The Jacksonville Jaguars have one job to do on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field – beat the Tennessee Titans.
If the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Tennessee Titans today, not only will the team exorcize demons from last season by beating an AFC South rival, they also will run their record to 3-0 on the season. Not only that, the win will give this team an eight-game home winning streak that dates back to Nov. 5, 2017.
Remember when we were all wondering if this team could win a home game? The Titans placed doubt in our minds and potentially in the minds of the 53 players inside the locker room. A 37-16 loss helped that.
Maybe the remedy for bad memories is for the home team to come out and play a brand of football the New England Patriots were introduced to last week. Per the Jacksonville Jaguars public relations (on a cheat sheet emailed to the media), the Jaguars have started the season 3-0 for the first time since 2004 (finished 9-7) and just the fourth time in franchise history.
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The Jaguars also started 3-0 in 1998 (finished 11-5) and 1997 (finished 11-5).
And if you ask local media like me about this game, the consensus is there is no way Jacksonville allows their arch nemesis to walk out of North Florida with a victory.
I am not calling my shot here, but I do think there is a better probability of the Cleveland Browns winning two games in a row than it is for the Titans to win this contest.
In this “Four Down Territory” feature, we look at four keys to a Jaguars victory on Sunday.
First Down – Stopping Derrick Henry
Those of you who know me, understand my man crush on Derrick Henry, the Titans running back. The local product who won the Heisman Trophy at Alabama and has worked hard to become a starter in this league.
My love for him stops when he faces the Jaguars. Henry has not been the workhorse envisioned prior to this season that helped lead to the release of DeMarco Murray. The Jaguars have Malik Jackson, Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones in the middle of the defensive line. That alone should strike fear in No. 22.
The Titans will also send out Dion Lewis as a change of pace back. He too should have trouble getting to the outside with Jacksonville’s fast corps of linebackers.
Second Down – Establish the Run Early
Fournette had a hard time last season against the Titans defense. In two games he rushed for 109 yards. He was hardly a factor in the two losses by Jacksonville.
After coming off a hamstring injury, the Jaguars may be wise to use Corey Grant often as their own change of pace back. The offensive line kept quarterback Blake Bortles jersey clean last week. This week, especially with Josh Wells in the lineup, can this unit open holes to move the chains.
Third Down – Let Yannick Ngakoue Loose
At some point, Yannick Ngakoue, the big man in his third season in the NFL is going to have one of those highlight-reel games we all talk about.
I think this is the week. The Titans may have both Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin back at tackle. Friday’s injury report, as released by the Jaguars, listed Lewan as participating in full practice. Conklin was limited.
They could both play, but may be rusty, opening the door for Ngakoue to have a monster game. This could also be a big week for Dante Fowler and Calais Campbell. The rotation of pass rushers the Jaguars have could cause nightmares all afternoon.
Fourth Down – Control the Clock
One thing Jacksonville could not do last year against this team is control the clock and remain on the field.
The Jaguars appear to be a different team on offense, mixing in more passing plays and allowing Bortles to use the run-pass option more. I suspect the Jaguars will use a more balanced attack this week with Fournette in the game.
Like I have said in another story, if this team is to prove it is the best in the AFC, they must control the clock, open up more of the passing game and score early and often.