JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2017 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Titansonline.com senior writer and editor Jim Wyatt on the Jaguars' matchup against the Tennessee Titans Sunday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
Question: Many people still see the Titans' offense as "Exotic Smash Mouth." That was their style last season, but does that hold true in 2017?
Answer: I think this year Exotic Smash Mouth is going to look different from one week to the next. They're not just a team with an offensive line and a pair of running backs [Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray] who are going to line up and run it down your throat every week. They have weapons now with [wide receivers] Corey Davis and Eric Decker and Rishard Matthews, not to mention [tight end] Delanie Walker. They're capable of beating you throwing the football as well. Some weeks, depending on how teams defend them, I think they will be a smash-mouth team. The exotic part will come out when they're throwing it around and letting [quarterback Marcus] Mariota throw to his weapons. One week they could run for 150 or 200 yards as a team. Another week I could see them throwing for 300.
Q: You mentioned Corey Davis, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. It looks like he's the real deal.
A: He has looked good. It's unfortunate he wasn't able to play in the preseason. He was limited throughout camp [with a hamstring injury] and I wondered how he would look from the start. He looked pretty polished in Week 1. What impressed me was his ability snatch the ball. It allows him to catch it and go, and he's physical enough where he can go and take the ball away from the defender. He played 42 out of 64 snaps in the opener. He led the team with 10 targets. The more he gets settled in, he's going to get even more opportunities. He looks like the real to me.
Q: You've covered this team most of their time in Nashville. I'm not sure they've ever had a receiver like that.
A: They've had some good receivers, but I don't think they've had anybody like that either from a physical standpoint. Derrick Mason was a great receiver for this team. Drew Bennett was good. Kevin Dyson was a good receiver for this team. They've had guys who have had success, but as far as overall potential goes, he's unique. He's got a chance to be special.
Q: Mariota's 2016 season ended when he sustained a fractured fibula against the Jaguars on Christmas Eve. Is he back to what he was before the injury?
A: I think he is. I watched him from May all the way through the end of camp. I saw him make improvements. There was a stage early on in the offseason where you could tell he looked a little hesitant. During the course of training camp, at the very beginning it seemed he was a little uncomfortable with people around him. As time passed and as he crossed each hurdle, I think he cleared both physical and mental hurdles. He's running well. It seems like he's planting and has that explosion. He has been accurate for the most part and I think he's getting back into the flow. The thing he has to deal with now is getting used to throwing to new guys. Corey Davis, he just played with him for the first time. Eric Decker, he didn't get a lot of time with him in the preseason. He has to get on the same page with those guys; if he does that, he'll really start to look like himself.
Q: The Titans were the NFL's second-ranked run defense last season and the Jaguars clearly want to run the ball. Is this strength versus strength? Is the Titans' defense still that stout against the run?
A: It has the potential to be good. They got a little bit of a wakeup call against Oakland [in Week 1]. Marshawn Lynch ran hard against them and ran for some success. He ended up with 76 yards on 18 carries and the Raiders had 109 yards as a team. The Titans didn't tackle especially well against Oakland, that's a big point of emphasis moving forward. Now, they have another big back in [Jaguars running back Leonard] Fournette, who's going to require gang tackling. This unit is certainly built to stop the run but they have to play better than they did against the Raiders.
Q: Sunday is a big game for the Jaguars, obviously. But how big is it for the Titans? A road loss in the division isn't supposed to be the end of the world, but the Titans need to win to avoid falling two games behind the Jaguars in the AFC South …
A: I think it's a big game. They [the Titans] proved last year they can dig out of a hole; they started 1-3 last season and ended up 9-7 and put themselves in position to get to the playoffs. But you don't want start 0-2, especially when you have games coming up against Seattle, at Houston and at Miami. Then, they face an Indianapolis team they have a long losing streak against. It's a tough road coming up. This team has talked so much about wanting to play better in the AFC South and making it a big point of emphasis this year. Jacksonville has a team they have kind of gone back and forth with. If the Titans are going to do what they want to do, and that's kind of reclaim their footing in the AFC South, they have to do it from the start. It's a big game from that standpoint and it's also a big game because you don't want to fall behind two games early right out of the gate.