3TFO: Jaguars @ Titans, Week 17
This AFC South clash finds the 2-13 Jacksonville Jaguars on the road against the 5-10 Tennessee Titans. Both of these teams have obviously had seasons to forget, yet there is one final contest to play.
The Titans are coming off an embarrassing 55-7 beat down in Green Bay, the seventh game they’ve been blown out in this year. The Jaguars are also coming off a loss, but it was a worthy effort against a New England Patriots team that many consider a Super Bowl contender. Jacksonville also got one of its only two victories at home against these Titans. Here are some factors that will determine which of these under-achieving squads ends their year with a ‘W’.
Jaguars Defensive Ends vs. Titans Tackles
Jacksonville’s pass rush has not been stellar this season, but you wouldn’t know that if the only Jaguars game you saw this year was last week’s contest at home against the Patriots. The Jags got after Tom Brady with seven hits, 11 hurries and four different defenders recording sacks. Defensive ends Jeremy Mincey and ex-Eagle Jason Babin caused the most damage, working over the highest-rated pass blocking New England offensive linemen (Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder) to the tune of a sack, five hits and two hurries. Mincey signed a four-year deal earlier this year, but hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations (34 combined pressures in 500 rushes), while Babin has contributed 10 pressures in the month he’s been in Jacksonville.
Those two pass-rushers may have a tougher time against Titans’ LT Michael Roos, who currently owns our 10th-highest Pass Blocking Efficiency rating among tackles. Roos did surrender a hit to Clay Matthews last week (nothing to be ashamed of), but has proven to be one of the most reliable left tackles in the game. RT David Stewart is also a solid pass protector, but was lost for the season a few weeks back. The latest Titan to take over the right tackle spot was 2011 sixth-round pick Byron Stingily, and he also performed well last week, allowing only a hit in 49 pass blocking attempts. This game may be meaningless in most regards, but there’s no doubt both units would like to end the year on a high note.
Derrick Morgan vs. Jaguars Right Tackle
Like Jacksonville, Tennessee’s defense doesn’t inspire fear in opposing quarterbacks. However, they do have a defensive end that has our third-highest Pass Rushing Productivity rating — former first-round pick Derrick Morgan. Despite the lopsided score last Sunday, Morgan was able to put Aaron Rodgers on the ground twice and hurry him another three times. In the last meeting between these two teams, Morgan got the better of then-RT Cameron Bradfield (a sack, two hits and a hurry).
While Eugene Monroe has handled the left tackle spot, the right tackle spot has been a bit of a rotating door this year. After taking over for the underwhelming Guy Whimper, Bradfield struggled, which has led the Jaguars to go back to Whimper. The 2006 fourth-round pick was a liability right off the bat this season, conceding a sack and a hit in each of the first three games, along with a combined eight hurries. Playing a season-high 79 snaps last week against New England, Whimper did not surprise as he was culpable for two hits and five hurries. Indications are that Whimper will again get the start, but whoever ends up manning the right edge will deserve credit if they can limit Morgan, one of the bright spots on Tennessee’s roster.
Jake Locker vs. Chad Henne
As noted above, this is a meaningless game in terms of playoffs, but at least one of these QBs has something very meaningful to play for — a starting spot next year, somewhere. While Jake Locker has dropped back to pass 52 more times than Chad Henne, but their seasons have a few similarities — both are next to each other in terms of pure passing grading (Henne 23rd, Locker 24th), have under 11 TD passes (Henne 9, Locker 10), have been sacked at least 21 times, and their NFL passer ratings is eerily close (Henne 72.7, Locker 73.1). A difference between these two is that Locker is dangerous with his legs, averaging 8 yards per carry.
Henne actually had his best game of the year against Tennessee — despite being sacked a season-high seven times — completing 65.4% of his passes for over 260 yards, two scores and a pick. The former second-round pick started off well vs. New England with an opening drive that resulted in a TD pass, but faltered in the second half with three interceptions (two while under pressure). Locker also had one of his better days in the first meeting with Jacksonville despite throwing only a single score along with two interceptions (one a Hail Mary deep in his own red zone as time expired), but had his worst last week (one example being his under-throw to a wide open Taylor Thompson on the first play of his second possession). It seems fitting that these two signal-callers face off in the season finale.
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