3TFO: Titans @ Rams, Week 9
Coming off of a hard-fought game against Seattle in which the Rams showed some inspired play – limiting the Seahawks to 135 yards of offense before falling 14-9 – St. Louis hopes to be the second team to shake the Seattle hangover and come away with a win in the week after facing the NFC’s best record. Failing to do so would give them their third straight loss.
The Titans, on the other hand, come into this game rested from a week off but find themselves already at that three-consecutive-loss mark. They’ll be hoping the hangover hits as tracking down the Colts to make a run at the AFC South title is still a possibility and help would be appreciated.
Locker Airing it Out
With green grades in three of his first four games, Jake Locker was making people take notice – then injury struck. A quicker return than initially expected saw him back on the field after only two weeks down and ahead of the team’s Week 8 bye, but there was rust from the time off and he posted his lowest grade of the year that day against San Francisco. Now, with the bye giving time for continued healing, Locker looks to get back on track when the Titans take on the Rams in Week 9 and we’ll see if his penchant for airing it out lives on.
Not afraid to take shots downfield, Locker leads the league in percentage of deep attempts (17.1% of his throws targeted over 20 yards), but in completing just seven of 26 tries, his deep passing Accuracy Percentage of 26.9% ranks 32nd. In his Week 7 return, he was back at it, but again, connecting was the issue as he hit on just two of the seven passes he sent long. This had been an area of concern for the St. Louis defense as they were stung on five such completions on the first eight deep balls they faced this year with four going for scores. Since Week 3, though, they’ve seen only seven more come their way and just three have been caught with last week’s Golden Tate taunting moment being the lone touchdown in that span.
Stacy vs. the Titan Run D
With four starts in the books, Ram running back Zac Stacy is shooting up the rankings. Carrying positive marks out of each of those four contests, his +4.9 run grade is fifth in the league and the 15 missed tackles he’s forced have him fourth on a miss-per-carry basis among runners with at least 75 attempts. His 2.8 yards after contact per attempt is also a Top-5 number.
Stacy and Ram run game will face a Titan defense that features no dominant run stoppers in its front seven. Outside linebackers Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers rank 14th and 15th, respectively, in Run Stop Percentage among 4-3 OLBs but the team has no other representation in the Top 20 at any position along their front. Between Ayers and Brown, middle linebacker Moise Fokou had logged only nine run stops on 127 run snaps before getting hurt and his replacement Colin McCarthy could only muster two on 39 opportunities in Week 7. In front of them, the interior duo of Jurrell Casey and Antonio Johnson has found just 14 stops on a combined 277 run snaps.
Tight end Jared Cook left Tennessee this offseason after challenging the notion that he should be classified as a tight end, preferring instead to be labeled a wide receiver and, of course, the larger Franchise Tag payment that would accompany that designation. When the Titans opted not to tag him, he hit the market and signed a week later with former Titan coach Jeff Fisher in St. Louis – a five-year deal that averages $7M… a higher figure than the tight end tag, but far less than the receiver number he was pushing for. The money means little now, but Cook’s first chance to face his former team might provide a needed spark.
Replaced by Delanie Walker in Tennessee, Cook’s play has not measured up to that of his successor, despite Walker’s performance being far from the league’s best. Cook’s -6.5 overall grade is built on a poor run blocking grade of -7.0 and a middling receiving grade of -0.6 (with small positives as a pass blocker and in the penalty category). Recent showings have seen his run blocking improve, but he has remained an inconsistent-at-best receiving option for the Rams with more negatively-graded receiving days than games in the green.
And, for what it’s worth, he has spent just over 50% of his snaps split into the slot, just in case he’s still tracking those things.