JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2020 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Jim Wyatt of Titansonline.com on the Titans' matchup with the Jaguars at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday at 1 p.m.
Question: The Titans beat the Denver Broncos, 16-14, in Denver, Colo., Monday in the 2020 regular-season opener. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed two field goals, had another field goal blocked and missed an extra point before converting a 25-yard, game-winning field goal with :17 remaining. They're 1-0 entering Sunday's game. How do they feel about themselves going into this one?
Answer: They feel fortunate to get out of Denver with a win. It was sloppy at times and they had some missed opportunities. They need to clean up the kicking game. But you have to be encouraged, because when the team needed to make plays – on defense getting a stop on a goal-line stand, or getting a stop to give your offense a chance late, or putting together a game-winning drive to win it – it did. Just having that poise to win when it mattered – I think you have to be encouraged. Now, going into Week 2, you have to clean a lot of things up moving forward.
Q: You mentioned Monday was sloppy at times. The Titans made the AFC Championship Game last season and are one of the AFC South favorites. Most people don't think this will be a sloppy team moving forward…
A: I think the Titans will look better. I will say this: I think the fact that they missed three field goals and an extra point kind of took away from some of the effectiveness they did have. They did have a 100-yard receiver (wide receiver Corey Davis). They had a 100-yard rusher (running back Derrick Henry). [Quarterback] Ryan Tannehill threw a couple of touchdown passes and for over 200 yards. Some of that is lost when you only have 16 points to show for it at the end of the game. On defense, they had some blown assignments. They did get a couple of stops when they had to to win. But if you're [Head Coach Mike] Vrabel and the coaching staff, you have a whole lot of teaching points going into Week 2 where you feel like you can get better. I think across the league that's how it's going to be. Without a preseason and without a real test for a lot of guys, you just have to chalk Week 1 up to working off the rust and you're really fortunate if you can get a win in the process.
Q:Henry is the team's identity. Is this going to be an all-Derrick-Henry team offensively?
A: It's going to depend on the week, depend on the matchup and depend on how teams elect to defend the Titans. They're certainly capable of just giving it to Henry and just wearing you down and winning an ugly game like that. But they're also capable – on days when he's not having as much success – of throwing it around. People who only have seen the Titans in the playoffs last year probably thought, 'Well, Ryan Tannehill is a complementary piece and this is Derrick Henry's show.' The reality is there was a long stretch in the second half of last season where the Titans were winning because of Tannehill. He has a really good supporting cast: [wide receiver] A.J. Brown coming off 1,000-yard season as a rookie, Davis, [wide receiver] Adam Humphries, a tight end group led by Jonnu Smith that's pretty good and an offensive line that has a lot of experience. Tannehill has a lot of pieces around him where I think he can be effective when asked.
Q: Tell me about the defense. Is this a great defensive team? Good? Where would you put it?
A: I think it has potential to be really good. Part of that reason is a late piece added to the puzzle in [free agent edge defender] Jadeveon Clowney. Even before that move, I thought the Titans had a chance to be good defensively. With Clowney, I think they have a chance to be Top 10. Depending on how things gel, they could really be an elite defense. Not only is Clowney going to make a difference because of the way he plays, he's going to make guys around him better. [Defensive end and 2019 first-round selection] Jeffrey Simmons really is poised for a really good year. [Outside linebacker and 2018 second-round selection] Harold Landry led the team in sacks last season and is poised to make a jump. The linebacking corps inside with Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown has a lot of experience. On the back end, Kevin Byard is one of the top safeties in the league with more interceptions (17) than any other safety in the league over the last three seasons. The question marks are there with Adoree' Jackson placed on injured reserve this week [with a knee injury]. How are the young guys going to rise to the occasion? Also, how will the team settle in without [former defensive coordinator] Dean Pees, who retired in the offseason?
Q: If you see a concern on this team right now, where is it?
They better make sure the kicking game is cleaned up and that that was just a bad night for Stephen Gostkowski. This team had kicking problems last season; they were eight of 18 kicking field goals. You go sign Stephen Gostkowski and you think you've solved your problems – then he misses three kicks and an extra point in the opener. You hope that was just a bad night. Also, the secondary: When you take a starter out in Adoree' Jackson and all of a sudden you're playing a couple of rookies more: [seventh-round] Chris Jackson and [second-round selection] Kristian Fulton. The secondary is going to have to gel and settle in and play well.
Q: The Titans have been 9-7 the past four seasons and came within a game of the Super Bowl last season. What is success for this team this season?
A: This team has won nine games four consecutive seasons. That's a great feat, but now it has kind of whetted people's appetites for more. Following a year when you're a game away from the Super Bowl, making the AFC Championship Game, I think a lot of people look at the Titans and say, "Super Bowl or bust." I don't necessarily think that. Obviously, that's the goal for every team, but it's not a case where if this team doesn't make the Super Bowl the season is a failure. It's hard to win no matter how good a regular season you have. I think the goal for the Titans starting off has to be to win the AFC South. They didn't do it last season and haven't done it since 2008. You have to win the AFC South, host a home playoff game for the first time since 2008 and give yourself a chance in January and see if you replicate the postseason success from a year ago and take it another step or two. I think it all starts with winning the division and building momentum.