for anything. The Titans showed last week that they'll bring anything with them on Sunday. Trick plays on special teams, Henry running the wildcat offense … whatever it takes to manufacture a victory. That was without Mariota and a pair of Pro Bowl offensive tackles. Imagine what Vrabel, who played for Head Coach Bill Belichick in New England, can do if he has his full complement of weapons. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone told me just before kickoff in New York on in Week 1 that playing a new coach early in the season brought with it a high degree of difficulty because you can't know with any certainty what he will do in a given situation. Vrabel brings that in Week 3. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash will have to work overtime this week to prepare for any eventuality the Titans might bring.

3.Get back on the right side of the turnover ledger. The Jaguars were even in Week 1 in this area and minus-one in Week 2. Creating turnovers was a big part of their success in 2017 and is obviously a big part of winning in the NFL. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady isn't going to throw many interceptions but Mariota and Gabbert both toss plenty. Building a lead then protecting it with defense and the running game is a great formula for winning. Nothing would make that easier than taking possessions away from the Titans and giving Hackett, Bortles and Co. a short field to unleash the offensive creativity they've worked on in the lab this week. The Jaguars' defense created 33 turnovers last season; the offense turned those into 16 touchdowns and seven field goals. Time to get that groove going again.

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