Titans offense vs. Texans defense
Last season, Ben Jones was the center anchoring the middle of the Texans offensive line. This offseason be bolted for the division rivals in Nashville. He may not be the only one added to the Titans front line this offseason as many believe that Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil will be the #1 pick in next month’s draft. If he does go to Tennessee, that means Taylor Lewan will move to right tackle.
Marcus Mariota was very good as a rookie considering all he had to deal with. Two different head coaches in his first year, losing almost all of his receivers to injury at some point or another and having no running game to take the pressure off of him. Still, the former Oregon standout managed to post a 62.2 completion percentage with 19 touchdowns to just ten interceptions in 12 games. He had a perfect passer rating against the Bucs while he also had five games with ratings under 70. He was a bit of a mystery week to week, but I think those who thought he was a system product at Oregon can be silenced for now.
Next year the Titans will have Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham, Harry Douglas and Rishard Matthews at receiver. If DGB can get back to the form he played at during his sophomore year at Missouri, he could really open things up for the Titans offense. The real wild card is going to be DeMarco Murray. The Titans got him in a trade with the Eagles this offseason. He had two straight thousand yard season his last two years in Dallas before going to Philadelphia last season. He’s a downhill, one cut type of runner and behind the line that Tennessee has, it could work well. Assuming Tunsil goes with the top pick, he’s at left tackle with Quinton Spain, a 330 pounder from West Virginia at left guard, Jones at center, Chance Warmack at right guard and Lewan at right tackle. There’s some good run blockers there, even though it won’t be as good as the Dallas line from 2014. Murray just turned 28 so he still has a couple years left that he could still be a prime player.
Mariota did not play in either game against the Texans last season. He was injured against Miami, which kept him out for two games (including the one in Houston), while his injury against the Patriots in week 15 knocked him out of the final two games of the season. The Texans did have some issues against mobile quarterbacks last season, allowing Cam Newton to lead Carolina in rushing yards last season with a touchdown and Tyrod Taylor also scored with his legs against the Texans. But the one area that gives Houston the edge is their ability to rush the passer combined with the Titans struggles to pass protect. Both J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus had 3.5 sacks total in the two meetings against the Titans last year. In total Tennessee allowed 54 sacks last season, most in the NFL. If things don’t improve up front for Tennessee, it won’t matter how the position players play because Houston will still have the edge. In the back seven Houston has the corners in Johnathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson and Kareem Jackson to match up with a group of decent receivers in Wright, DGB, Douglas and Matthews. They are all capable receivers but none of them are #1 receiver quality. As long as Brian Cushing and Jadeveon Clowney, the two run stoppers are healthy, the Texans should be able to slow down Murray.