Three keys to a Titans win on Monday Night Football
239 days after falling to the Super Bowl winners in Kansas City, the Tennessee Titans return to the gridiron Monday night as they face the Denver Broncos in Mile High.
Both teams had an exciting offseason and with the offseason shortened and the preseason complete removed due to COVID, it will be interesting to see how both teams shake off the rust in the prime time affair.
The Titans are dealing with a surprising number of injuries and some off-field events that have affected the roster ever so slightly. What must Mike Vrabel's team do to defeat Drew Lock and the Broncos?
Here are my three keys to a win.
When Tennessee played Denver nearly 12 months ago, Marcus Mariota was the starting quarterback still, but Ryan Tannehill made his Titans' debut in that 16-0 loss to Joe Flacco and company.
In that woeful showing, Derrick Henry managed 28 yards on 15 carries. He had the fewest rushing yards of the season in that loss and the fewest yards per attempt as well.
This will not be the same Denver defense the Titans saw last year, however. Star linebacker Von Miller went down with an ankle ligament injury this week in practice and could miss the entire season (let's hope not). Linebacker Mark Barron is also out and OLB Bradley Chubb was limited in practice most of the week, leaving him questionable to play tonight.
It will not only be interesting to see how often the Titans use Henry in the first game of the season, but how they attack the side missing Miller, and deal with a former member of the franchise, Jurrell Casey.
Remember, Casey was traded just before the draft this spring and was very unhappy with how the front office treated him after playing with the Titans for the last nine seasons.
The feud could bubble over onto the field!
Get pressure on Lock and rely on Clowney
The biggest free agent signing in Titans' history may have only been a part of the team for a week, but the newest number 99 in Nashville will be causing a whole lot of chaos at the line of scrimmage tonight.
The Titans knew that they had to drastically improve their pass rush after last season. They signed Clowney to a big-money one-year deal, promoted second-year defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons Jr. to the starting DT, and reaffirmed to Harold Landry that he is the starter on the opposite side of Clowney.
Vrabel wanted powerful, speedy defensive linemen who could track down a quarterback with running tenancies and get pressure on QB's who have a solid offensive line and enjoy throwing from the pocket.
The pass rush was the main reason Tennessee lost to Kansas City in the postseason and with that glaring need now addressed, confidence is at an all time high on the defensive side of things.
Remember now that the Titans lost former defensive coordinator Dean Pees to retirement in the spring and Vrabel will be calling the defensive formations. With no Adoree Jackson or Vic Beasley, how will the head coach handle calling plays for the first time since 2017 with Houston?
A new look on special teams
For the first time since 2013, the Titans will have a kicker not named Ryan Succop on the roster. During training camp, the team brought in three kickers to try out as his replacement.
It was Greg Joseph - the emergency kicker who appeared in a few games at the end of the 2019 regular season and postseason- and undrafted rookie Tucker McCann.
Neither panned out, so, it will be the former New England Patriot kicker Stephan Gostkowski who takes the mantle.
He has had a stunning career over the last decade and he should be great with the Titans. Keep in mind tonight that playing and especially kicking in Denver is very different than anywhere else.
Let's hope Gostkowski can hit the ground running!