What’s Next – Taking the Division (Part I)


Since the formation of the AFC South in 2002, the Jaguars have never won the division.  Yet year after year we hear from our dear Jack Del Rio, GM Gene Smith, and Owner Wayne Weaver tell us we’re going to win the division.  While I’m sure they’re scheming each and every week trying to figure out how to go about it, we’ll break it down team by team here on What’s Next at Black and Teal.  Each week for he next three weeks we’ll analyze how to dismantle our division foes until only the Jaguars are the only ones left standing.

This week:  The Tennessee Titans!

Unlike the Jags, the Tennessee Titans have been a bit of a powerhouse in the AFC South, they have taken the crown three times, good for second most in the division (behind the dreaded Colts).  But, as of late, they have been a very streaky team, rarely appearing good except when they are and then they’re good. Fortunately the last time they were really good was 2008, and since then they’ve looked pretty weak for titans.  In 2007 they were also very solid but placed 3rd behind the Jaguars and Colts and still made the playoffs, thus securing the AFC South’s dominance as one of the toughest divisions in football.  So, how do the Jaguars beat the Titans to get one step closer to crowning themselves kings of one of the toughest divisions?

1)  The passing game/pass rush.  As we all know (and knew) Vince Young simply doesn’t play football all that well.  The Titans finally noticed after a few years of mediocrity and are in the midst of transition to Jake Locker.  No matter how good Locker is out of the gates, he isn’t going to be that good.  The kid isn’t Peyton Manning in his prime, and the Jaguars need to go after him.  Next season (if it ever happens) has the Jags playing the Titans the first week.  If Jake Locker starts (as I anticipate he will), the Jaguars need to punish him.  Get him on the ground, sack him, hit him, pressure him, but make sure he feels unsteady.  It could derail his entire season, and every time he faces the Jaguars again (like in week 16) he will be thinking of Alualu’s violent hands, Kampman’s burst from the side, and Pot Roast’s massive frame falling on him.  If the Jags disrupt Jake Locker, the Titans will be very one dimensional.  And no matter how good Chris Johnson is, he can’t beat us that badly.

2) Stop Chris Johnson.  Period.  I love Jack Del Rio’s philosophy of run the ball-stop the run.  But the whole stopping the run thing hasn’t really been happening the past few years, and all we need is CJ2K going after us.  I think that GM Gene has addressed not only the pass rush but the run defense well in the past couple drafts, but what it really comes down to is good linebacker play.  Chris Johnson will get a few yards, but if he gets past the front four the Jags need to ensure that the linebackers can wrap him up.  Unfortunately, the linebacking corps is…..less than adequate currently.  Unless the Jags can do something in free agency, it will be a whole lot harder to slow down Chris Johnson.

3)  Limit Kenny Britt and co.  The Titans have a far better receiving corps than people give them credit for.  Kenny Britt became a star last season, Randy Moss (will he still be there?) stretches the field, and they have some very solid up-and-comers like Marc Mariani (out of my dear Montana).  Look for some very active play from them trying to bail out their young quarterback.  I think that the wide receiving group can do a lot of damage when they’re playing well, and only through improved corner play will we really stop them.  I think Derek Cox will do fine, and Mathis definitely still has some play left in him so, I’m not too concerned.  But whoever isin that slot spot could do a lot of damage if Locker suddenly becomes accurate.

Even with Chris Johnson and a solid receiving group, I don’t think the Titans can overcome the Jaguars destroying Jake Locker.  Of the three points listed above, the Jaguars need to ensure they get to Locker.  No matter what else the Titans have on offense, or on defense (29th in yards allowed), the Jaguars will beat the Titans if Locker doesn’t think he can win.  The Titans have only been really good behind a combination of quarterback and running back success.  By eliminating half of that equation the Jaguars will be able to force the Titans to become one dimensional, and fail.

– Luke N. Sims