Brady Trapnell
Titans Writer/Reporter

For the first time since 2013, the Tennessee Titans (1-1) beat the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) on the road at Everbank Field and sit in first place in the AFC South division.

What a difference a half makes, as the Titans looked abysmal in the first half and then roared to outscore their AFC South division rivals, 37-16.

Here’s what we learned from the two-tone blue win in week two.

LeBeau’s defense came to play

Three turnovers. Two sacks. 16 points allowed.

That’s really all you need to know about the Titans defense. The story going into this week was stopping the Jaguars run-game and making their offense run off of quarterback Blake Bortles. And, that is exactly how defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau schemed his attack.

On first and second down, it was solid coverage in the secondary accompanied by plugging holes in the run-game. On third down, Coach LeBeau brought the house and linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan capitalized, like on this play.

In the first half, tackling was questionable and even Bortles made linebacker Wesley Woodyard miss a tackle in the open field.

The tackling issues carrying over from week one seemed to subside in the second half, however, as the Jaguars starting running back Leonard Fournette had four carries for seven yards of offense. After 100 yards rushing in week one, he finished with 40 yards and a garbage time touchdown.

Forced turnovers by the defense won this game for the Titans, and that is something that would have been interesting to say last season.

Adoree’ Jackson is proving his worth

With 7:38 remaining in the third quarter and the Titans struggling to gain momentum, this happened:

Two plays following the 46-yard return the Titans were in the endzone for the first time and leading the contest, 16-3.

“That return by Adoree’ (Jackson), I mean we haven’t had anything like that in a while,” Mularkey said on the 46-yd return. “That was a big play. That was a really big play, and it kind of shows you what his potential is.”

And, Mularkey is right with Jackson’s potential. If anyone had questions about why the Titans picked the corner with the 18th overall pick, they should be gone now. His coverage skills were always questionable but never the big play ability.

He has proved in the past two weeks that he can change games on both sides on defense and special teams.

Derrick Henry needs to be utilized

In the first half, the run-game was focused around Demarco Murray who admittedly looked slower than usual. It simply did not work.

Then, Derrick Henry trotted on to the field following the Jackson return and he barreled into the endzone.

I understand Demarco Murray led the AFC in rushing last season and Coach Mularkey said his hamstring was re-aggravated. However, the Titans offense executed better and was more fluid with Henry in the game. He was physical, fast and averaged almost seven yards per carry.

Henry set a career high with 14 carries, 92 yards and a touchdown. After the game, he received some praise from his quarterback.

“I thought Derrick (Henry) did a great job coming in and making plays. Towards the end of the game when you are running out the clock to have a back like that is huge,” said Marcus Mariota on Henry. “We’ll continue to find ways to get him the football, and we expect those things out of him.”

If the second half performance of Henry is any indication of what’s to come at running back, it will be fascinating to see how offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie manages the carries going into week three.

2nd half offense must continue 

In Mularkey’s postgame presser, he said his team wanted to come out in the second half and make a statement.

Following setting a franchise record dating back to 1991 with 31 points in a second half and 256 yards total offense, a statement was made.

The struggle in the first half was play calling. It was run, run, pass on third down and then punt. Mariota looked uncomfortable and unsettled. He threw off of his back foot often when he should’ve stepped up in the pocket.

Coach Mularkey disagreed that his offense changed anything with play calling in the post game presser. However, Robiskie seemed to open up the offense a bit with Mariota on a few read option plays.

Mariota also had more time to throw in the second half. The Titans O-line won the line of scrimmage by allowing only one sack. People shouldn’t be calling the Jaguars “Sacksonville” anymore.

“It’s a very good front. You saw what they did last week, but I thought our guys did pretty well inside,” Mularkey said on his offensive line. “We felt going into this thing the guys on both sides of the ball would be the difference in this game.”

Newcomers shine

Third-round pick Jonnu Smith scored his first NFL touchdown, Jackson flipped the momentum with his punt return and third-round wideout Taywan Taylor caught a 42-yard diving grab to set up a touchdown.

Big-time plays by the Titans youth is exactly what GM Jon Robinson was hoping for after the draft, and he got it on Sunday afternoon.

Smith looked like he was shot out of a cannon on this 32-yard score.

Coach Mularkey joked following the game that Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky could’ve scored on the screen, but still complemented his rookie tight end.

“They made some plays. That was big play by Jonnu,” said Mularkey. “It was a great play call by Terry Robiskie. It was just the way it unfolded. There was nobody over there for our guys to block.”

Taylor’s play wasn’t too shabby either. The Western Kentucky Hilltopper product was drafted for his speed and deep ball ability. He proved what the Titans coaching staff has seen all offseason in his second NFL game.

If the rookies can continue to contribute consistently with game-changing plays, this Titans team gets a whole lot scarier. They’ll need them to do it next week against the Seattle Seahawks.

(Photo Credit: Donn Jones, titansonline.com)


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