3TFO: Titans @ Jaguars, Week 16
It’s not often division mates at this stage in the season can compare four- and five-win campaigns and both feel confident they’ll avoid a last-place finish. But, thanks to sharing the AFC South with the imploding Houston Texans, that’s where the Jaguars and Titans find themselves in this Week 16 rematch of middle children in an otherwise polarized and already decided division.
Including the Week 10 victory over Tennessee that got Jacksonville into the win column for the first time this year, the Jaguars have won four of six and climbed from the league’s cellar into the mosh of teams balancing dashed payoff hopes (as realistic or unrealistic as they may have been) with one-eyed peeks toward draft day. The Titans, 1-5 since that loss in their prior meeting, are just a game better now at 5-9 overall and a win worse in the hunt for a Top-10 pick.
Shining in the Slot
Titan receiver Kendall Wright showed signs of coming on late last season and continued on through the first half of 2013 with mild positives marking his chart. In the last few weeks, though, he’s taken another step and has seen his two highest-graded games come from those recent efforts. His +3.4 against Oakland in Week 12 sits just ahead of the +2.5 he posted last week as his career best. In that Oakland game he spent most of his time out wide, but since – and overall this season – he’s seen the majority of his snaps (60%) and received most of his targets (65%) from the slot… and is doing significant damage there. He’s second behind Wes Welker in slot yards (669), tied with Welker for most slot catches (57), and his 1.98 Yards per Route Run is a figure that ranks among the Top 10 for slot receivers. Jacksonville’s Mike Harris has logged the most snaps covering the slot (208) and ranks 35th of 45 qualifiers with a 108.4 passer rating allowed, giving up 231 yards after the catch (40th). Harris’ +2.2 coverage grade is 30th among all corners and he’ll match that up against Wright’s 19th-ranked receiving grade of +9.3.
The expected starting running backs for this game, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson (dealing with a knee injury) and Jacksonville’s Jordan Todman (again filling in for Maurice Jones-Drew) both find themselves among the league’s worst in creating yardage for themselves. This is nothing new for Johnson whose 47th-ranked 1.80 Yards After Contact (YCo) number is in line with, albeit lower than, what he’s produced in the past two seasons (2.02 in 2012 and 2.11 in 2011). For Todman, 2013 marks his first significant game action and the results have been largely unimpressive – his 1.62 YCo as part of it.
Even in his first start of the year last week, only 28 of the 109 yards Todman produced came after contact (1.12 per carry) and he forced just one missed tackle. Facing a pair of middle of the road run defenses that feature only one linebacker carrying a positive run defense grade (Tennessee’s Akeem Ayers, +9.0) and one with a Run Stop Percentage and Tackling Efficiency ranking near the top (Jacksonville’s Paul Posluszny), perhaps the opportunity is there for the pair of lacking runners to find some success.
Casey vs. Nwaneri
Making a name for himself in his first two seasons, Titan defensive tackle Jerrell Casey has continued his climb up the ranks in Year 3. Sitting third overall among NT/DTs with a grade of +35.0 through 14 games, Casey is part of the young group of interior D-linemen taking over the league. Behind only Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh , Casey’s Pass Rushing Productivity rating (9.4) is borne of his 52 total pressures (also third) on 443 pass-rushing snaps. Coming from the offense’s right side 65% of the time, he’ll once again get a regular look at Jaguar right guard Uche Nwaneri who ranks ninth among guards as a pass blocker (fifth among right guards).
In their Week 10 meeting, Casey came away with one of his lowest pass-rushing grades of the year (+0.2) but had his best day against the run while Nwaneri’s -6.0 overall was his low mark on the season. Highlighting their direct interactions that day, Casey’s lone pressure logged against Nwaneri was a bullrush hurry in the second quarter that caused an interception on an errant Chad Henne throw.
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